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Bluefin Attract Big Sport

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The bluefin is "a mean tackle."
CAPE HATTERAS — The bait fish arrive first. Then thegame fish. Then the fishermen. And that's exactly what has happened inlate winter for the past three years off Cape Hatteras -- where schools ofimmense bluefin tuna are attracting sport fishermen from around the world.

No one knows why they are here and only here, but bluefin typicallyweighing 1000 pounds are caught with regularity off Hatteras.

Some days it seems only the "small" bluefins come out to play. The400-pounders that are 7 feet long. Still, they offer great battle.

Capt. Bob Eakes, who makes his living taking fishermen out in the deepwaters to try their luck, calls bluefin "the biggest and meanest tackle inthe world."

Indeed, people from around the world make their way to Cape Hatteras tofollow the tuna. And that, Eakes says, has had a dramatic effect on thewinter economy.

Restaurants, motels, charter boats, fishing supply stores that alwaysclosed up for the quiet winter months are open to serve the burgeoningsports fishing population.

Boats equipped with sonar devices easily find the schools of fish.Then it's up to the person doing the fishing to cast the line, and reelthem in -- unless the fish's weight snaps the line.

There is a limit, strictly enforced, on how many bluefin can be takenin US waters each year. And that limit has already been reached.

So now the charter boats plying these waters catch the fish, take outthe hook, tag them and release them unharmed.

It's not at all unusual for a boat to head home with 20 to 25 catchestoted up for the day, even if they don't have any tuna on board forevening dinner.

Eakes says every time he comes across the schools of huge tuna, He is"just as excited as the first time," he saw them.

He and other Cape Hatteras residents just hope the bluefin continues tovisit North Carolina waters -- any time of year.

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