Myles Wotton, 12, of Bristol has been watching his father, Donald, older brothers, Mitchell and Merritt, and other area fishermen bring in tuna since he was a toddler in his mother Rebecca’s arms. The Wotton dock in New Harbor buzzes with excitement when they receive word the boat is returning with a prized catch. Family members anxiously wait to catch a glimpse of newly landed tuna. Myles has listened to their tales of hauling in the big fish of their adventures and misadventures all his young life.
When he was about to turn 12 in July of last year, he begged his father to take him tuna fishing for his birthday. That is all the lanky lad wanted for his birthday. So Donald and Myles packed up their gear and headed out on his birthday weekend, and Myles landed his first tuna, weighing in at 388 pounds, on his birthday, July 16.
That was it: Myles was hooked. His brother Merritt’s trick on him didn’t even deter him. Merritt told Myles it was a fishing tradition for the fisherman to eat the heart of a tuna. Myles took a bite, not knowing it was a hoax, then quickly spit it out.
He reeled in his second tuna soon after.
“John Coffin, who has probably caught more fish than anyone around, called Myles ‘The Legend,’” after he caught his first tuna, Donald said.
Myles caught his third and fourth tuna recently, bringing his total to four he has caught as a 12-year-old. He landed a 241-pound beauty July 5 after a two-hour fight, then rode to Rockland to pitch for Lincoln County 11 and 12 Little League all-stars in the District 2 tournament that night.
On July 10 he landed his fourth tuna in an all-night battle. He finally won at 4 a.m. The tuna dressed out at 381 pounds — minus the head, guts and tail.
When the Red Lady pulled into the Wotton dock just before sunset Monday, weary father and son had all they could do to trudge up the long ramp to the wharf. Although bone-tired, it did not take them long before they started sharing their all-night adventure with family members.
Myles said this fish was the “most exciting one” he had caught. Earlier in the evening he had hooked onto a tuna, but it got tangled in the mooring anchor and “parted out” (snapped the line) as they prepared to harpoon it after a one-hour battle.
At 11 p.m. Sunday, father and son were ready to call it a night and bunk down 25 miles offshore. “We don’t usually fish at night,” Donald said. As they were getting ready to turn in, they got a strike on their herring bait.
“It zipped the line out and I got on it,” Myles said. “It took a lot of line out.” Myles worked the pole, loaded with 200-pound test line, for five hours.
“It was wild. It did not want to give up,” Donald said. “We fought it all night. Myles was cranking for all he was worth.” After they finally got the fish close to the boat, Donald harpooned it and started to help Myles haul it in. Myles had to harpoon the tuna too to get the beast aboard.
“It dragged us about 4 miles,” Donald said.
“I was worried I’d lose it. I just wanted to get it up after losing the first one,” Myles said.
Myles said his only break during the five-hour ordeal was when the fish made a run. “It cooked the pole. It overheated or something,” Myles said. The determined 12-year-old kept up the battle despite tired hands, arms, and shoulders.
“It wore out the drag, he fought the fish so hard,” Donald said of his 25-year-old reel. “We put the strike on 40-pound pressure. He fought so long. I don’t know if it wore out the washers or what. We had to put it on full (drag) in order to pull it in.”
Donald said in the 1990s there was good money in tuna fishing, but not anymore. Most of the tuna caught in Maine is shipped to Japan, where it is auctioned off.
Of whether there are other fishermen Myles’ age reeling in Tuna, Donald said, “They might be on the boat, but they are not reeling them in. It was just him and me and I had to drive the boat.”
As the Wotton family hoisted the tuna out of the hold filled with ice on the Red Lady, the beautiful yellow fins of the tuna glistened in the last rays of sun setting in the harbor. It was a perfect ending to a long and perfect day.
For years, young Myles Wotton will be telling the tale of the one that did not get away. And that is what legends are made of.