Huge Tuna Among 5 Saltwater State Records Approved in Florida

state records
Rick Whitley and his Florida-record bluefin tuna, along with Capt. Joey Birbeck and mates Dennis Bennett and Josh Goodson, of the vessel "You Never Know." (Photo courtesy of Rick Whitley)

Five new saltwater state records have been approved in Florida, including a monster tuna.

With the Florida state record for bluefin tuna previously vacant, Rick Whitley could've made it in the record books with just about any legal bluefin.

Instead, he went big — like "Wicked Tuna" big,

Whitley's 826-pound, 8-ounce bluefin not only filled the state's final open conventional-tackle record, it put up a number that may stand for a good long time. The fish was one of five new saltwater records approved by the state during the past year, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission news release this week.

Whitley caught the record May 8 of last year off Destin while fishing with Capt. Joey Birbeck and mates Dennis Bennett and Josh Goodson on the fishing vessel "You Never Know."

Other record saltwater catches approved in the past year:

  • Hardhead Catfish: Ethan Pillitteri (4-8, Port Charlotte)
  • Almaco Jack: Lewis Sapp (35-9, Destin)
  • Kingfish (whiting): Raymond A. Hathorn, Jr. (2-0, Navarre Beach)
  • Horse-Eye Jack: Sharon Kartrude Pryel (26-0, Juno Beach)

Saltwater record holders receive a certificate of accomplishment and a prize pack, and beginning this year will be awarded a custom ink fish print to memorialize their catch, courtesy of Fish Print Shop.

Florida maintains state all-tackle records for the heaviest marine fishes caught in Florida waters, or in federal waters extending directly outward of Florida state waters, for 77 species in both conventional tackle and fly-fishing categories. 

To qualify for the Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program the catch must be weighed on a certified scale. The angler's signature on a completed application form must be witnessed by a notary. Photographs of the angler with their catch are required. Species that are difficult to identify must be confirmed by a qualified fisheries biologist. For more information and to view current records, visit and click on "Programs" and "Florida Saltwater Fishing Records", or contact or 850-487-0554.

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