Royal Parsons was part of a crew that swapped giant tuna records like it was nobody’s business but their own. When it was done, his record is the one that still stands.
Parsons was six-feet, four-inches tall and weighed 220 pounds. His wife, Joyce, called him the “Gentle Giant,” a nickname she said was first given to him by his friends.
“He was at peace on the water. He loved it,” she said in an interview this summer.
Parsons, originally of Roselle, passed away on May 6, 1988 after suffering a heart attack. He was 52 years old. But his 1,030-pound giant bluefin caught Sept. 15, 1981, remains New Jersey’s state record giant today.
“I watched six guys on the Arundo fighting fish that day. We were the only one who boated one,” said Capt. Bob Pisano, the legendary captain of the Ol’ Salty.
If this story has one central figure, it is Pisano, who by his own count, landed over 800 giant tuna in a 60-year career. Many credit him with putting the Bacardi wreck on the map for giants.
In the era of giant tuna fishing at the Jersey Shore, he was perhaps the Big Kahuna. He caught most of his fish either on his boat the Ol’ Salty, or running Marv Gutshmit’s 36-foot Runaway.
“He was like the old man in the sea. He taught me everything,” said Capt. Gary Cannell, now of the Tuna Hunter out of Glouchester, Massachusetts.
Pisano’s crew back in the 70s and 80s, during his peak run with the giants, featured Cannell and Capt. Phil Dulanie now of the Canyon Runner. Anglers like Al Ristori, a longtime outdoor writer with the Star Ledger, Jack Cashman, Mike Fornicella and Parsons helped reel in the behemoths.
Cashman muscled in over 300 of Pisano’s giants, while Fornicella, Ristori and Parsons traded big fish for big fish.
In a two-year span between 1979 and 1981, Pisano’s crew would break the state record four times and flirt with the world record.
It started with Fornicella’s 955-pound giant in October 1979 caught in the Mud Hole. Pisano said he read five giants on the screen that day when he stopped the boat. Before they were even anchored up they had one screaming line off the spool.
“A giant is capable of taking 400 yards of line at 100 pounds of drag like it’s nothing. Then he has to stop and take oxygen,” said Pisano. “You can’t stop him, you have to let him beat himself.”
Fornicella’s fish would weigh 1,275 pounds but Pisano said they did not officially weigh in until it was already dressed out at 955 pounds. It was good for the state record, but weight-wise the 1,275 could have been the world record if they followed the criteria.
It would not have held the world record for long because five days later, on Oct. 26, 1979, a Canadian, Ken Fraser, landed the world-record 1,479-pound giant bluefin tuna off Aulds Cove, Nova Scotia. That record still stands today.
The following fall, Pisano’s crew was at it again in the Mud Hole. This time, with Parsons and Ristori on the boat, they broke the state record twice in one day. Parsons landed the first giant at 963 pounds, which was followed by Ristori’s 1,022. Both fish were weighed in at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle.
At the time, Parsons joked with a local reporter that fame was fleeting. But the next year he would land the fish that has stood as the state record now for 23 years.
“It was raining like crazy that day,” said Cannell, who was the mate on the boat.
They were on the Arundo, a World War II-era wreck that sits at the bottom of the Mud Hole in about 125 feet of water. Parsons’ 1,030-pound giant tuna came and nearly emptied the spool on the 130-pound-class rod.
Everyone on the boat had a job to do. Parsons’ was to go toe-to-toe with the fish for however long it took.
“Roy was the crank man. He had one speed,” said Cannell. “Bob was yelling at him to reel faster and he was just looking up at him and smiling. He just kept turning the handle.”
Parsons’ wife said Royal didn’t care much about the record.
“You wouldn’t have even known a hint of his accomplishment, he was very humble,” she said.
On August 8, Clean Ocean Action learned that the participants in the Rutgers-led seismic survey off the Jersey shore, set to occur this July and August, had decided to postpone the survey until the summer of 2015. Due to equipment malfunctions on their vessel, the Marcus G. Langseth, the researchers were unable to obtain the 30 days of data needed before the expiration of their federal authorization on August 17.
Upon hearing the news, COA Executive Director Cindy Zipf said, “It is a victory for marine life this summer, and for the state of New Jersey and thousands of citizens that have rallied to their defense. The coastal economy won’t be a victim of Rutgers’ seismic blasting off our coast…this year. However, we are stunned that the National Science Foundation, Rutgers and others are going to try again next year given the many members of Congress, the State of NJ, NJ State legislators, fishing, diving, tourism, and ocean advocacy organizations, and nearly 20,000 petition signers have opposed the project.”
“They blind-sided us last time, but now time is on our side and we will demand that the permitting process have robust congressional and state oversight and ample time for public review. We, the people, will be prepared and organized to advocate on behalf of New Jersey marine life to stop this dangerous experiment.”
A record-setting catch for Manasquan’s Anna O’Neill
By Len Bardsley
Jan 2, 2014
The Coast Star
MANASQUAN — Anna O’Neill, a 12-year-old from Manasquan, recently made a record-setting catch when she pulled in a 18.7-pound bluefish 2.5 miles out of Long Branch. The catch, which took place on Oct. 19, set the Female Junior World mark when Anna was still 11 years old. The previous record was 17.8 pounds set in July of 2000.
from the ASMFC Fisheries Focus
States Explore Changes to Recreational Management to Allow for More Equitable Harvest Opportunities Throughout Species Range
Highly valued by both recreational and commercial fishermen, summer flounder have been jointly managed by the Commission and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) for more than two decades. The population is now fully rebuilt in response to the joint management program… read more