Chris Berry - Tunny

Medlar Press £20
ISBN 978-1-907110-03-0

This fascinating book is no more and no less than the story of Britain’s forgotten big game fishery; the strange tale of how Scarborough grew its own tuna fishery and enjoyed a brief moment when sportsmen and celebrities rubbed shoulders in the “Tunny” Club. Avalon, it was not, but the fishermen who came to battle with giant fish in the North Sea included the amazing Lorenzo Mitchell-Henry, several members of the Hardy family and Thomas Sopwith among many others. Chris Berry has written the best and most complete account of tunny fishery published to date and anyone who has the slightest curiosity about this almost mystical time should read his book.

The story begins in August 1930, when Mitchell-Henry caught a Bluefin tuna off Scarborough. It wasn’t a big fish by tuna standards, in fact it was something of a tiddler, weighing a mere 560 pounds and measuring only 8 foot 6 inches long, and it wasn’t even Mitchell-Henry’s first or his biggest tuna, but the news set the angling world afire. For years, British anglers had been forced to read the news about the tremendous fish being caught off Avalon, while facing the reality that only the richest among them could afford to get to Santa Catalina and help themselves to the rich pickings that were on offer. Now, suddenly, it appeared that a similar opportunity was on their doorstep, but there was a sting in the tail, because the fishing at Scarborough was even more unpredictable than it was at Avalon and there wasn’t even the comfort of being able to bask in the sun during the dog days.

Nonetheless, enough of a fishery grew up that the British Tunny Club was founded and a system for claiming records was set up, following the American precedent. Anglers haunted the fishing fleets, cruising in motor launches, before transferring to dinghies to catch and play the fish and some very big fish were taken, the largest recognised catch weighing 852 pounds. By some irony this giant tuna was caught in 1949, the year that saw the beginning of the tunny fishery’s long collapse. To find out why it all went wrong and to read about the men and tackle, you need to read Chris’ story.