Maybe Matt Eusner is a quick learner. Or it could be that he had a little bit of beginner’s luck.

But one thing is certain, the University of Kentucky student is poised to hold an Alabama state fishing record.

Eusner, who is 24 and a 2000 graduate of Russell, landed a 221-pound yellowfin tuna on June 3 after a fight that lasted 2-1/2 hours in the Gulf of Mexico. Although Eusner had been deep sea fishing before, it was his first time fishing for tuna.

“It was about 6:30 in the morning and we came through a school of tuna,” Eusner said. “The last half hour was the hardest part. I just know it was real painful and that I was probably on about my fourth wind.”

Eusner was on a 36-hour charter from Gulf Shores, Ala., on the Lady D, a boat captained by Don Walker out of Orange Beach, Ala. Although the fish was caught about 80 miles southeast of New Orleans, the record is determined by where the boat is moored.

He was on a trip with his father, Paul, friend Mike Woods and some of his father’s business acquaintances. Eusner said he used a 50-pound test line and a ballyhoo for bait. A ballyhoo is about an eight-inch fish that looks like a miniature marlin.

Eusner said what made the fight with his tuna even more difficult was that another fisherman on the boat was battling a smaller tuna.

“We were fighting these two tuna at the same time. There were about 10 guys on the boat and we had to cross the rods so it was really intense,” he said. “After the smaller fish (about 190 pounds) was caught, they knew mine was a horse.”

Paul Eusner said the others on the boat knew his son was fatigued.

“We were pumping Gatorade and water into him all the time,” he said. “It was quite a fight.”

When Eusner finally landed the fish, Walker wasn’t convinced it was going to threaten Alabama’s record of 204 pounds. From his vantage point high on the boat, he didn’t have a good perspective on the fish’s size.

“The captain looked down and said it was 190 pounds, but he hadn’t gotten a good look at me,” Eusner said. “Then he came down and saw that I was about 6-foot-3 and then he said it might be a state record.”

After Walker sent a message back to the marina that the fish needed to be weighed for the state record, a crowd began to assemble.

Eusner said he noticed a lot of interest when the boat came back to the marina.

“There were a bunch of people who came down to check it out. They weighed it a second time and all these people were coming down to see it,” he said. “I went to the marina and somebody asked me if I was going to see it. I said, ‘No, I’ve already had a good look at it.’”

The fish, measured from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail, was 5-feet, eight inches long. It’s weight on the scales was 221 pounds, 40 ounces.

Eusner said the Alabama fish and game department is in the process of making the record official.

RICK GREENE can be reached at or (606) 326-2664.

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