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Local angler ties state record for little tunny
John Smits of Allenhurst recently tied the record for the heaviest little tunny. - photo by Photo provided.

BRUNSWICK — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced last week that the men’s record for the heaviest little tunny has been tied by angler John Smits of Allenhurst.

On July 13, Smits caught a 19-pound, 4-ounce little tunny while fishing with friend Billy Woodard, also of Allenhurst. The two were fishing with live herring near the whistle buoy offshore of St. Catherines Island. After a 40-minute fight, Smits landed a fish that appeared large enough to challenge the current state record. He brought the fish to the DNR’s coastal regional headquarters where biologists verified the species and determined an accurate weight.

Smits shares the record with Jerry Duncan Sr. of Dublin, whose 1997 catch weighed 19 pounds, 3 ounces. According to the gamefish record program rules, for fish under 20 pounds, the record must be bested by 4 ounces of more, therefore Smits’ catch is classified as a tie.

Little tunny are one of 39 species in the mackerel family that includes king, Spanish and cero mackerel, yellowfin and bluefin tunas and skipjack. They are often confused with Atlantic bonito, but little tunny have four or five dark spots below the pectoral fin that do not appear on the bonito. Little tunny live from Massachusetts to Brazil, usually offshore. It swims in large schools.

Unlike many tuna species, however, it is not considered good table fare.

A complete listing of the rules and current men’s and women’s records can be found at, along with information on how to submit a fish for consideration. In addition to an accurate weight, it’s important to provide several photographs of the fish along with the application. There are also minimum weights for several species.

Anglers who want to enter a fish for a new state record must be sure to have the fish weighed on a Georgia Department of Agriculture-certified scale in the presence of at least one witness. During business hours, anglers can have their catch weighed at the coastal regional headquarters in Brunswick.

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