No ordinary fisherman’s tale


This is no ordinary fisherman’s tale; this is serious business for Fish Hoek resident Brian Cohen, as he recalls the magical moments of him fighting to land a record bluefin tuna catch virtually on his doorstep.

Fish Hoek’s Brian Cohen with his catch of the day at Fish Hoek Bay in 1972.

Longtime retired adventurer, businessman, pilot, sailor, skipper, football administrator, secret agent, undercover diplomat – name it, he has done it – recently launched a book to illustrate his moments of pure bliss of hunting down bluefin tuna in the bay from his Kingfisher ski boat.

In 1971, Brian Cohen received the President’s Award for his achievements in game sport fishing.

For many, it would sound unimaginable but Cohen reeled in a bluefin tuna weighing 474.9 kilograms (1047 pounds), only 100m off Sunny Cove in the Fish Hoek Bay in 1972. This catch still stands as an Africa International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record.

The coffee table book, aptly named The Giant Bluefin Tuna of Fish Hoek Bay, which exclusively features several stories of Cohen’s adventures on the seas hunting for the bluefin tuna, was recently published. Needless to say, it was sold out within days, says his close friend and author, Jill Altern.

Brian Cohen, with friend Jill Altern and author of The Giant Bluefin Tuna of Fish Hoek Bay.

This is Cohen’s second book after he launched his biography A Life to Remember, authored by long-time friend Lee Faulkner in 2021.

A gripping read, which could easily inspire a scriptwriter to rekindle a series of intriguing James Bond movies, it takes you on a roller-coaster ride from hosting John F Kennedy Jnr, Dr Christiaan Barnard and his wife Barbara Zoellner, and Australian singer John Paul Young at his Fish Hoek and Murdoch Valley homes to hunting with Springbok rugby player Rob Louw and former Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha.

“I will reveal more secrets which are going to shock the world,” he adds before giving Altern a chance to explain her involvement in his latest book.

Altern says: “It took a lot of persuasion to convince him to do the second book. But I then took it upon myself to do it. So, one day I just rocked up at his house with a dummy copy of a book which is a campfire straight-talking style book in which Brian shares his adventures of his life as a deep sea angler.

Pictured is one of many memorabelia of Brian Cohen’s association with the now-defunct National Football League-affillated Cape Town City FC.

“I’m no writer nor editor; it’s just a personal encounter of Brian’s colourful yet eventful life, which spans over five decades of stories of hunting for the tuna in False Bay.

“The book comprises over 50 pages which includes 60 photographs. We initially published only 50 copies but we are forced to go into a second print run.”

Cohen is a decorated angler and was honoured with Springbok colours and received the President’s Award for his achievements in 1971 and 1972. But this passion quickly turned into a business venture when he and John Church partnered to establish Tuna Marine Foods, which became the biggest tuna cannery in the Western Cape, canning up to 2000 tons of tuna annually.

Brian Cohen, with the leather jacket, during his time as chairman of Bellville City FC.

He recalls learning the tricks of the trade from his father, Vic, who pioneered the sport of game fishing from boats in the 1940s.

“I then followed in my father’s footsteps from a very young age, landing my first bluefin tuna at the age of 15. I went on to set an All Africa junior record at the age of 16 when I landed a 272 kilogram (600lb) tuna,” said Cohen.

So, what has happened to the tuna in the Fish Hoek Bay? “Greed and it has nothing to do with weather patterns,” he retorts in a flash. “The fish were always there during summer.”

“I’m talking of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The bay was filled with tuna when they chased after large shoals of squid, pilchards and mackerel in the bay.

“It was a fisherman’s paradise, the tuna a mere 100m off the catwalk. But then large companies entered the hunt and cleaned out the pilchards which the tuna live on,” he adds.

Asked about the number of photographs of Pik Botha adorning his study and bar area, he says Botha was his best friend.

“I took Pik fishing, which resulted in a friendship of 42 years. Pik and his wife Helena, became very fond of my Murdoch Valley house and often spent weekends there. This resulted in him bringing many VIP guests to my house and involved me in numerous foreign affairs secret projects.

“I went on to host Bob Denard, the legendary French soldier of fortune who was involved in coups and mercenary activities across Africa and the Middle East for decades, and they became close friends for many years,” says Cohen.

Cohen was also an avid fan of the Cape Town City Football Club in the heydays of the National Football League (NFL) and says that he employed the late Frank Lord in his business to help the club.

Brian Cohen with former Cape Town soccer supremo, the late Frank Lord.

He later served on the Cape Town City board and went on to become chairman of Bellville City FC.

While he says game fishing is as popular today, he views the cost of boats and fuel as some of the major factors hamstringing the sport.

He, however, still considers Cape Point as the world’s most famous destination for sport game fishing.

• For more information about The Giant Bluefin Tuna of Fish Hoek Bay, email Altern at