LI Fishing Report
Targeting Bluefin tuna… When I bought my first boat, one of my favorite things to do was go fluke fishing in the ocean. I loved the idea of shutting off the engines and just drifting around. Out there you don’t need to worry about other boats, shallow water, buoys, rocks, docks or bridges. Nowadays, I very rarely fish for fluke in the ocean. It’s because I have become addicted to chasing pelagics. Tuna, mahi, marlin and wahoo. It’s very addictive however, it is very expensive. With our offshore season upon us I would like to talk about what my spread looks like. Depending on what you are targeting offshore will determine what your trolling spread will look like. In order to reach a broader audience, I will focus on my bluefin tuna spread. You don’t need to head 100 miles offshore to find Bluefin tuna. If you can get out to the 30 fathom (a fathom is 6 feet deep) line you will get plenty of chances. Bluefin usually show up off the coast of NJ. As the season progresses these fish will begin to move to the east. In years past, places like the Chicken Canyon, Texas Tower, Bacardi, Virginia and Coimbra Wreck have been great areas to target bluefin. When someone tells you that they caught bluefin at such and such locations it doesn’t always mean that he was fishing directly on that spot. Keep in mind people use a general location or a wreck closest to where they may have caught the tuna around. Before you head out you can always go to my website (fishgaak.com) and see where I have been fishing. Don’t go out there looking for bluefin tuna with bass gear. If you come across 200 pound fish you will be severely outgunned. Whatever I’m doing on one side of the boat I’m basically doing the same on the other. Usually, the only difference will be color. In 2017 Sterling Tackle Company introduced a product that was a game changer. They developed a spreader bar that tracks away from your boat. It’s basically a spreader bar with a keel on the forward bird that moves the bar away from the boat. Wide-trackers now account for at least half of the tuna I’m catching on the troll. These wide-trackers should be purchased in pairs. You will need a port side and a starboard side. You can NOT run a port side wide-tracker on the starboard side and vs versa. Keep in mind I have a 31 foot center console. I usually run a 9 rod spread. Let’s start in the bow. I run an 18 inch wide-tracker that will track under your outriggers if you have them. That’s the great thing about these wide-trackers, if you don’t have outriggers you can still create a large bait profile behind your boat. The next thing I do is run a Joe Shute type lure rigged with a ballyhoo off of my long outrigger. I then slide a 36 inch wide-tracker under the long rigger line. I do not use my short rigger when targeting bluefin. With those three rods in place, it now brings us to the rear of the boat. The line that is fished closest to the boat is referred to as your “flat line.” So many things can be run from this spot. Everything from subsurface lures to deep diving plugs to cedar plugs. This year I plan on running a planer setup in the back corner. I will only use one planer so in the other corner I will most likely use a Joe Shute rigged with ballyhoo or a Sterling Tackle Chaos Bar. I have one more line to get out. It’s actually the line that I will put out first. I place an Islander/Joe Shute lure with a rigged ballyhoo way way back in the spread. I place it 200 yards back. This rod is placed directly in the center. I place it in my rocket launcher on the top of my hard top. When it comes to bluefin tuna I have had a lot of success with the color purple. Purple will make up half of the lures that I initially put out. Pay attention to what they hit on. If it’s not purple then switch it out to match the color that they are. When fishing for bluefin I will usually keep a trolling speed of 4-5.5 knots. It seems that the biggest fish like lures trolled on the slower side. If you are new to fishing for tuna don’t get discouraged. The only way you are going to learn is by going out there. I realized that this trolling spread may not be feasible for the type of boat that you run. I just want you to see what my spread looks like. If you visit Sterlingtackle.com they have a couple of trolling spread illustrations that you can match with your type of boat. Like I mentioned earlier this is my bluefin tuna spread. A yellowfin spread will look a little different. However, if I’m targeting marlin or wahoo it will look completely different. I look at fishing the same way I looked at going skiing for the first time. People will give you advice on what to do however you are never going to learn how to ski until you’re off the lift and heading down the mountain. I have made many mistakes. The key is learning from those mistakes. The one mistake that you can’t afford to make is not having the necessary safety gear. There are several items that you should carry even though you aren’t required to. Despite my boat being unsinkable because it is foam filled I still carry a 6-man life raft on board. I carry a ditch bag that contains water, snacks, an EPIRB and a handheld VHF radio. I sold my satellite phone and replaced it with a Garmin InReach. So before you start blowing your budget on fancy gear please make sure you think safety first. Hope for the future… I like to think positively when it comes to the future of striped bass. This year I caught my first bass on Easter Sunday. It was by far the earliest that I have ever caught a bass. By the end of April, there were bass all over the Great South Bay. These fish weren’t big but they were in large schools. With new regulations in place, I have my fingers crossed that these fish will come back in big numbers. It’s going to take a few years for the new regulations to pay off. I just hope my fellow fishermen understand that.