Feature fish of the month…
Holy moly the tuna bite has been off the charts. The inshore areas like the Coimbra and Bacardi wrecks have been a Mecca for an enormous amount of life. Personally, I have never witnessed this many whales, dolphins, birds and tuna come together like they have 30 to 50 miles offshore. It looks like something you see on National Geographic. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better the bite on the “edge” has caught fire. Fishermen have reported catches of double-digit bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Along with these tunas are an incredible amount of billfish. The Fishtails, Lobster Claw, Atlantis and the Dip are just a few places that have seen red-hot fishing. During the day make sure you have a new wide tracker bar in your spread. These bars allow your spreader bar to find clean water. I have already caught two bluefin over 150 pounds this year on them. Now that the calendar has turned to September it is time for the night bite to pick up. Night trolling has been popular over the last few years. It is a very effective way of targeting bigeye tuna but it’s also very stressful. Instead, I suggest night time chunking with butterfish and sardines. One thing that may surprise you is how light the leader needs to be to get these tunas to bite at night. They have excellent eyesight. If you need to use 30 or 40-pound fluorocarbon leader make sure your “leader man” doesn’t pull too hard on the line while he is trying to line up the tuna for a gaff shot. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to snap a 30 or 40-pound leader when there is a tuna on the hook. Don’t over chunk. Just a couple of pieces every 1-2 minutes. You want those fish to come to you. If you over chunk the tuna will just end up staying deep. Don’t use chum. If you are looking for tuna you don’t want to attract sharks. If the summer is a prelude to the fall then hang on its going to get wild!
The inshore begins to heat up once again. The fluke bite is now in the ninth inning. These fish have begun to move out of the bays and into deeper water. There is still plenty of time to catch that double-digit fish. There is an abundance of live baits that you can utilize. Mullet, peanut bunker and small snapper blues make excellent bait. Trying “dead sticking” one of these baits while you are fishing near a rock pile or a wreck.
Summer weakfish will be targeted by those fishermen that focus on bay fishing. Despite a very disappointing spring run of large fish I still expect summer weak fishing to be as good as the last few years. There doesn’t seem to be a correlation with spring and summer weakfish. These fish tend to be smaller than those that appear in the spring. So it’s best to go with small lures. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with live bait. These weakfish will take many artificials. Try using something from Zman. They tend to last longer.
Besides small snappers being around in September, this month usually ushers in the start of the fall run. That means big bluefish. These fish will begin to make their way from east to west as the month continues. Catching fall bluefish isn’t rocket science. It’s as simple as looking for birds or watching bait pods exploding on the surface. These fish don’t swim alone. They act like piranhas of the Amazon. Make sure you have wire leader on your lures and hooks, you are going to need it for these tackle busters. Circle hooks are great for targeting bluefish.
Along with bluefish, striped bass begin to show up along the south shore. Just like bluefish, they will be traveling east to west. As they are just starting to show up they are in abundance as they are later in the fall. With that in mind, a great way to target these is trolling for them. The use of either a Mojo rig or a bunker spoon is very effective. Not only will these two lures catch bass they will catch big bass. Just be careful if there are bluefish around it can get very costly losing those lures.
September is also a great month to target albies and bonito. These speedsters are a blast on light tackle. If you are fishing along the beach you will recognize these fish by how quickly they pop up and disappear. The one lure that you will find on the end of my line is a Hogy Heavy Minnow. I like to use the 2-ounce size. It allows me to cast it a great distance. Once it hits the water I let it sink for about three seconds then I reel as fast as I can. Albies are the ultimate catch and release fish.
Our reefs and local wrecks should still be covered with small seabass and large porgies. Along with those two species, you will most likely find some tasty triggerfish also. If you can cut through their tough skin the meat once cooked will be white, flaky and mild in taste. The key to catching triggerfish is the use of really small hooks. They fight like blackfish!
Besides tuna, our offshore waters are teaming with various pelagic species. With water temps still in the 70’s, you can find mahi-mahi within sight of land. You may also be able to find wahoo and marlin along the 30-fathom line. If you are looking for a wahoo make sure you are using a deep diving plug. Most of the time wahoo are subsurface feeders. If you are looking for marlin the use of a dredge will certainly increase your chances. A dredge is basically a very large umbrella rig however, it doesn’t have any hooks. It’s meant to mimic a bait ball.
I don’t mean to preach but I believe in conservation. Please take only what you can eat. Sometimes I see pictures of 10-20 tuna lined up on a dock. I have my doubts that all those fish will be consumed. There is a good chance that the boat that brought them in didn’t even have enough ice to keep them fresh. As far as billfish go I want to remind readers that it’s illegal to bring a billfish in the boat and then release it. Studies have shown the billfish will stand a much better chance of survival if it is released in the water. It’s cool to have a photo but it’s better to know that the fish you just released can be caught again.