What a great start to the tuna season. In the month of June, I ran offshore/midshore five times. We managed to find tuna on each trip. Not only did we find tuna, we found life that you only see on National Geographic. If you get a chance I posted some really cool videos on my website Fishgaak.com. Pull up the reports from June and enjoy the show. The video from June 28th showed acres of 100 pound class fish crashing the surface. If you think its exciting finding bass and bluefish blitzing, wait until you hear my excitement in the video. Don’t worry I’m not writing about my website to promote myself. I’m here to help those that want in on the insanity that takes place just 20-30 miles offshore.
If you are like me then you are probably always trying to learn something that may increase your catch ratios. I have caught very few fish on what is known as the way back line. This is the line that is the furthest from your boat when you are trolling. It’s usually right down the center. I always hear other boats hooking up with tuna on that way back line. I always thought that I had my line as far back as most. On a trip I did in June I used a setup that I know had 200 yards of top shot. I also know it had 650 yards of hollow core line. I decided to let out all of the top shot. Sure enough, my way back lure (Joe Shut/ballyhoo) gets inhaled. It took a while to get the fish to the boat but we released a beautiful bluefin tuna that we estimated to be in the mid-60 inch range. I need to warn you about putting a lure that far back. If you are fishing among a fleet of boats you need to be careful that someone doesn’t run over your line. You also need to be careful that you don’t run over someone else’s. Placing that lure way back will certainly increase my chances of catching more tuna.
If trolling for tuna isn’t your thing perhaps tuna on spinning gear will excite you. This type of fishing has become really popular. I use Shimano Twin Power 14k sizes reels. I spool them with 65 pound hollow core line. I use about 10 feet of a wind on 65 pound fluorocarbon leader. There are no knots or terminal tackle used to connect the two lines. The two lines are joined together by a loop to loop connection. If you are unfamiliar with that type of setup you can watch a few videos online. What I like to use on the end of the line is a Sluggo, RonZ or Hogy. These lures mimic sand eels very well. We are so lucky to have an abundance of sand eels on our mid-shore tuna grounds. If they are feeding on top, cast into the busting tuna. If they are only coming up once in a while drop your lure straight down. Once again I have videos from June that show all of this.
Don’t just drive to a destination and drop in your spread. If you don’t find life keep moving until you do. It might cost you a few bucks more in gas but it will increase your chance of catching the fish you are pursuing. When we first started out fishing for tuna, my wife and I would just get to a predetermined area and start trolling. On occasion, we would find a fish or two. Nowadays we won’t stop the boat until we see life (whales, dolphins and birds). Use your radar to help you find fish. I know that birds can appear on some of today’s radars but that’s not what I’m using my radar for. I zoom out to 20 miles and look for clusters of boats. If you see a bunch of boats in a tight area I suggest you start your search in their direction.
It’s not just all about bluefin tuna. On a recent trip to Block Canyon we picked up a white marlin and a bunch of yellowfin. Other boats in the fleet had blue marlin, mahi and there were also plenty of bigeye tuna to go around. It’s very important to gather as much intel as you can before you leave the dock. The intel will come to you by word of mouth and/or subscribing to one of the many websites that provide fisherman with satellite information. It’s important to recognize temperature breaks and “clean water.” Some sites are free. I subscribe to a service called Ripcharts. I think it runs me $175 for the year. It’s a small price to pay. It’s a big ocean out there and every bit of information can help you find the fish.
August is usually when we see a peak in ocean temperatures. That means this is your best chance at finding mahi I have to be honest I pride myself on being very good at finding and catching mahi, However this year I’m a little nervous. Rarely do I leave the dock this time of year without live bait. However this year my canal is real “dirty.” Not only does my canal lack bait but when I bring them in from the bay, keeping them alive in a pen is almost impossible. So that means I need to go with plan B. Frozen squid will usually do the trick. If they have lock jaw try throwing a popper that makes a lot of noise. A big popper will often get them in a frenzy. If by some chance your buddy forgot to bring the squid or you left it sitting on the dock you can still put some mahi in the boat if you come across them. If you are trolling there is a good chance you have ballyhoo on board. You can chunk some up and increase your chance of catching a few. If you happen to have a tuna in the box that you caught earlier you can cut off a couple of pieces near the tail and use them to chunk with. When all else fails stay away from the object you found them under for at least a half hour. When you return make sure you keep your distance. The further you can stay away the better your chances of getting them to bite are.
I dedicated much of this column to pelagics. That doesn’t mean that the inshore bite is dead. Fluke and seabass are in full swing. There are also plenty of porgies and triggerfish around to keep the kids smiling. One last thing, don’t forget to check those summer weakfish holes. They are back in good numbers.