I started my website (fishgaak.com) back in 2014. It’s a public website so anyone can look up past fishing reports. As I look back I see two problems. First, when it comes to bass, this past fall season was terrible when it came to bass in the 15 to 25 pound range. Second, for the second year in a row, the big bluefish were a no show. When it comes to bluefish my understanding is the governing body, which is the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), has commented that the bluefish stock may be in some trouble. No one is hitting the panic button but current regulations may need to be adjusted. The ASMFC also calls the shots when it comes to striped bass. The ASMFC has proposed a 1 fish bag limit. That 1 fish must fall between 28 and 35 inches. Everything outside those limits must be released. This equates to an 18% reduction. However, the ASMFC left the door open for states to come up with their own regulations as long as they meet the 18% reduction. So New York may not go with the recommendation from the commission. Keep in mind New York’s current regulations are very conservative, to begin with. Currently, other states are allowed to take multiple fish. Those are the states that will be hit hardest with the recommended 18% reduction. Bottom line is striped bass size limits are still up in the air. We should know by the end of next month. Commercial fishermen will also see an 18% reduction. Besides the 18% reduction, the other change that was approved was the mandatory use of a circle hook when fishing with natural baits. This rule will go into effect in 2021. If you use eels, clam, bunker chunks, etc., you will need to use an inline non-offset circle hook. This will cut down on striped bass being gut hooked. This rule will also affect those that snag bunker and leave them in the school. You will need to reel that bunker in and drop it back down on a setup that is rigged up with a circle hook. I certainly don’t want to come across as a gloom and doom guy. Last year was my best year of fishing that I have ever experienced. Not only was there an abundance of spring weakfish, but the amount of summer weakfish was also something most never experienced even during the “good old days.” A decrease in striped bass may actually be leading to an increase in weakfish. I have seen firsthand bass spitting up baby weakfish. If you venture out to the 30 fathom line more than likely you came home with a bluefin tuna. These fish really settled in around the Coimbra Wreck area. I expect 2020 will be just as good if not better.
Last year I spoke at AllPro Fishing Expo and Workshops. I will once again be part of the seminars. That will take place on February 9th at the Hilton Hotel located at 598 RTE 110 in Melville. This year I’m slated to talk about weakfish, mahi-mahi and inshore tuna. I had several people that attended my tuna class last year contact me. They used some of the techniques that I discussed and were happy to inform me that they were catching tuna using them. Even though I speak about fishing it doesn’t mean that I have stopped learning. Case in point, last year I attended the Canyon Runner seminar for the first time. A lot of what was taught were things I had a decent amount of knowledge about. However, there were a few “ah ha” moments. Sure enough, I had my best bluefin tuna season ever. People like me are at these seminars to help others catch fish. I wish I would have attended seminars like the AllPro, which could have help speed up the learning curve when I first got into tuna fishing. Attending the AllPro Expo and Workshops are a get way to get you out of the cold and excited for the upcoming fishing season.
Popping for tuna with spinning reels has become really popular. The amount of money being spent on fishermen chasing tuna on spinning gear is through the roof. If you plan on getting into this type of fishery you need to pay attention to gear ratio. I’m going to save you money because I have already learned about gear ratio the hard way. I wasted my money on the wrong type of gear. A reel used to throw poppers should have a high gear ratio. A reel that you plan to jig with should have a low ratio. What does gear ratio mean? It’s simply how many times the spool spins on the reel for one turn of the handle. A reel that is used for throwing poppers should have a ratio north of 6 to 1. A reel used for jigging should have a ratio of 5 to 1 or less. I bought a reel that I thought would be great to pop with, however, once I tried it while I was tuna fishing I quickly realized something wasn’t right. You need to envision yourself popping for you to understand why you need to buy the right reel. As I would go to “pop” there was slack in the line. This would cause the popper to flip over itself. In order to pop correctly, your popping lure would sit in the water too long before you were able to pop again. A low gear ratio would make it very difficult to properly work a popper because the reel isn’t picking up enough line every time you turn the handle. I use a Shimano Twin Power 14k spinning reel that has a gear ratio of 6.2:1. If you are working on a smaller budget there are other alternatives. If you want to cast and jig for tuna but you can only afford to buy one, buy the reel with the higher gear ratio. It’s easier to jig with a high ratio reel than it is to pop with a low gear ratio reel. Ideally, it would be best to have two separate setups. The other part of the jigging and popping equation is the rod. There is no such thing as a rod that can pop and jig. Popping rods are usually between seven and nine feet long. You need to be able to cast them a decent distance while also being stiff enough to land the size of fish that you plan on pursuing. Normally a jigging rod is much shorter and stiffer. The jigging rods that I use are 5’ 6”. They are rated extra heavy. Once again the ideal situation would call for two setups. There’s a lot more to picking out tuna rods and reels. If you want to learn more I will be discussing tuna setups at the above mentioned seminar.