Big Bluefin Behavior
But since we saw the fish and knew they were there, we put in the time and it paid off. Weather can also have an effect on giant tuna. Large schools of bluefin had finally found masses of five- to eight-inch herring. For harpooners, herring are crucial because of the effect they have on tuna.
The Pelagic Family
Often the whales and birds will be in the same tight area, and so it is very hard to spot the tuna amidst all the action. The jigging method is simple and can be learned in minutes, and it is easy enough to work a jig all day without getting worn out. Because the tuna are full and content, they are easier to harpoon. While southerly winds in the afternoon bring the tuna up, an east wind, even if light, seems to keep the fish down. Shimano illustrates this method online at shimano.
While you would think that mackerel rigs would be ideal in this situation, it is very hard to say for sure ahead of time. Remember, bluefin can be unpredictable; the best method is to carry multiple types of gear and adapt to the situation at hand. One method that has worked well in the last few years is live-lining a bluefish using a kite rig. Keep in mind that due to the plague of dogfish as of late, the chunking and live baiting can be nearly impossible in many areas during the summer months.
When tuna feed on sand eels, another important forage species in this region, they do not jump and crash as they do when feeding on herring, and sometimes mackerel. Often the fish are seen swimming rapidly and erratically on the surface, making small wakes and zooming from spot to spot. They are likely feeding a few feet down and then coming up to search for more sand eels.
Often the whales and birds will be in the same tight area, and so it is very hard to spot the tuna amidst all the action. When it comes to sand eels, size matters.
Small eels, those that are only a few inches long, are not going to be able to satisfy a fish as large as a giant bluefin. Bluefin only care about putting on fat, and will not stick around if they have to expend more calories catching a meal than they get in return. When the bait is small sand eels, an area can look completely alive with whales, stripers, birds and juvenile tuna, and yet there will be no big bluefin. This was the case last summer on Stellwagen Bank. At the beginning of the season, there were plenty of larger sand eels over eight inches long.
Because of this, large schools of massive bluefin showed up in mid-June and stayed on the grounds for weeks. Small bluefin require different prey than the big tuna.
A pound fish can get by on pencil-sized sand eels, krill or scattered bunker. The same goes for stripers, cod and other life that can be found on Stellwagen Bank late in the season. But giant bluefin are not going to be able to make a living on tiny sand eels; the second-to-last fish we caught on Stellwagen — amidst acres of small sand eels —was full of the bones of stripers and a large dogfish, but not one single eel.
If there are enough big eels in an area, there can be massive numbers of fish. Giant bluefin are easier to find and catch not only when they are actively feeding, but between feedings as well. Tuna that are full from feeding often come to the surface to run, which is the term we use for when they swim up on top. These fish most often swim at around five to six knots, but depending on the situation, they can swim at a crawl or as fast as fifteen knots.
Many fishermen believe that the tuna travel through the warm surface waters to digest after gorging in deeper water. This behavior is most commonly seen when the tuna have been feeding on sea herring. For unknown reasons, bluefin appear to become almost intoxicated after gorging on herring. Sometimes we see similar behavior when the tuna are feeding on large sand eels.
I can recall one day about ten years ago, only eight to ten miles off the breakwater in Gloucester, when I saw four or five bunches of over a thousand fish. Earlier the tuna were feeding on the eels, but at the end of the day they were all running on the surface.
Some of the bunches were cartwheeling, or swimming in a big circle. This aspect of tuna behavior is arguably more important to the harpoon fishery, as we rely on the fish coming to the surface. Because the tuna are full and content, they are easier to harpoon. As a hook fisherman, why would you would want to find the fish when they are probably already full? It means you are where the fish are, so you have already increased your chances of catching them.
You never know for sure whether fish on the surface are hungry or not. Some of the best trollers I know thrive on finding fish running on the surface and then slowly and methodically pulling the baits in front of the fish. Also, if you see tuna running on the surface, there may be others in the area actively feeding. And if the surface-running fish go back into feeding mode, you will be in the position to catch a lot of fish.
I remember one day on the Cookie Too when we baited bunches on top all afternoon and only had mixed results. But a few hours later, we moved a short distance toward Stellwagen Bank and started trolling the edge. We had over 50 bites and caught eight or nine fish in about two hours. Had we not seen the fish on the surface a few hours earlier, we probably would have left the area altogether. But since we saw the fish and knew they were there, we put in the time and it paid off.
In terms of tides, most people know that slack tide is one of the best times for all bluefin fishermen. Bluefin, especially large bluefin, seem to hate strong tides. The slack tide offers relief, so always be on guard during these periods. There are plenty of days when you will be in an area seemingly devoid of tuna, and then the tide turns and suddenly fish are everywhere. Strong moon tides are usually a bad time for finding tuna, and during these times even the slack may not be enough to bring the fish up.
Slack tides during such moons are often short and offer little to no relief for the fish. And finally, while slack tides will often bring fish up, there are always exceptions when it comes to bluefin, and there are times when the turning of the tide inexplicably shuts the fishing off. As a general rule, bluefin tuna feed heavily early in the morning, and then run offshore in the afternoon.
On Jeffreys Ledge, for example, if you find the fish on the ledge in the morning, chances are they will head east or southeast by afternoon. There is no sure bet though, and there will be days when the fish run inshore in the afternoon.
The key seems to be that they like to get out into more still waters, and that means getting away from the shallower banks and ledges where the currents and tide run harder. Weather can also have an effect on giant tuna. Better weather generally means better fishing, which is convenient because most boaters must wait for a day of light winds and clear weather for safety and comfort when fishing offshore.
There is no better wind for finding giant tuna than a light southerly. It is impossible to say why, but whatever the reason, the effects can be profound. While southerly winds in the afternoon bring the tuna up, an east wind, even if light, seems to keep the fish down. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you come across tuna central, these fish are highly mobile and can often disappear for short periods of time.
What makes the fish disappear from time to time is hard to say, but it may just be their way of digesting. For example, the day after we got nine tuna off Mount Desert Rock, we came back out and found nothing. Both Islas Secas Resort and Panama Sport Fishing Lodge have a fleet of to foot center-consoles that can spread several anglers from bow to stern for safe and efficient casting.
However, standard flybridge cruisers, such as those found at Cebaco Bay Sportfishing Club, can also be effective when fitted with bow rails and gunwale access. In other words, just about any style of boat can be customized for popping and jigging. The bluefin fishery differs greatly from tropical yellowfin tactics. Most fishing tactics include drifting, anchoring or fishing behind draggers with chum.
Catching to pound bluefin on light tackle is often aided by relatively shallow water less than feet deep and short runs to the fishing grounds at some locations. Contrast that with the mile-plus journeys out of ports in the Gulf of Mexico to locations with more than 1, feet of water.
The rewards are great, however, with cow yellowfin tuna, wahoo, blackfin tuna, blue marlin, dorados and other pelagics found in good numbers. June to August is a peak period; however, Richard Herbst, of Houston, got on the foot party boat Scat Cat in Port Aransas in February , in between cold fronts, and caught a pound yellowfin on a popper.
Venice, Galveston and Freeport are also good ports to pursue pelagics. The class of lures known as poppers, or chuggers, are designed to swim or skip on the surface, and most of them are relatively lightweight and sport concave faces to varying degrees. Some sport narrow profiles, while others come with wide bodies. Most can be fished right out of the box, but to withstand tough saltwater game fish, make sure you select through-wire lures with heavy-gauge hooks, such as the OTI Raptor.
These lures are designed to imitate an injured or escaping baitfish struggling on the surface, which appeals to a wide variety of species throughout temperate and tropical seas. Cool- or cold-water species tend to be more reluctant to chase poppers on the surface. Traditional poppers are noisy. Since sound is a big attractant for many game fish, I prefer to make long casts unless aiming for nearby breaking fish or a structure.
A long cast improves your results because it provides time for the fish, which may be a good distance away, to hear the pop, react and have a chance of taking the lure before you pull it out of the water. Tackle designed for to pound Spectra line, such as the Shimano TranX, is a good choice for most situations. There is an ongoing revolution in light-tackle level-wind reels, with manufacturers now producing larger sizes, better gearing and tougher, smoother drag systems. When using conventional reels, a level-wind feature is important since these plugs are more efficient and comfortable when worked with one hand cupping the reel seat and side plate of the reel while turning the handle with the other hand.
The rod needs to be pumped on the retrieve, which requires a firm grip with all fingers for balance. The shortcomings of non-level-wind reels are magnified when the number of casts increases. Any tackle that reduces fatigue increases efficiency and enjoyment. For lures lighter than 3 ounces, a spinning outfit becomes more practical for casting. Similar stiff-action spinning rods are paired with these reels when chasing the big pelagics. Fish the surface any way you want, but always drop a jig down, whether you have marks on the fish finder or not.
During my last trip to Panama, in March , deep jigging produced nearly as many yellowfin tuna as popping. Deep jigging on the tuna grounds makes sense. According to Shimano, the Butterfly Jigging System was developed in Japan in the early s to catch bluefin tuna in depths of up to feet. They sink like a rocket. The fast sink is a key element in performance since it allows the angler to retrieve it in fast, short intervals.
If you had to wait for the jig to flutter down, it would slow the pump technique and destroy the violent action that gets reactive strikes. When retrieved in short strokes, they angle off in horizontal slices rather than vertically. This movement is fooling the bigger, more mature fish that previously would take only a well-presented live bait, in some cases. For the longer jig styles, the presentation differs slightly. Once you hit bottom, or the desired depth, make a long lift, lower the rod to create a slack line on the drop, and then retrieve.
The jigs are designed to work best with a fast-retrieve reel, heavy-duty parabolic rod and Spectra superbraid line.
Of course, lighter tackle can be used when appropriate. Start with an assortment of heavy-tackle plugs festooned with 3X treble hooks.
Iamges: violent giant bluefin tuna hook up
Tackle designed for to pound Spectra line, such as the Shimano TranX, is a good choice for most situations. For harpooners, herring are crucial because of the effect they have on tuna. The fast sink is a key element in performance since it allows the angler to retrieve it in fast, short intervals.
And often, hundreds, or even thousands, of shearwaters, gannets and sea gulls will be diving for the herring as well. For example, after a popping session on a John de la Cruz center-console from Panama Sport Fishing Lodge, we decided to jig for grouper in feet of water, only to hook a pound yellowfin tuna instead. Making his way back to the cockpit, Mitchell was speechless for a minute.
Start with an assortment of heavy-tackle plugs festooned with 3X treble hooks. Small eels, those that are only a few inches long, are not going to be able to satisfy a fish as large as a giant bluefin. While there are several violent giant bluefin tuna hook up fishes that big bluefin eat off the coast of New England, the opinion of most successful tuna fishermen is that sea herring is the forage of choice. While you would think that mackerel rigs would be ideal in this situation, it is very hard to say for sure ahead of time. It maryland speed dating you are where the fish are, so you have upp increased your chances of catching them.
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