There is nothing quite like the expression on the face of a virgin tuna angler when they finally hook up with a Bluefin. It is usually a mix of shock, awe and fear.
Ask any fisherman who has successfully landed a tuna and they will vouch for its fighting power and unyielding endurance. The fight is commonly compared to reeling in a Volkswagen beetle or a small truck.
But catching a tuna can be done, and a large boat and fancy equipment is not always necessary-as discussed in Cape Cod Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing from a Small Boat.
The key ingredients for breaking the ice in the tuna world are a boat, a safety conscious captain, and a burning desire to catch a tuna.
Hooking up with that first tuna is an experience that will never be forgotten. However it can take a toll on a fisherman’s body.
Prior to 2009, outdoor enthusiast Chris Bird and local recreational fisherman David D’Amore had dreams of tuna, but had little luck when it came to actually catching the fish. However things took a turn for the better on June 25, 2009 when a school sized tuna engulfed a soft plastic trolled on the surface.
“My first experience fighting a tuna was similar to that of upgrading from a Honda Civic to a Ferrarri,” said D’Amore, comparing striped bass fishing to tuna fishing. “I would struggle for an hour to recover several yards of line, only to have fifty yards taken back in an instant.”
Chris Bird had a similar experience.
“I came into it feeling 10 feet tall and as strong as an ox, and left completely beat up,” explained Bird. “The fish dominated me.”
Even small tuna have a reputation as being one of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean.
So if an angler already possesses the key ingredients of a boat, a safety conscious captain and a burning desire to catch a tuna, where is the best place to start?
Unfortunately things can get confusing. There are as many ways to catch a tuna as there are tuna swimming in the ocean. The most important thing is to find a technique suitable to your means. For the sake of this article, we will focus on bagging a tuna from a small boat (around 20 feet in length).
The first decision to make is what size of tuna to pursue. Unfortunately, targeting giant tuna will require a general category permit, a life raft, an EPIRB and survival suits-which is extremely costly.
For most folks it makes more economic sense to target smaller bluefins. An angling/recreational permit purchased from NOAA for $20 will allow an angler to retain one tuna 27-59 inches per day/trip (check with NOAA for current regulations). No life rafts, survival suits or EPIRBS required.
Spinning gear is one of the more appropriate means for taking tuna of this size category. There exists a multitude of spinning setups that will get the job done. The key is finding a setup that is in your price range.
A Fin-Nor OFS-95 Offshore spinning reel with a full spool of 60# braid paired with a 50# class Fin-Nor Offshore rod goes for around $300. $300 is on the lower end of the tuna fishing price spectrum, however even better deals may be found by the angler who visits yard sales and keeps a keen eye on craigslist.
Having a few buddies who are obsessed with catching tuna can really help an angler who is just starting out. A single spinning setup will work great when casting to a pod of surface slashing bluefin tuna; however one setup will not create much of a trolling spread, which can really hinder the chances of a hookup when the fish are not showing on the surface.
On the other hand, it will be easy to create a productive trolling spread if each crew member has a spinning setup of their own.
Most serious tuna boats choose to troll with expensive conventional reels and pricey squid bars. However for the angler just starting out, spinning setups are the most economical choice.
A boat full of spinning rods will allow each crew member to get in on surface action and will also allow the boat to implement a productive trolling spread. It is like getting the best of both worlds, at a reasonable cost, for anglers just getting into the tuna game.
Creating a productive trolling spread from a small boat can be done by thinking creatively. Instead of focusing on everything your boat does not have (outriggers, a dozen rod holders, squid bars etc.) focus on what you do have (two to four rod holders, a tackle box with maybe a few large soft plastics and a couple deep diving swimmers).
By utilizing a couple nine inch Slug-Go’s or 14 inch Hogy soft plastics, and two deep diving swimmers, a small boat can troll four different lures at two different depths.
Set the two deep diving swimmers 30-40 yards off the stern of the boat and place these two spinning rods in the starboard rear and port rear rod holders. Then set the soft plastics 50 yards behind the stern of the boat and place each of these spinning rods in the starboard and port gunnel rod holders.
Successfully done the soft plastics will fish the top of the water column, while the deep divers fish below. The trolling spread will efficiently cover two different spectrums of the water column-not bad for a boat more apt to fishing for stripers and blues.
Catching a tuna from any size boat is an incredible experience. However there is something special about plucking a big fish from the sea while fishing in a not so big boat.
Next week we will take a more in-depth look at some of the techniques and strategies that have helped many local anglers succeed in bagging their first bluefin tuna.