October means one thing for a lot of folks here on Cape Cod. No it’s not bucket loads of candy or apple picking, its the pursuit of 1,000 pound fish within sight of shore.
Giant bluefin tuna typically infiltrate Cape Cod Bay (and many other areas) around Cape Cod during this special month. Of course it is feasible to catch a giant anytime June through December-October seems to be the optimal window for giant tuna hunting.
On top of all that, National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna” show has gotten a lot of people pumped up for their chance at a giant. While most of us (myself included) do not have the tuna experience that these true professionals possess, we still do have a legitimate chance at bagging a huge fish this October.
Despite most of us falling under the “Googan” category, with some effort and time spent on the water, catching a fish the size of a car is not at all out of the picture.
Getting Geared Up
The first step to giant tuna hunting is to get your permitting and safety gear in line. If you want to do it legally you’ll need survival suits, EPIRBS, the whole nine yards. There’s a lot of stuff to get in order, the majority of which I leave to Mazzola to take care of.
If you happen to have an “easier to digest” resource for general permit safety requirements then please feel free to leave a link below in a comment.
Penn 80′s and 130′s (or comparable reels by other companies) are a must for the tuna that are kicking around during October off the Cape. These fish are big and powerful and you need a reel that can handle the strongest fish in the ocean.
Our reels are spooled up with as much 200 pound dacron as we could possible squeeze onto the reel. Believe me you’ll need it if you hook into a big one. The dacron is then connected to a long section of top shot which is then connected to a fluorocarbon leader.
Circle hooks have worked well for us in the past along with tuna bombs. Tuna bombs slide down the line after a hookup and can be key in preventing chaffing and bite offs. The fish Mazzola got last week would have easily chaffed through the leader had he not been using a bomb.
Swivel rod holders are a must as well as balloons, plenty of sinkers, elastic bands, bridling equipment and a virtually endless list of other odds and ends. Way too much to cover in just one post!
Be sure to check the blog again throughout October for more giant tuna gear info. Additional information on rods and reels, swivel rod holders and gear is available in Giant Tuna Fishing from a Small Boat which you can access by becoming a blog member.
Giant Tuna Fishing Techniques
Some folks do well on big tuna trolling. Actually I heard this week of some substantial fish that were taken on the troll. Other guys will catch a giant by flying live bait under a kite, and I’m sure one poor soul will tie into a giant this Fall on spinning gear that is not matched to the size of the fish.
However most sharpies will be fishing live bait under balloons and chumming. Best of luck to you if you get stuck with chum station duty for the day!
Dogfish can be a huge pain the butt when fishing live bait. Often times a lot of effort goes into obtaining quality live baits, whether they be bluefish, whiting or mackerel. It is often painful to watch your livies get chomped up by dogs but so far I have not found anyway around it. It seems at times that the dogfish literally pave the bottom of the ocean.
The dogs can even wreak havoc while you are fishing for bait. Instead of using plain old sabiki rigs we are now using homemade sabiki rigs made of wire leader material. The dogs still cause a mess but at least you won’t lose your entire sabiki rig every time a doggie latches on.
Acquiring enough chum to get you through a trip can be a challenge as well. I’d recommend calling as many wholesale seafood establishments, fish companies and bait shops until you locate a decent deal. There’s a big difference cost wise between purchasing 100 pounds of chum from your local bait and tackle shop versus purchasing chum straight off the boat.
To make the tedious task of chumming easier consider purchasing a “chum cutter.” With one movement you can get multiple chunks, instead of cutting each fish by hand. It’s a huge time saver and definitely worth the investment.
Check out Anchoring and Chumming for more information on catching tuna using live and dead bait.
Finding Giants Close To Shore
With the unpredictable Cape Cod fall breezes we will all have to remain flexible with regards to the weather. The usual Cape Cod Bay tuna haunts will most likely produce the majority of the fish taken, however these areas are not the only spots big tuna show up in.
There are many closer to shore areas where we have encountered giants over the past few seasons. More often than not we are striper fishing or just cruising around when it happens. The interesting thing is that basically no one even tries giant fishing these regions of the Bay, which makes me wonder how many fish would be caught if all the guys fishing at the more notable hot spots were fishing these close to shore areas.
One example would be when we encountered what was the largest school of sea herring I have ever seen just two miles from the beach last season. This was an absolute wall of sea herring from the surface all the way to the bottom. Just an absolutely silly amount of bait.
“How could there not be tuna around?” I remember asking myself. Sure enough later that day we watched a good size tuna of a couple hundred pounds launch himself clear out of the water in the same general area.
“Well, I guess they around!” I recall saying. Sure enough a week later I received a report of a tuna caught in the same area, just a few miles from the shoreline in about 80 feet of water.
I could ramble on for another 1,000 words or so about other close to shore tuna encounters we have had over the past few seasons. Unfortunately none of these encounters has resulted in a landed giant (we did snap one off which was utterly devastating) however I have no doubt that if you put your time in and wait out these close to shore areas, that you will eventually be rewarded by a big fish.
And how cool would that be to be able to answer “So where’d you catch that fish?” with something like “Oh right out there no more than a few thousand feet from the beach.”
In my opinion that would be awesome, so I’m just going to keep trying these near-shore tuna haunts until it happens!
Click here for more information on targeting giant bluefin tuna close to shore.
Tight lines and good luck tuna hunting,