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Cape Cod Tuna Time

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The following excerpt originally appeared in the May 2011 edition of "On The Water" magazine.

"There was a slight chop developing on the ocean’s surface as I eased the Miss Loretta into a slow drift on Stellwagen Bank’s legendary southwest corner.

The previous day we had caught eight juvenile bluefish while fishing in Buzzards Bay, and we were eager to send one of the hapless critters flying under the kite.  I could not help but feel bad for the little blues, who 12 hours ago were top predators, feeding on silversides in 70 degree bath water.  Now, 40 miles removed from his warm and safe abode, we set our first bluefish under the kite off the port side.

A Giant Hole In The Ocean

The breath of easterly wind was becoming more of a consistent breeze, so I decided to get my mind off the deteriorating conditions by setting another bluefish off the starboard side of the boat.  I wondered how much of a weather window we would have before the breeze would send us home.

Bluefin tuna return to Cape Cod during late May and early June.

15 minutes later something strange happened.  A gaping hole opened underneath the kite bait and the small bluefish disappeared.

“What just happened!” yelled Todd, our newest crew member.

A second later the ocean erupted in a white water explosion and the unfortunate bluefish was sucked into the gullet of a large bluefin.  I looked to the sky and watched the 220 pound mono top shot release from the kite clip.  A second later the line came tight and shot off to the west.  The drag on the Penn 80 was screaming!

We scrambled around the boat, clearing lines and kicking over buckets, until we finally were able to secure the rod in the port side swivel rod holder.  It was pure pandemonium on deck.

My long time fishing buddy, Jason Mazzola, was concerned that the initial drag blistering run would spool us, so I started the engine.  I laughed a bit observing the scene, turned the bow to the west, and began following the fish.

Two and one half hours later we had the behemoth just yards beneath the boat’s hull.  It was now or never as sea conditions were steadily deteriorating.  The tuna swam in a powerful death circle, which made gaining each foot of line agonizingly difficult.  Finally she surfaced 15 feet off the port side.

“Throw the poon!” we yelled to Todd.  Rearing back he launched a Hail Mary shot at the fish and missed by about five feet.  Strike one!

“Stick him!” we yelled.  On his second swing Todd sank the dart just behind the 700 pound tuna’s massive head.  He eased the fish in towards the port side while Mazzola manned the rod and I readied the gaff and tail rope.  My hands were shaking as I sunk the gaff into the fish and secured the rope.

“We got him!” I said turning to the crew.  “And guess what?  The hook just popped out!”"

Cape Cod’s Late Spring Tuna Fishery

Nothing beats Cape Cod tuna fishing.  Without a doubt, our sandy spit of land is a top destination for world class big game fishing.

The sheer amount of tuna in Massachusetts Bay over the past few seasons has been staggering.  Large schools of smaller school size tuna, along with some true giants, have been frequent visitors to the waters off Cape Cod, presenting an incredible opportunity for anyone willing to put in the time and effort.

There has been a lot of hype in the media about bluefin tuna being depleted and on the verge of extinction.  This may be true in places like the Mediterranean Sea and off Asia, however our Cape Cod fishery is strong and the tuna are plentiful.

Jason Mazzola poses with a nice football tuna taken aboard the Miss Loretta.

Significant schools of 100-200 pound tuna fed heavily just north of the Fingers outside Barnstable Harbor last June.  These fish proved difficult to catch, however the top water feeding frenzies were downright impressive.

On certain mornings, hundreds of bluefins could be spotted across the horizon, whipping up whitewater and crushing baitfish on the surface.

The stage has been set for some epic late spring tuna fishing.  The bait is here in abundance, and more than likely the tuna fishing in our neck of the woods will break wide open over the next few days.

Live Bait or Artificial?

My crew on the Miss Loretta will be focusing our efforts on giant tuna this June.  We will be live-lining bluefish and pogies with hopes of tying into a bluefin over 72 inches in length.

For those interested in live baiting a big bluefin, using “snack” size bluefish as bait may be the ticket.  Juvenile bluefish should be plentiful in Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay this June.  The tricky part is figuring out a way to transport the feisty chompers to Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank.

Pogies may be a more realistic bait source for many.  These filter feeders can be gillnetted or cast netted in many of the Cape’s back bays and estuaries.  Expect to put in many hours of searching and trial and error before locating and perfecting the art of catching live menhaden.

Artificial baits will still produce plenty of tuna for anglers who would rather not deal with the complexities of obtaining live bait.  Squid bars are always popular with captains who like to troll.  The jigging and popping crowd always amazes the general population by wrangling tuna on relatively light spinning gear.

There is no wrong way to tackle a tuna-the key is discovering what works best for your crew.

June is Prime Time for Cape Cod Anglers

June is an exciting month to be on Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank.  The whale activity off Provincetown is remarkable, not to mention the enormous schools of striped bass that invade the area.

June is also a great month to target Cape Cod Bay's striped bass.

Switching tactics and pursuing stripers is always a viable alternative if the tuna bite slows.  Often time’s 20-40 pound bass are caught on the same pogies and squid bars meant for tuna.

If the weather cooperates, June has the potential to be one of the most productive months for anyone wetting a line in the Sound, on the Bay, or at Stellwagen.

The opportunities are truly endless.

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