It was a chilly 28 degrees when I woke up at 3am this past Monday morning, December 5th. The stars were shining bright in the sky and the wind was calm. Despite the cold I was excited to be going fishing, as I knew this would likely be my last tuna fishing trip of the 2022 season.
For this trip I met up with my friend captain Cullen Lundholm of Cape Star Charters. Cullen is also captain of the group fishing trips we offer to My Fishing Cape Cod members for tuna, striper, black sea bass and more.
Monday December 5th
It was pitch black when Cullen launched the boat at 4:45am. Our plan was to head out before sunrise so we could be on the fishing grounds for the false dawn.
The boat's spotlight illuminated the water in front of us, which helped us to avoid a labyrinth of lobster buoys. We kept our eyes peeled as we cruised through the darkness before you never really know what could be out there.
I was surprised by the number of boats that were cruising out with us. Dozens of vessels were all steaming through the cold to get to the tuna grounds. In fact, the scene at the boat ramp reminded me of a busy summertime commercial striper day.
The December Tuna Grounds
The cold salty air felt refreshing and it was good to be back on the water. An added bonus was that the wind was calm and the seas were smooth, which made for an easy and enjoyable ride. The anticipation of possibly having an encounter with the largest tuna in the ocean was building.
There are many productive tuna grounds located not far offshore the beaches of Cape Cod. During this trip we fished the well known area depicted in the map below.
Not long after arriving on the grounds we began marking an amazing amount of bait fish on the sonar. I dropped the sabiki rig into the schools, however the fish would not bite. This is not unusual behavior, especially for mackerel, which prefer to bite when there is light in the sky.
Sure enough, as soon as the eastern horizon began turning orange and there was a little light penetrating into the water, the mackerel began biting and we quickly loaded up the live well. We were literally floating atop a school which may have contained tens of thousands of fish.
Giant Tuna Bite #1
On Friday December 2nd Cullen landed a 95 inch tuna, so he had a good idea of where the action was happening. Nevertheless Cullen was talking with nearby captains on the cell phone and on the radio to get dialed into exactly where the tunas were.
I've always been impressed by how "plugged-in" Cullen is, and also amazed by the amount of calls he receives and makes throughout the course of a fishing trip. In an average trip he probably makes more phone calls than I do in an entire week!
After speaking with a bunch of the guys, we set up shop a little north of the fleet and were enjoying a little space to ourselves. The amount of bait on the sonar was ridiculous, and soon enough on the bottom of the bait was an arch, which indicated there was at least one giant tuna in the area.
We set the baits at different depths and different distances from the boat and waited for something to happen. About 45 minutes into fishing, captain Cullen decided to move. I was a little surprised that he wanted to leave all this bait. However, I trusted that he was making the right decision.
Sure enough, 15 minutes into setting up at the second spot, which was just a little east of where we began, one of the rods went off. The fish began dumping line like crazy so we knew for sure it was not a shark, and that it was definitely a tuna!
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Photo courtesy of Mass Bay Guides.