We put together a few anglers late Friday evening to do some offshore fishing on Saturday. Our original customers had to reschedule when one member had an emergency cardiac procedure late last week. Since it was last minute we did not leave the dock until 5:30 am and in all my years of tuna fishing this was by far the latest I have ever departed as we usually like to be on the tuna grounds at first light before the boat traffic arrives and sounds the tuna especially on weekends and holidays. We started well inshore of the large fleet in the canyon with almost no other boats around us in pea soup fog around the rocky bottom area where we had some great inshore Yellowfin action last season in late May and June. This year the water temps are much cooler inshore and where we caught the 45 lb Yellowfin the water was ugly green colored and only 63 degrees. The tuna was caught on a Canyon Runner squid bar fairly close to the boat off the short rigger but that was the only bite we had inshore. I have found on a few occasions especially in the early season when there are so many rat size tuna out in the warmer canyon water the larger Yellowfins can be found inshore and my goal was to try catch a few in the 40-60 lb range and then go offshore and try for a Big Eye when the fleet thinned out later in the day. There was huge bait balls down below the thermocline where we fished yesterday and it reminded of the hard bottom off the Morehead City, NC where we used to Giant Bluefin fish in the winter. If the sea temperatures warm up a few degrees this area could produce some excellent tuna action on both Yellowfins and possibly even larger Bluefins. If we had more time to fish the rocky bottom area or were able to be there at first light I think we would have possibly caught a few more but after we caught our lone Yellowfin we opted to move offshore and go Big Eye hunting with the other hundred or so boats.
We moved off to the warmer, deeper water and found a massive fleet all pounding the area where the Big Eyes were caught recently. We put out our spread Big Eye tackle with heavier lures with heads up to 5-8 oz all rigged with 150 lb fluorocarbon leader and 50 class reels rigged with 100-130 spectra that we fish up to 25 lbs of drag on large big game fish. We were ready but unfortunately with all the boat traffic, it was not to be; the bites were few and far between during the mid-day period although we did hear of at least on tuna in the 200 lb plus range boated and one lost by us but again the best bite overall on tuna was early am. We spent a few hours trolling out in the deep but eventually trolled back inshore towards Cape May and called it a day with just one Yellowfin in the box.
As many have reported, the tuna bite as been outstanding recently with some larger Yellowfins up to 80 lbs or so mixed in with the smaller ones plus some really nice size Big Eyes. The smaller tuna reportedly will eat just about everything that is put out in the trolling spread and will provide some great action. This would be an excellent time for anyone who would like to introduce their kids to offshore tuna fishing as these fish are much more manageable for younger anglers or possibly others who want the thrill of tuna action without getting beat up. The Yellowfin action on larger size ones should get better and better each day now and I expect those 80-125 lb plus Bluefins to make a showing inshore shortly. Last year in early July we caught 20 Bluefins in the 75-100 lb range on our best trip mostly on jigs that day
At the present time the target for many offshore anglers in the southern canyons is Big Eye tuna and strongly suggest being on the tuna grounds at first light or doing an overnight trip so you can troll into the night when there is far less boat traffic and the Big Eyes often come up in the water column to feed. Weekdays also increase your chances over busy weekends and holidays. Bottom line is the tuna are now here and we always look forward each year to this time of year when the offshore season is upon us.