Got out last week and hit the rigs in search of Wahoo and Tuna. This was the first time I have ever had a dog along for an overnighter, but it turns out he is an avid angler.
That is Milo, he is Frenchy’s pup, and he was full on fishing the entire trip. Every time he heard a reel clicker he was on it. In this video he shows his technique for subduing uncooperative tuna!
I especially like the way he takes a bite and spits it out on the deck 🙂 Reminded me of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
We did not tear ’em up, but we found some fish and turned a bit of success into a new recipe we dubbed Atún del Mediterráneo. It was good!
The tuna is just seared in a bit of olive oil with a dash of salt, pepper and cardamon. Served over brown rice with a cold sauce of fresh diced tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, salt, parsley, green onions, capers, and olives. On the side, big juicy grapes and fresh steamed broccoli. Yum!
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Weather looked good last week and when Frenchy proposed we head for the rigs, I jumped at the chance. It’s not often you get a forecast like this in February.
The crew was me, Frenchy, Allen, Manfred, Chris and, of course, Milo.
We bounced south by Marlin and Ram Powell checking there for Tuna and Wahoo, but no love. Water was ugly and had river weeds floating in it. 67 degrees. We moved south to Horn and picked up a decent blackfin bite, but no yellowfin activity and the water was cold and green. We moved south to Ensco DS 8505 and the water there was a balmy 74 and we picked up several smaller yellowfin in short order.
Manfred is a lean mean jiggin’ machine. Like the Energizer Bunny he just keeps on going. I don’t know how he does it, but he supplied us with a bunch of blackfin that we converted into chunk bait trying to trade up to yellowfin. He also jigged up at least one yellowfin, maybe more. Chris took first shift at the chunk duty.
While we were finding some fish, the size was not what we were hoping for. Our friend Nick was in another boat working Nakika and some of the other ships and rigs in the area and they were having the same challenge.
We tried Q5000, a rig I had never seen before. Milo was on duty inspecting operations.
We had lots of fun and it was great to have a chance to do an overnighter this time of year, but with fuel low we decided to head for the hill.
Hope you enjoyed the report. Until next time, Catch ’em Up!
I was asked about the rigs we were using to catch those fish so I created a short video to show you how to make them up. They are pretty simple and while you can buy them already made up, it’s a lot cheaper to do yourself.
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Here is the video of building the deep drop rig. I had a little help from my K9 buddy. He didn’t seem very impressed.
For deep drop, you really need an electric reel. Cranking up five to eight pounds of weight 800 feet to check your bait would get old really fast. These used to be particularly expensive, but they have come down in price significantly in the last couple of years. You can get some really nice ones, but you can also go budget. I have a Diawa Tanacum Bull 1000 that is really nice but relatively lower priced. I also have a Fish Winch that is at the low end of the price spectrum, but that I have found to be like the turtle, slow and steady.
The rod on the Fish Winch is just a trolling rod with roller guides. Works fine and I switch it back and forth between trolling and deep drop so I don’t need two separate rods. The one on the Tanacum is a really nice dedicated deep drop rod my wife bought me and you can also see in the picture a kite rod (also a gift from my wife. She keeps me well outfitted!). This allows me to switch the Tanacum over for kite fishing duty rather than having two separate reels.
Hope that all helps you to get out there and catch ’em up.
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Well, we were all geared up to fish the Ft. Walton Beach Sailfish Club Offshore Tournament, but the wrong engine parts showing up on the last day had us bowing out and going to Plan B. Legendary worked hard to get us back on the water, but we ended up being a day behind the tournament boats and just decided not to come back for the Saturday weigh in so that we could still get two nights on the water.
Crew this week was Me, Allen, The Wrench, and Cody, who drove in from Dalton GA. (Carpet Town USA!) We made the long run to the rigs Friday afternoon getting there in time for the evening bite.
The ride out was smooth and fast and our elation at finally being back on the water was matched only by the that of the Dolphin greeting us as we crossed the steps. It’s pretty cool to see them fly 8-10 feet out of the water next to the boat like they are putting on a show at Sea World. In the words of Herman Melville: “Huzza Porpoise!”
The Blackfin bite was slow so it was tough to make chunk, but we were marking fish and working them with a combination of baits. As the sun began to rise things picked up a bit and we put a few more in the boat.
The clip is only 3 seconds, but here it is doing the death circle.
And one more!
What kills me is we were fishing light fluorocarbon leader and small hooks carefully concealed to entice the bite and one of these fish came to the boat with something like a 14/0 circle hook with 4-6 feet of perhaps 400# mono leader. Longliner? We have been seeing them operating in the area.
Weather was slick calm each day, but breezy each night. We moved around to several rigs looking for the bite, but had no more luck.
We did find a nice weed line, but I think every boat in the ECBMC had fished up and down it twice so all they left us was some triple tail (which tasted great!) and some small mahi.
So the best part on that line was catching the triple tail. There were so many jacks and other bait fish the triple tail did not have a chance to eat the bait. We are sneaky though. When the triple tail went back under the grass mat we tossed a light jig right onto the mat over its head and let the jig slip through quietly right in front of it. The jacks did not notice, but the triple tail was sold and ate it right off. That’s the patented “fish under cover” approach 🙂
We did all agree that when we win the PowerBall, we are buying this to be our new mother ship. I think we could fish anywhere with impunity.
All in all a good trip with good people. Boat is back on the water and we are catchin’ em up!
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Me, Allen, “The Wrench” (aka Logan), and newcomer Troy decided to cut out early on Friday and hit the rigs. Weather was looking great and we figured those Tuna were just waiting for us to show up and feed them. We spent the morning getting the boat provisioned and were off the dock about 1PM. By 1:10 the starboard engine was overheating. Are you kidding? We had just replaced the impeller so we should be good. I am beginning to think that bringing The Wrench is just bad luck and rather than being the solution for mechanical questions we were all asking: Is he the cause?
Well, this crew does not shrink in the face of adversity. We started to work on the problem. We pulled the impeller and found that it was badly damaged. Hmm, it’s brand new. That is not good. Fortunately, we had a spare and we installed that. Things were looking up. We had water pumping again, but not with the volume we felt was optimal. Did a bunch of trouble shooting and no obvious fixable problems. The engine was being a bit finicky, but the temperature was within specs so we took a vote and decided to make the run (four hours behind schedule).
The ride to West Neptune was smooth sailing and all went well, but when we arrived it looked like the entire Gulf of Mexico fleet was there. With the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in full swing, everyone was there looking for the winning tuna.
We saw a couple of boats hook up, but generally the bite was slow so we moved to Horn Mountain. Same scene, same results. We were getting some blackfin, but no yellowfin and the bite just was not on. The dawn bite never happened so we consulted our Fish Track maps and decided the water looked good toward the South. There was a nice looking counter clockwise eddy just over the horizon. We hit a drill ship and then on to Nakika and the water was electric blue but very little activity on the surface or showing on the depth finder. Traffic thinned, but there were several big sportfishers live baiting for marlin and one of them caught the MGCBC winner there at Nakika.
We were getting frustrated and it was brutally hot so we decided to change things up and put out a trolling spread. We started back North and found a nice rip, strangely, not being fished by anyone. We were quickly back in the game. A bull and a cow dolphin swam right by the boat on their way to check out our baits. Seeing them coming by, we were on the rods when they struck. Left long gets pummeled by the bull, but he isn’t hooked. I back the drag off and drop the bait back and, just like in the manual, he turns back on the bait and eats it a second time. FISH ON! Woo Hoo! And then the cow nails the shotgun. We are doubled up!
Did I mention I love this stuff? I do and this is what I dream about at night. Not dragging baits along and a mystery fish eats one and somebody cranks it in on the 80 wide. That’s not what it’s about. It’s getting the right baits in the right place, seeing the fish come in to eat, and turning a missed strike into a fish on the line. It’s a blast.
Finally the stink is off the boat and we have two nice gaffer dolphin in the fish box. Mahi tacos baby!
We worked the rip all the way back to Nakika and picked up several more dolphin in the process. We tried bump trolling a large rainbow runner around the rig for a bit, but he drew no interest so, still not marking tuna or seeing any surface activity, we decided to head back to West Neptune for the evening bite.
En route we see a little something floating on the water so we circle back to check it out thinking perhaps we can pick up a triple tail. When we pull up it looks like a small piece of carpet backing or something. It’s basically about the size of a six foot 2X6 and it just has a few little fish on it, including a triple tail that is only about five inches long. We toss in a jig just to see what is there and a wolf pack of mid size dolphin come cruising up from the deep. We were all quickly hooking up on jigs, top waters, live baits and cut bait. The fish were not huge, but they were not chicken dolphin either so we were having fun. Troy is dropping a jig deep in hopes of finding a wahoo and I am tossing a topwater for dolphin when a wahoo comes rocketing across the water and makes a 90 degree turn to nail my topwater.
Awesome, topwater wahoo on spin, that just does not happen every day. With a light mono leader I am keen to get this fish in the boat and fortunately the take was close to the boat and the fish was not big enough to run off too much line. We had him with the perfect gaff shot and in the box within just a few minutes. Wahoo!
With a box full of dolphin and a bonus wahoo, we got underway again and moved over to West Neptune. Things there started slow, but we did get a tuna bite on chunk early on. While it pulled the hook it did motivate us to kept at it. Sharks were in the area and making it tough but we were eeking out a living on some nice blackfin and the occasional yellowfin bite. Troy finally broke the ice and put the first YFT in the boat.
That is his first and you have got to love the smile!
We kept picking away and working around the sharks and Logan was rewarded with another nice YFT.
Between YFT we were also catching some nice BFT. We had three over 18# with Allen tacking the trophy at 25.5#. That’s pretty much a stud for a blackfin.
With a tough bite and a long trip back to Destin in front of us we decided to start the trip home in the dark in hopes of an early morning Wahoo bite closer to home. We had the wahoo spread out at first light but no interest in the first hour or so so we switched up to a high speed spread. That was the trick. Troy whacked this bad boy in short order:
This time his smile was not as pronounced. I think 48 hours with only about three of it sleeping was beginning to take its toll.
We put the high speed spread back out and trolled another 30-45 minutes but we were all bushed and had a full fish box so we decided to head for the hill. Fortunately, the fish were not done with us. As Logan started cranking on one of the reels it got slammed again. Wahooo! This one is a better class and is dumping line off the reel, but Logan gets him turned around. Allen sinks the gaff and we have some icing for our cake.
Even a tired crew can smile at this fish. We iced her down, got cleaned up a bit and put up the flags.
This was a tough trip to get going. It almost did not happen. Then when we did get on the water, the fishing just was not on fire. But we stuck with it and put together a nice mixed bag of fish. It all came right in the end and we felt a little prouder of our effort for the way we worked to bring it together. And as a reward, we got some sweet meat:
And at several houses some feasts ensued.
I’ll get some more how to’s up as soon as fishing slows down. If you like what you are reading click on the link to “register” in the right margin and sign up to follow the blog.
In the mean time, hope you all get out there and catch em up!
There are lots of techniques for catching tuna in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but one of the most effective is to chunk. We do this regularly when fishing out of Destin and it has been one of our best producers of Yellowwfin Tuna like this one:
The rig is simple, in fact, the key to a good chunk rig is the simpler it is the better. You want a low profile because those big tuna can see a mosquito floating on the surface from a hundred feet down. They have those big eyes for a reason.
The terminal tackle consists solely of a small but heavy guage live bait or circle hook and a long shot of flourocarbon leader. Tie a Bimini Twist into your mainline so that you have a double line connection from the reel. We typically use a double Uni-Knot to connect the mainline to the flouro, but you could use other knots such as a blood knot. The key here is using a straight line to leader connection with no swivels or other hardware. Any hardware in your setup will impair the presentation of the bait and create opportunities to discourage bites from keen eyed and warry fish.
Flourocarbon leader should be 8-12 feet long and typically 80 pound or less. The competing objectives are use of enough leader strength to hold a larger fish and protect against break offs versus the lowest leader weight you can get away with to make a stealthier presentation. Generally we start with 60 pound and adjust down if we are not getting bites, up if we are getting broken off.
We typically use small, but heavy guage circle hooks. Something like an Owner 6/0 Tournament Circle Hook. Again, we generally connect to the leader with a Uni-Knot, but snelling would be the better choice.
The best chunk bait is fresh. We typically jig up blackfin and then use them for bait, but you cn use bonita or other baits too. Fresh is better.
Prep the bait by cutting off the bone and into chunks of about 2 inches square. We try to make nice clean chunks without bone. I take less care with what I feed myself. Prep a bunch in a bucket or on the cutting board so you don’t have to keep cutting while you should be focused on fishing. We take turns on chunk cutting duty. It’s a dirty job. Here is my big tip, clean the boat frequently as you go. That blood comes right off with salt water while it’s wet. Tomorrow morning at the slip, not so much.
Start by setting the boat up to make the drift you want. Then start dropping some chunks over the side to see how they are flowing away from the boat. Keep a pretty steady stream going, but don’t dump a ton of chunks in all at once. The idea is to create a long steady drift with enough chunk to keep the fish interested, but keep them working up the chunk line toward the boat.
Embed your hook completely in your tuna chunk so that it is essentially just a piece of flourocarbon sticking out of a chunk of tuna. The tuna chunks are so soft you do not need to leave the hook point protruding from the bait.
Put the reel in freespool and drop the chunk in the water. Start feeding line off the tip of the rod using your fingers. The idea is for your hooked chunk bait to drift in the water at exactly the same rate as the unhooked chunks. You want zero resistance on the line for a nice smooth drift.
You should be comfortable paying line out for a long time. The more line off the reel the deeper your chunk is drifting (as long as there is no resistance). When you get a strike, the fish will pick up the bait and start moving away pulling line off the reel. Again, you want the reel in freespool with no resistance. Give the fish a moment to turn with the bait and begin to move off before you engage the drag and start slowly reeling until the line comes tight.
Now you are on! The rest is up to you and the gaff man, so catch em up!