Finicky Tuna Demand Subtle Presentation – Or Not

Continue reading “Finicky Tuna Demand Subtle Presentation – Or Not”

How to Crimp a Mono Leader

Sorry its been a while since I posted, but lots going on, most of which unfortunately has not involved fishing.  I was prepping to get back on the water this spring and thought some folks might like a little primer on how to properly crimp a leader, so I made this little video.  There are few things more frustrating than hooking up a nice fish only to have the crimp connection fail.  I had it happen once on a nice tuna and have not allowed a repeat.  Hope you find this video helpful.

In the video I eyeballed the right slot in the crimping tool to match the sleeve I was using.  I have done a bunch so was pretty comfortable I had the right size.  I highly recommend that you follow the recommendations on the packaging until you get the feel for the correct pairings of leaders to sleeves and sleeves to crimp tool slots.  Its important to use the right sizes to assure a proper connection that is not so tight that it damages the leader, but tight enough to assure the connection will not slip under pressure.

Good luck out there, and catch ’em up!

P.S. Please enter your email in the box on the right margin to subscribe to my blog.

How to Rig a Spanish Mackerel as a Trolled Bait

FREE YETI GIVEAWAY!!!

That is right, a freebie for my registered email followers!  I am going to give away a custom powder coated and engraved Yeti cup from Precision Powder Coating.  Your choice of a 20oz Rambler, a Colster, or a Low Ball powder coated and engraved to your specs by Josh at Precision Powder Coating.   These guys are based in Texas and do cool work.  They are not sponsors of this blog or advertisers (this is not a commercial blog), but I bought some custom Ramblers from them a few months ago and thought they were great, so I decided to give one away to my loyal followers (that’s you!).  Click their link above to look at lots of examples, but here is a pic of one they did for me before:

IMG_1214

Here is how it will work.

Sign up to follow this blog and click to get email notifications each time a new blog is posted.  You won’t get advertising or anything it’s just once a week or so when the blog goes up it will email you that a new blog has been posted.  I will pick one winner from everyone signed up on January 30, 2017.  You can unsubscribe after that if you want, that is fine, but it’s the only way I have to notify the winner.

To sign up to follow (and to make sure you have elected email notification even if you are already a follower), just put your email address in the box over on the right margin where it says “SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL.”  Its over there —->

You will get an email asking you to confirm you want email notices.  You have to click the link in the email to activate.  There was a glitch in the software that runs this website that resulted in many of existing followers not getting that email or being de-listed from notifications and so, while you may be a registered follower, you may not have authorized the email notices.  You can fix that by re-entering your email and then clicking on the link you are sent.  You should check your preferences on the page you go to when you click the link to make sure it shows you have authorized email notice of blog posts.

If you have any trouble or are not sure if it worked, send me a comment on the blog and I can check for you or help you out.  I’ll announce the winner with a blog post that will notify all the followers that register for email notification.

Now, Back to Business.  Lets Talk About How to Rig A Spanish Mackerel as a Trolled Bait.

Well, I have not been able to get offshore recently, but I have been using my time wisely.  I have been catching all sorts of bait and getting ready for future trips.  There have been lots of LY in the bays and bayous and they are filling up the freezer.  I also have been getting big mullet and I’ll rig one of those up in a future post.  I also caught some Spanish Mackerel and made up a video of how  to rig that up with a J-Hook and a mono leader.  It comes out like this:

spanish

These are not as tough to rig as mullet, but for sure more of a chore than ballyhoo.  You need a deboning tool to get the backbone out.  This makes the fish limber so it swims nicely in the water.  Its a two piece tool that looks like this:

deboner

You debone with the larger tube and then insert the smaller dowel inside to clear the bone out of the tube.

deboner-2

You also need a rigging needle. I have done a few of these before, but not a lot so one thing I learned is that the open eye (bottom one in below image) needle I used was a bad choice.  I should have used one with a closed eye like the one on top in the below photo.

nedles-2

Generally I prefer the open eye as it is easier to thread the floss on, but here I was using the floss to sew the belly of the Spanish closed and as I went over prior threads, I was catching them with the needle.  You will see in the video.

The day before I rigged up the bait, I put it in a saltwater brine to toughen it up.  It’s just ice water and a commercial brine mix (Bionic, Baitmasters etc…).  I have also just used kosher salt before and that works fine.  What is really good is to mix saltwater brine in your ice box on the boat and put the fish in there immediately when you catch them.  It really locks in their natural colors. Here is the mullet in the brine solution:

brine

OK, so here is the video of the whole process.  Hope you enjoy.

Now you know how to rig a Spanish for trolling so no excuse not to get out there to catch ’em up!

Don’t forget to register as an email follower and get your chance at a custom powder coated and etched Yeti cup.

Thanks for the Hook Man!

Allen and I wanted to take advantage of the great weather and get out a second time last week.  Our eyes were on the tuna grounds, but we were having trouble finding others to join us.  People had crummy excuses like:

  • I am on an oil rig in the Caribbean
  • It’s my wedding anniversary
  • I’m having hip replacement surgery

etc….  Clearly priorities in the wrong places.  But complete stranger, Wayne, had his priorities in the right place.  Even though he was scheduled to work, he got his start time pushed back.  Talk about hard core, he rides with us on a 38 hour tuna trip arriving back at the dock two hours before having to be on shift.  Still stuck around to help clean the boat and fish.  That’s my kind of crew.

Fishing at our first stop was slow.  No surface activity and not much showing on the sounder, but we did eek out one nice fish.

 

img_0190

It was Wayne’s first, but he put the wood to it.

img_0185

The water was pretty blue and since it was calm like a mill pond, it was no problem to move on to try some other spots.  While we found a nice rip with a wide scattered weed line, the troll was not very productive.  It did provide a chance for the crew to catch up on their beauty sleep though.

img_0191

We found some tuna showing on the surface and on the sounder and bump trolled live baits to see if we could entice a bite.  There were not many boats out (I guess many fisherman had set other priorities). There was a charter boat working the same area and he was nice enough to give us a really good tuna hook.  When some tuna started busting off our bow he bee-lined it in there to try to get a shot.  After pushing in front of us he informed me that we had run over his lines. Not even being in gear, I thought that was pretty rich.  I am sure he can do no wrong.  Well, when we reeled in our baits, we did find one of his lines tangled with one of our baits and harvested this sweet little circle hook.

img_0200

Allen decided to rig that bad boy up and put it to use.

img_0198

That mean little hook did a great job on this nice tuna.  Just wanted to say thanks to that nice captain on the other boat for the little hook that could. Super nice of him.

We continued to pick away at fish overnight, but the bite was not really fired up.  We did get a few flyers.  They make great bait.

img_0203

img_0194

img_0192

In the morning, though, things heated up.  At one point Allen and I were hooked to a double header of really nice fish.  Unfortunately, I pulled the hook early and lost some serious sashimi.  Allen, however, settled in for the slog with a fish that had to be over one hundred pounds.

img_0206

But after 45 minutes, heartbreak as the mainline was cut and the fish cruised away.  We are not sure exactly what happened, but the fish may have hit the line with its tail.  Regardless, it sucked.

We did get a shot at some smaller fish on topwater.  That is always a special blast.

img_0212

We had to leave them biting (and there were some really nice fish busting all over) so we could get hard core Wayne back in time for work.  It’s a long ride back to Destin, but weather was nice and we made great time.  Just want to send out a special tanks to Wayne for volunteering to join us despite work.  Good guy.  Oh, and here is what he did with some of his tuna.

tuna-bowls

You can find the recipe here.

Can’t wait to get out there and do it again.  Until then, hope you catch ’em up.

(Click “Register” in the right margin to sign up to follow BlueWaterHowTo.com)

Sometimes the Fish Jump Right in the Boat

Allen and I played hooky from work this week and did a quick trip in hopes of a wahoo or two and some sword fishing.  We had a great time and checked all the boxes.

We knew things were good when a mahi free jumped right in the boat.  If that fish was in an Olympic jumping competition it would have gotten a ten for form as its jump was pure poetry in motion.  I wish I had a video. What a beautiful display, but it ended with a bit of a thud on the deck.  Its luck was not all bad though as we quickly released it in hopes of catching it in more conventional fashion on a future trip after it puts on a few pounds.

Wahoo fishing got off to a quick start with the first fish on literally within 90 seconds of putting the first bait in the water.  Man that fish made me look like a pro.  I pulled back the throttle and said, “This is the place.  Let’s start here.” Bam, fish on!  It was like I had X-Ray vision.  O.K., I was just plain lucky.

Here are a couple of shots of Allen with his quick start wahoo.  That is going to taste great.

img_0136

img_0131

The sunset cruise to the sword grounds was nice and smooth.  Sunset was beautiful and just as it faded to dark, we had a pod of porpoise come up to check us out.  It was pretty cool.  Video embedded below, but I noticed these are not embedding in the emails that go to blog followers so I added a link as well (or you can just view directly in the blog at: (http://www.bluewaterhowto.com))

https://youtu.be/Cq3d2vAE5xw

We set up for sword fish just after dark and things were quiet until the moon came up at about 9:30. As soon as the moon came over the horizon we were hooked up.  The fish came up to the surface and was streaking along towing the disco light through the darkness.  Allen was on the rod and it seemed like a solid fish, but then it was gone.  The hook and bait came back to the boat in good condition so it seems we were never really hooked to the fish. May have been wrapped around the bill or the fish may have just been holding the bait.  Disappointing, but at least we were getting some action.

We redeployed the baits and were soon catching some z’s and storing up energy for the sword fights of which we dreamed.  We were the only boat anywhere in the area without a single blip on the radar.  I love mid week fishing.

About 11:30 the 80W goes off.  Again, the fish is up on the surface trailing the disco light through the dark.  The rod was in the bow and the fish was bee-lining it back around the transom to the other side of the boat so I had to go from fast asleep to full on fire drill trying to prevent a break off.

I was able to get the rod around to the transom and get in good position to fight this fish. Allen was up and helping me get into a fighting belt. Unfortunately, I took my eye off the ball as I tried to get strapped in and something went horribly wrong as the fish surged and the 80lb mainline snapped with a large bang. Shit!  Not sure if it crossed the other line that was still out, hit something on the transom, wrapped the tip or what, but the fight was over. Not sure how big this fish was, but have you ever tried to break 80lb test line?  It ain’t easy and this fish did it like it was dental floss.

I have been several times with zero bites.  One or two bites a night is a good night.  We had blown the first two with no guaranty of another. A little depressing, and it was disturbing our sleep with no reward.

We redeployed the baits and settled in for another nap.  I was in the bow and Allen was in the cockpit when the transom rod started screaming drag.  I got up yelling “Allen!” as I headed aft, but he was fast asleep.  A few more exclamations and he was up and on the rod, alert as if it were high noon!

The fish put up a good fight, but Allen was on the job.

img_0147

It was now occurring to me that there were just two of us and no flying gaff or harpoon.  It might turn out to be a bit of a challenge to land this fish.  Note to self, bring flying gaff next time!  We were surprised when the fish came up that it was not as large as it seemed during the fight.  On the smaller size, but this fish had heart.  We had decided to release it to fight another day, but unfortunately it was bleeding profusely from the gills. This is one of the few times I have seen a circle hook catch deep in a fish rather than the corner of the mouth.  Checking to make sure it met the legal limit we decided it was unlikely to survive so we brought it aboard and put it on ice.

img_0148

Mission accomplished.  Wahoo and swordfish in the boat.  That was our goal.

As the sun came up we put out a spread and started looking for a weed line we had drifted through during the night.  Water color was decent, but not great and no bites as we searched.  When we finally found the line it was very scattered and presented a slow conversion from blue water to blue-green.  We worked this for a while, clearing lines constantly, but had no luck so we packed up and headed north.

On the way home we put the high speed lures back out in search of another wahoo.  We worked it for a while without any luck so we decided to change our position a bit and immediately saw a nice hoo skyrocket 12-15 feet out of the water scattering hundreds of flying fish.  Again, I wish I had a video to share.  That fish was a high octane hunter flying through the air like a jet fighter with its afterburners on.  I swear you could see rippling muscles as his tail continued to pump in mid flight.  The flying fish were in full on panic.

We brought the boat around pulling the baits through the kill zone and boom!, fish on.  Yeehaw! Nice fish, now we have two wahoo in the box.  My favorite fish to eat of any species, full stop.

img_0153

We decided it was time to head home and get everything cleaned up so we stowed the gear and pushed the throttles down for the run back to the hill.  On the way we ran across this interesting debris.

img_0168

It looks to be a bulkhead, all from a boat and it has a coffin box for an EPIRB mounted on it.  The hydrostatic release seems to have been tripped and the EPIRB released, but not any time soon as there was some growth on the debris and it was covered with small cobia and mahi.  We played around for a bit catching a few of those and then continued on to home. We reported this to the Coast Guard primarily because it would suck for someone to hit that thing while running.  Sounds like they were going to try to tow it in.

We flew the flags as we came through the pass.

img_0178

Once we got the boat cleaned up (except for the squid that I apparently left in the fish box (yuck)), we set about making up that wahoo sashimi.  The recipe is simple: Filet wahoo.  Cut filet into small pieces.  Eat after dipping in soy and wasabi.  Lick lips. Pairs well with Ranger IPA 🙂

 

img_0182

Great trip.  Lots of fun.  Good company.  And watching that wahoo sky was worth the price of admission.

Until next time, catch em up!

J Hook Rigged Ballyhoo under Blue and White Ilander

A rigged ballyhoo trolled behind a blue and white Ilander lure is probably the single most popular trolled bait there is. This is really the first natural bait presentation you should learn when getting into bluewater trolling. Blue and white is the go to color of choice, but there are many options out there like this black and red (a good choice for wahoo).

img_0058

I like the mahi colored ones as well as bright yellow and pink.  It’s probably the nice contrast of blue and white that helps make that color effective and particularly versatile.  One consideration on color is to contrast dark skies with light colors and bright skies with dark colors so with blue and white on the same lure you can pet two dogs (I don’t kill birds) with one hand.

Circle hook rigs are required for tournaments and are great to improve survival rates on released fish, but if you are rigging your baits under trolling lures, you are going to need to use a traditional j hook.

These rigs will catch pretty much anything that swims near the surface of the ocean.  They are great for mahi, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, sailfish, white marlin, and blue marlin.  You can rig with mono or wire leader, it will work either way.

One big benefit of rigging under an Ilander is that it is very forgiving of imperfect rigging.  When you rig a naked ballyhoo, it better be right.  If not, it will spin, fail to track straight, or wash out (tear up and start to break apart).  That does not mean it won’t catch a fish, but your chances fall significantly.  Put an Ilander lure over top of the ballyhoo and it becomes the principal driver of how the bait tracks in the water.  You can screw this up so bad not even an Ilander will save the day, but no doubt, you can live with some imperfections in your rigging with little or no consequence when set up under an Ilander or similar skirt.

With a little help from my wife as camera woman and creative director, I put together this video that goes through step by step just how I rig a ballyhoo with a j hook.  I did this under a blue and white Ilander, but the same rig will work under any trolling skirt.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I know some folks will likely rig differently, and so I would invite you to post up your videos for others to see how your do it too.

If you like what you see, please register to follow the Bluewater How To blog by clicking on the registration link in the right margin.  Hope this helps you catch em up!

Sometimes You Have to Work a Little Harder

This was just one of those trips.

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.

West Neptune

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!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0173.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0173.

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.

Troys Tuna Close up

Troys Tuna Close

Troys Tuna

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.

Logans Tuna

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:

Troys Wahoo

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.

Logans Wahoo

Logans Wahoo Close

Even a tired crew can smile at this fish.  We iced her down, got cleaned up a bit and put up the flags.

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:

Wahoo Steak

And at several houses some feasts ensued.

Wahoo Dinner

Tuna Dinner

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!