Finicky Tuna Demand Subtle Presentation – Or Not

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The Dog Days of Winter

  • 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 ūüôā 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¬†At√ļn del Mediterr√°neo. ¬†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 headed to the fixed platforms on the shelf looking for wahoo.  We had one nice strike on the large Yo Zuri, but all we had to show for it was some missing paint and a nice impression of some very sharp wahoo teeth.

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!

Deep Drop Rig

The other day I blogged about a recent trip we took to do deep drop.  You can read that here and check out the grouper, tile fish and bass we caught: http://www.bluewaterhowto.com/?p=495

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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Once you do that you will get an email (make sure it’s not in your spam folder) that asks you to confirm you want to follow the blog. ¬†Do that by Jan 30 and you are registered.

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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.

P.S. Please enter your email address over on the right margin to subscribe and register for a chance to win your free custom powder coated and etched Yeti cup on January 30.  Good luck!

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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ūüôā

 

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

Until next time, catch em up!

Triple Threat for Triple Tail

The weather was right so we decided to pull together a crew and head to the rigs in search of tuna. ¬†We put out the word but could not scratch together a four man crew so it was just me, Allen and Stephen. ¬†We figured if the US Women’s Gymnastics Team could pick their own name (“The Final Five”) we could, too. ¬†So we dub this crew, Team Triple Threat.

We consulted FishTrac and Roffers and it was clear that blue water was far away so we settled in for a long run.  When we did find rigs in blue water there just did not seem to be a lot of activity, so we kept moving.  We ended up way southwest with Tuna busting the surface in nasty green water.  We chunked, we live baited, we trolled, but the bite was slow and completely died overnight despite the full moon.  We only had one decent bite and the fish came unhooked before we got it to the boat.  We were in good company with several other boats seeming to have much the same experience.

We tried some other rigs and found another in green water with a decent bite going on.  Saw a couple of other boats hooking up on live baits, but our live bait had not held up.  Lots of dead ones and just a few left to try. Bridled up the biggest hard tail in the live well and boom, we were on.  Let him eat it and take line for perhaps 30-45 seconds and then brought the line tight.  Fought the fish for a couple minutes and then it came unbuttoned.  When we reeled the line back in we found the hard tail was still on the hook and you could see it had been bitten and held on to, but never swallowed.   I guess next time I need to let the fish eat it even longer.

We were out of live bait and strangely the fish were completely ignoring our nice fresh chunk.  We had caught some blackfin, skippies, and small yellowfin, but it was just not our day for Tuna.  A bit frustrated we decided to start back toward home in hopes of finding a good rip to fish on the way.

On the way out we had run across a  debris line from the Mississippi in lovely river water.

3 Tail Habitat

We had worked some schools of tuna nearby picking up some blackfin, skippies, bonita etc… but nothing exciting enough to hold our attention. There was a huge shark lurking among them and it was tempting to try to hook it up, but it was not a Mako and the idea of fighting it for a couple hours was not something we wanted to embrace.

Checking the debris line we found it was loaded up with triple tail.  That is when Team Triple Threat let its colors shine.  Using highly unconventional tactics we set about selecting a few of these fish for the ice box.  Allen struck first putting a nice one in the box.

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This was a nice specimen that was literally hand fed the jig.

I jumped in and found a second volunteer.

Me and Allen with Tripple Tail Thumbs up

But Stephen did not feel we were being adequately selective so he went moose hunting and dipped this one out of the fish tank.

Stephen with Moose 3Tail Close

I am astounded that triple tail are not extinct.  I do believe they are the most docile, least spooky, most incredibly willing to die species on the planet.

On the way home we found a bit of a rip and light weed line and pulled some small tuna off it, but never found what we were looking for.  What amazes me about this trip is that despite a really long run and failure to catch the target species, we just had a great time.  Those triple tail were a blast, the weather was great, company superb and it was just awesome to be on the water.  Beats work any day!

One last shot of Team Triple Threat back at the dock.

All 3 3Tail

The payoff was pan fried triple tail dinner.

3Tail Dinner

Straight forward preparation.  Dipped in flour, salt and pepper and seared in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and butter.  A great salad and tomatoes caprese for accompaniment along with your beverage of choice.

Next time, we will get those tuna!  Until then, catch em up.

 

Tuna, Storms, The Man in the Blue Suit, and a Broken Nose

Sorry I have not posted a blog in a few weeks. I was able to take some time to visit some old friends on their boat for a trip to the Bahamas and neglected my blog duties. ¬†I’ll post up about that trip soon, but today is about this week’s trip to the Gulf of Mexico Oil rigs in the successful pursuit of the man in the blue suit.

Me, Allen, Frenchy and newcomer, Stephen, loaded up FN PAIR-A-DICE and left Destin on Sunday headed southwest, deep into the oil fields of the central Gulf of Mexico.  All the elements were there for a good trip and we were in need of some screaming drags.

We arrived at our ultimate destination at about 1 AM and were quickly on the fish.  Blackfin and yellowfin were active and biting.  I was the first to get a YFT to the boat and had a blast doing it, using spin tackle and a live flying fish that made the mistake of getting too close to the boat.

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OK, so we knew we would be eating well, the pressure was off.  We were consistently getting bites as the sun peered through the early morning clouds.  Allen landed a nice one.

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And so did Frenchy.

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But we were also frustratingly hooking up and losing some fish, too.  I hung a really nice one and after ten minutes or so, as it surged away from the boat, I got cut off.  Not sure what happened, perhaps it hit the leader with its tail, but that was my hundred pounder, gone.  Allen and Frenchy missed a few as well, but it was Stephen that seemed snake bit.  He must have had six fish come unbuttoned.  But, he did ultimately get his revenge.

We pushed away from the rig to troll a bit and look for a rip that was supposed to be in the area.  I must have dosed off a bit, but woke up to screaming drags, as the boys had a double header going.

Stephen put a nice YFT in the boat and broke his curse!

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Allen made sure the gaff shot would count.

Frenchy capped it off with a nice skipjack.

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Stephen, however, was not done. ¬†Lines back in, another lap around the rig and Stephen is holding on for dear life as literally a thousand yards of line melts off the 50W. ¬†We are all laser focused on a big tuna, but what comes careening out of the water is the man in the blue suit! ¬†It is grey hounding out there in the distance, right between the legs of the rig. ¬†I don’t know about everyone else, but I was pretty sure this was going to end fast with the line broken off on the rig.

Unbelievably, the fish kept going past the rig and off into open water, but now we had a big belly in the line and about three quarters or more of the line off the reel.  Allen gets Stephen in the bow and starts working at the fish and we quickly had the line tight, straight to the fish again.  Things are looking up and Stephen settled in for the fight.

Stephen Fighting Marlin

It wasn’t long before Stephen had the fish at the boat for his first marlin tag and release. ¬†Stephen was looking good, but the fish had a broken nose. ¬†Not sure if that happened before or during the fight. ¬†You can see it in the video.

Everyone smile for the camera!

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Monday got pretty stormy and we had to don the foul weather gear repeatedly, but there was the occasional promise of clear skies.

Rainbow

Monday night got downright sporty with rain coming across the deck sideways and lightning popping regularly.  We decided we had done well and it was time to beat a retreat so we packed up and started working toward home.

The Boys Navigating the Storms

Storms

The trip home was a slow slog, but the sun came out as we arrived at the docks and set about the business of scrubbing the boat and cleaning the fish.

Tuna and Marlin Flag

Now we enjoy the spoils.

Dinner

Recipe: Tuna steak coated with black sesame seeds.  Seared on grill for 2-3 minutes per side.  A squeeze of lemon or lime.  Serve with soy and wasabi for dipping.

Catch em up!