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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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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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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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.

Allen 3Tail2

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.

Frenchy Skipjack2

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!

Chunk for Chunky Tuna

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:

Happy Allen and YFT 70Lb

The Rig

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 Bait

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.

The Presentation

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!