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School Bluefin Tuna - "The skunk is gone ..."

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DaleH

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"The skunk is gone ... The skunk is gone ..."

Sing that line repeatedly to the tune of that famous blues song "The Thrill is Gone" by Darnell & Hawkins; though one more reknown as covered by BB King ...

Regardless, the skunk is finally off me for this tuna season! At last, at last, let there be snow now! Left the dock @ 7am with my two older brothers for a 'brother bonding' tuna trip. We trolled structure for hours off a large offshore bank where it goes from 100' to 400'. It's only 12 miles offshore ... I just have to run 27 miles of river and ocean to get there!

Chatter was extremely quiet on the VHF radio and we saw 10 times as many boats on a Friday that out there than today. We had to pull the lines in every 5 minutes or so to clear the weeds. At times it made running a deep diver all but impossible.

A friend Ron had been out with us on his boat, periodically checking in, but he had left and called my brother's cell phone when he was 'back at the barn'. Funny ... for he said "I've left ... so now the bite will turn on @ 1:15pm".

Noontime found us still battling weeds, so we too headed back north when we heard some intel blip on the VHF that tuna were up on the surface just south of us. So we pulled the trolling lines and barreled back down that way. We could see the boats on the horizon about 5 miles distant ... but we didn't make it that far, as brother #1 called out "Tuna crashing!" Bang, we put away the trolling gear and got ready with the spinning tackle.

Somewhere every 15 minutes or so it seemed, a few splashes would crash the surface, but often 300 - 600 yards away or more. Then we started seeing baitfish fleeing the water. Funny, but we rarely saw any tuna break the surface when we saw these bait schools fleeing. Did I say fleeing? Man, they were ZOOMING for their lives! To get onto the one school we got the fish out of, brother #2 had the boat at darn near full speed just to get ahead of them! He did an awesome job positioning the boat well ahead of the school. Thank Capt :) !

And wouldn't you know it, it appeared that the bait knew we were ahead of them ... as they just stopped ... but the tuna were still coming up hard behind them, like a multi-car pile-up on the highway, so for a split instant there was mayhem on the surface, maybe 35 yards from the boat. Thankfully I had switched to the Penn 9500 coffee grinder rig which had a heavy Shimano butterfly jig on it. I cast it past the school, reeled and twitched the tip fast a few times ... and FISH ON! Sweet! Long time coming for me this season too. I had the drag @ 14 pounds and it put up a heck of a fight on the light action 1-piece Penn spinning rod it was on. Man, what a tussel!

Bro #2 says I beat it to the boat in 15 minutes or so and boy I was fatigued, but darn stoked too, and somehow I just knew I wasn't going to lose this one. Once near the boat it took off on a blistering dive, and once near the boat again ... decision time ... just how big is it? We knew it would be close and it had to be 47" curved length to keep. We thought about putting the tape down the line as we had prepared, but in the end, we got it into a net and bro and I heaved it up and over the side. Final measurement - 44" of FAT round tuna. No idea the weight ... and I KICK myself for not taking a girth measurement.

But, a friend's last week bottomed out a 70-pound scale and was 42" long, this one was 44". Know what time I hooked up? Almost 1:15pm on the nose, nice call there Ron! Though 3" short ... I was more disppointed in that we didn't get Bro #1 on a fish, as he has seen them and has cast to them, but he hasn't hooked up yet. Next time!
 

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cbigma

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Congrats! How'd you get him aboard without spillin' a speck o' blood? :?:

Kinda looks like he just jumped up into your arms. :shock:

Great write-up too, felt like I was there on deck through the whole battle.

Hey,, that's not Miss Teak! :roll:
 

dave-j

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Great job! Stelwagon?

I landed a 42 incher a couple of weeks ago (when you could still keep school tuna) and it weighed in at around 50 lbs. Yielded almost 20 lbs of prime sushi!

Congrats again. It's been a little frustrating out there recently.

Dave
 

DaleH

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Reel = Penn 9500

Line = loaded with 50# Power Pro braid

Rod = Light action cheap ($40?) Penn Slammer, 7' (guides up here used to use them ... never broke one either)

Drag = Set @ 13-14 pounds via a Berekley electronic scale

Lure = 3 ounce butterfly jig with 5/0 assist hook from top solid ring
 

Chop~Chop

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Congratulations Dale!

Our MV's make it alot easier to reach down to try to control these magnificent fish. But, how would you use a "tape down the Line" to get a measurement? Did you use a casting net to coral the fish and heave it aboard? I need to get prepared to release my next fish...or boat a monster... :roll:

Did you fight it from the cockpit the whole time? Weren't you concered it had too much spunk left when you got it too the boat in only 15 minutes and it would dive under the boat a break you off on the outdrive(s)?
 

dave-j

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We use a Boga Grip (with lanyard around the wrist) for the front end and simply grab in front of the tail for the back. Gotta be fast to do this, but won't hurt the fish for release.

If obviously undersize, try to get the hook out while still in the water and let 'er go!

Dave
 

DaleH

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Chop~Chop":t1dxbz00 said:
How would you use a "tape down the Line" to get a measurement?
I have made up a 1/8" nylon line looped to a small carabiner. It has two distinct black marks on the line marking the 47" limit. With the tuna boat side with the boat in gear, the tuna will swim next to the boat. Slide the carbiner around the line and the line will trail next to the fish. You need to do some quick judging, as the 1st mark is not always near the fishes nose ... and the fish is moving, but at least it will give you an idea of whether to board it or not.

Did you use a casting net to coral the fish and heave it aboard?
Yes we did, and this net has a deep pocket, like 3' deep. The key is to always have the handle of the net straight up and down once you get the tuna's head into the net. Then you can also only pull it into the boat by pulling the handle straight up. If you put the handle of the net out towards the horizon, you'll snap it off surer than s#$t.

Did you fight it from the cockpit the whole time?
Nope, but from the bow of my brother's Grady White W/A! Without a belly belt too ... left that back in the cockpit as we were trolling and then spied the school of bait on the surface. It was quite the tussel and I finally was able to get back to the cockpit once I had the fish beat - see below.

Weren't you concered it had too much spunk left when you got it too the boat in only 15 minutes?
I hear you on this, as I wouldn't want to bring a 'green' tuna into the boat, but here's what I do. I firmly believe that there is only one fighting mode for these fish - either they take line or you do. If you stop and rest, the tuna rests.

If he goes to the right, you put your rod tip low and to the left. This puts the line across the side of his head and down his body and works to tire them out quickly. If he goes left, you go right. I never had the tip of the rod above the horizon or 90 degrees to the water, I keep it low ... less stress on the backbone of the rod ... and always towards the opposite side of where the fish is headed (less straight away runs). "High sticking" a rod with a tuna on, or any big fish, will lead to a broken rod.

I know that I fought this fish fast and I feel that I winded him. He didn't do much of a death spiral, as whenever he'd turn, I'd force him back the other way. Once I brought him to the surface, he laid over on his side and I knew we had him. Bang, right into the net he went!

When he came aboard, he didn't spill one drop of blood either. Took the hook out, I picked him up for 2 photos, and then I torpedoed him head first back in the water, just as one would throw a football. Throwing fish like tuna back in like this with force allows water to immediately pour over their gills.

Beating them fast also makes for a better eating fish if you're going to keep it ... less lactic acid buildup ...
 

Megabyte

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DaleH":1kzagjdq said:
I have made up a 1/8" nylon line looped to a small carabiner. It has two distinct black marks on the line marking the 47" limit. With the tuna boat side with the boat in gear, the tuna will swim next to the boat. Slide the carbiner around the line and the line will trail next to the fish. You need to do some quick judging, as the 1st mark is not always near the fishes nose ... and the fish is moving, but at least it will give you an idea of whether to board it or not.
Hey! I like that idea!
I could make a modified version of that for getting a quick measure on a rockfish.

Thanks for the tip!
 

dave-j

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Dale,

GREAT idea about the caribiner and line for measuring!

I laughed at your reference to high poling a big fish. Can't count how many guys have told me they broke their fly rods by doing this even on aggressive bluefish.

Dave
 

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