DURING A PARTY & CHARTER BOAT TUNA TRIP
(A big thanks to those captains and fishermen who passed these images along with pointers along)
Now looking back to the 2014 canyon tuna season, there were a number of exciting trips where a high number of fish landed.... while on others, a bare handful of fish making it to the gaff.
This thread is a collection of thoughts, ideas, tips and tricks that not only make a difference in increasing your odds in bringing home something after a long day of tuna fishing. One thing which was evident on tuna trips where there was a large number of fishermen catching either one or their limit of tuna, it was all about the tuna:
1- biting throughout the trip (lucky you)
2- randomly having a blast of fish come through for just a few hours
3- particular time of the day/night when they only bit
Great....but how about those trips where fishermen experience long lulls between fish, or worse, between getting a run off or a fish strike a jig for the whole trip?
Here is a list passed along to me as the season has wound down, with a look back at the "tricks of the tuna trade" which will made a difference in catching something or going home with the donuts.
RAIL PIPES TO HOLD YOUR ROD
It goes beyond the fact of your rod and reel and more so to the fishing tackle you bring...and it will noticeably lessen angler fatigue since it will hold these heavy bait outfit especially during those oh so long night hours. It also allows the angler to feed out and set up their bait at a particular depth zone throughout the trip, and then allows the angler to wait for the bite.
Rail pipes have become much more common over the last few years, and you will see many of the regulars now have their own customized pipes, most made from aluminum along with a few cut from galvanized (yes I know about cutting galvanized pipe...find someone who knows how to do it).
Two points to remember:
!- Most will use pipes cut to fit on a particular tuna boat they normally ride upon. These shorty pipes or 'stubbies' can be made where there are threads on the main piece of the pipe which you can add an extension "if necessary." Others will just carry along a full length rail pipe which is then placed in the rod holder as shown below:
2- If you buy a rail pipe, notice the angle of the tube which holds the rod to the water. The more popular ones for feeding out your bait, are normally at this angle.
BOTH FOR BAIT FISHING & FOR JIGGING
Did anyone see Captain Paul Cascio of the SEARCHER II out of Barnegat Light stated this:
Ten people tuna fishing=fifty -three rods....
Sometimes you have to wonder as a captain or mate, why, but having a few different outfits at the can make a difference.
1- Your main outfit gets whipped out, lose/chaff a good amount of line, reel malfunction
2- Besides a bait outfit, a jigging outfit, a casting for mahi outfit and a back up
A good number of fishermen will come down with two outfits, and for most, that works as far as getting through an overnight trip. Others though will bring enough outfits for a seven day trip on a San Diego long range boat.
How many to bring?
The heavy hitters will bring four or so outfits...but I will add this is a personal preference.
Walkway point here........Always bring a spare along with your main bait outfit and always bring a jigging stick.
WHERE 8 FOOTERS RULE
A good number of customers on tuna trips just love to jig...and to get the most from jigging, requires a longer rod, something akin to what you would use on a codfish jigging trip up north (well, when you used to catch cod in the GOM or on Georges). Rods starting at over 7 and a half feet to the recommended 8 foot length are the way to go, and just this morning, an old time offshore captain told me about his favorite 9 foot (yes 9 foot) long jigging stick he loved until he lent it to a friend who broke it fighting a fish!
Keep in mind that a longer rod allows you to "sweep" the jig", which is moving the jig for a longer distance through the water column. it also allows you toss a jig that much further away from the boat.
Yes, the longer rod for some, may be tougher to put pressure onto a fish (and more so on your back), but you will also be able to keep your line above the rest on deck especially when you have a fish on, as you go up and down along the rail.
MAHI-MAHI & CATCHING SQUID BAIT
This is optional, but do not disregard bringing a heavy duty spinner outfit for casting to mahi....just don't...don't neglect this because on more than few reports I heard, not only this season, but in the past season, the mahi was literally the "bail out fish" for the peeps to go home with a fillet or two for the dinner table.
A number of party boat captains will spend time during the daylight hours working along a string of pots, especially spending a good amount of time running the offshore lobster high flyerss when the tuna fishing is literally "a hack."
Do not break the bank here with a mahi casting outfit...in fact, some of the regulars I constantly see, use moderately priced reels such as the open face Penn Spinfish SS spinners, along with a off the rack (factory wrapped) heavy duty spinning rods which you can easily pickup during the winter tackle shows.
For those who still cannot visualize these outfits, they are similar to, and more so exactly what you would see being used on the NY-NJ Bight bluefish fleet vessels (yes I know its only a handful of boats these days), when they fish for alberts and bones.
The critical part here for the mahi's......bring the SALAMI'S, aka the Tsunami, which I have written about many times over the years (seen in the pic).
The other casting outfit is also, not a must have to bring along......unless you want to catch squid to use as bait. The squid catching outfit is even cheaper to purchase, and normally you can pick up a pretty decent combo outfits at the winter shows for easily less then a C-note..yes a "Benjamin."
The key here similar to the mahi casting outfit, is having an effective lure like the Tsunami and in this case, the right squid jig...but don't fret, one of the more popular is seen in the above pic, and you can find them or something similar, HERE.
HOW DO I KEEP THEM ALIVE?
Simple to purchase and just as simple to make your own private live bait well. Add nylon cord. Have a top which easily stays secured when the bucket with the holes drilled into it, bobs along the water.
This can be a big difference maker for not only catching fish, but in catching the biggest fish on a tuna trip.
80 lb TEST ALL AROUND WORKHORSE REELS FOR LESS THEN A 'C-NOTE'
In trying to keep it simple and without burning a hole in your pocket, one thing that was pretty noticeable this season when along the rail, with fishermen who purchase lever drag reels:
1- They clearly do not know how to properly set the drag on their reel
2- A surprising number push the lever past 'strike' to 'full' when they get a run off - 'pop'
3- They do not know when they should switch from high to low gear and back to high
Most fishermen that make a party or charter tuna trip or two during the season, do not necessarily require a big dollar lever drag reel, especially one with two speeds.
Here are two options, first one in 6/0 size, and one in the 4/0 size:
For those looking to buy a workhorse all around reel for fishing with 80 lb test, a Penn Senator 6/0H (aluminum spool) or a Daiwa Sealine 600H.
Both of the above reels are relatively easy to find in excellent condition during the winter fishing shows. For those who do make these trips and want to buy a well proven, simple to use and inexpensive reel, look no further then these two star drag reels. They work, and on some boats, you may see them on the rental outfits.
The Penn 'RED' 4/0H Senator was the standard for decades for party and charter boat jig tuna fishing. The capacity of 50 lb and 60 lb test mono it could hold, along with it's faster retrieve as opposed to the traditional 'BLACK' Senator, led to a number of variations since the 1970's, with the most notable being the narrow of YTS size.
Most common though is the 4/0H which can be found at the winter tackle shows from 65-85 dollars that come with a factory graphite frame along with a pretty decent heavy duty aluminum spool.
The walkaway value with this tip is that you do not need some of the newer all aluminum framed - lever drag and two speed reels for this fishery, especially if you neither make many tuna trips or do not how to properly use a lever drag reel. These two reels (either the Penn Senator or Daiwa Sealine) will serve you very well.
"EVERY JIG HAS ITS DAY.....SOME MORE THAN OTHERS THOUGH"
So what seemed to be the go to tuna jig this season?
In talking with a couple of captains and fishermen it seemed some jigs seem to out perform others,
while other jigs consistently would catch a fish here and there.
Was there one constant during the 2014 tuna season that was almost universal when speaking to the captains and fishermen about choosing a tuna jig this season?
From what I was told, it came down to COLOR and again, to this particular shape..............
But don't disregard other colors when using Benthos, Vertical/Butterfly/Speed jigs, or various chrome/gold plated jigs!
A story passed along to me from a noted offshore tuna captain was about one customer who caught 5 tuna with a GREEN color jig. On the following trip, another customer asks this captain prior to the trip, "what was the hot jig on the last trip" and the captain tells him this green color jig which he can buy inside the tackle shop at the dock. On that trip, this same color jig caught 3 tuna.
By the way, on the latest tuna trip this November (pictures will be posted in another thread), you will see a "green color jig" that maybe should be put into the tuna tackle bag.
Make a BIG DIFFERENCE in getting a hooked tuna to the gaff.
Depending on which party boat you fish upon, you may notice some of the heavy hitters rigging up "west coast long range style" with heavy duty short shank treble hooks. As they have found out over the years, it is noticeable that a higher percentage of tuna hooked on a treble hook are successfully landed when compared to using a single hook.
It seems to be more common these days to use this combination, but as I was told by two regulars, "yes you do get a number of hook ups, but you rather the tuna hit the treble than the swinging tuna hook." It tells you something about the success of holding onto tuna with the swinging jig hook....you will definitely lose more hooked fish on the swinging single hook than a treble hook.
BUT, do not disregard rigging up a few jigs with treble hooks.
One could choose from the traditional standard SIWASH style, to the live bait tuna hooks you would rig as a assist hook, to the SEA DEMON style, a popular forged hook for offshore fishing.
Another little insider tip here with the Sea Demon or any inline hook (hook point area pointing straight upwards)....bend the hook slightly to give it an offset appearance.
They have their moments and you have to remember:
SUNNY DAYS, and work them in the upper portion in the water column.
One or these, two of those....but what do you choose?
Unlike what you would see brought on a west coast long range tuna trip, most regulars will bring a small collection of jigs.
What to concentrate on?
Pick the jigs that have been the most successful over the years...chrome hammered jigs....Sardine shaped jigs....
As important, pay attention to the WEIGHT of the jigs you pick!
Again just recently I was told of a big tuna been taken a small jig (5-6 oz), one which would make you wonder why a tuna would eat one little jig.
So have jigs in the following sizes at the ready:
175g ~ 6 oz
200g ~ 7 oz
250g ~ 9 oz
300g ~ 10+ oz
One point to remember...most of the chrome and mulit-color jigs are manufactured overseas. Unless it is from a well known manufacturer, weights can deviate by a few grams (yes lighter) on these jigs...some off by up to a ounce or two.
Vi-Ke SHAPED CHROME JIGS
As you see from this image and the one further above, some of us have a fondness for Vi-Ke style jigs. They are well proven to consistently catching tuna and can be purchased at times for much less then some of the well known fish-looking like jigs.
If I had to pick one style to bring along, Vi-Ke jigs along with the Tuna Candy 7.5 oz jigs would be the ones...but that is just some of us old guys from around these parts!
Finally for those who ask why.....the shape of jigs have a built in fluttering action as they descend through the water column.
Figuring out how much egg sinker weight to use at times, can leaving a newbie or even non regular tuna angler scratching their head. What to do then......
First remember, the EGG SINKERS go ABOVE the swivel as shown above the swivel.
Second, ask the mates on deck when they have a moment..."what do you recommend", especially for those who are new or have not brought any egg sinkers along (egg sinkers in different sizes are a commonly carried in different sizes on the party boats)
Third....sometimes the best teacher is watching YOURSELF what is going on....
When the boat anchors up, watch how the mate is 'throwing' the chum and see how the chum goes out.......
Does it slowly sink...
Does it scoot off into the current...
Then see what happens when you drop your bait rig down into the depths with the amount of weight you have on your line.
Fourth....if your frustrated, take a look at what the regulars are using and doing if they change out and adjust their egg sinker weight. This will be your best option if you do not ask the mates what you should do as far as sinker weight when bait fishing.
OR SEND YOUR BAIT DOWN TO
A great shot to give you an idea on what I am talking about here...and it defines a fishermen who consistently catches fish throughout a trip.
Pay attention to the depth you send your jig or bait out too.....that's right, either have your line marked prior to fishing (yes, a number of fishermen I know do that), or count in feet how much line you send out (one pull is how many feet out, and so on).
FLURO CARBON RULES WHEN YOU HAVE A TOUGH BITE TRIP
Maybe one of the biggest tips/tricks when bait fishing for tuna especially when the bite is slow or worse, non-existent.
It is highly recommended to pick up fluro in line weight sizes 40 (50/60/80) 100.
If your counting, that is 5 different 25 yard spools, with the 50/60/80 being the key to focus on to carry then use when the fishing is just, off.
Just remember that this gives you a much higher probability of getting a run off and hooking a fish, but the reward also comes with higher risk...much higher when you start to get down to the 60, 50 and heavens forbid, 40 lb carbs leader.
Pull off a arms length pull from the spool, roughly 6 feet, tie a good UNI-KNOT or single or double CINCH, or whatever knot you can properly tie, especially in low light conditions during the night.
Another point, just do not blindly start with fluro...use when necessary as the bite never materializes, and thenyou can then play the high risk/reward game, whether during the day or as much, night. Start with 80 lb fluro and see what happens. I wouldn't push past 50 lb fluro though, but I have been told that some fishermen will go as low as 40 fluro.... and that as you know this will not only prolong hooked fish battles, but more so, highly increase break-offs when fighting fish.
A few points here based upon at the fishing rail observations................
Over the years as the tuna fishing has gotten tougher (fewer fish being caught), fishermen now using smaller and smaller hooks to increase the odds of getting a hookup or two during the trip. As was seen on one of the local party boats in the past few years was that this resulted in a noticeable increase in fish lost during the battle with the use of smaller tuna hooks.
We have also noticed that the well noted and more expensive hook manufacturing brands, did not do that much better then the old standard bearer hook manufacturers from years ago such as Mustad, Eagle Claw and over the last few years, OE TACKLE (which is essentially a hybrid copied hook of some other brand, pumped out in some overseas factory).
What did make a difference was in having the right size hook on your line, approx. 7/0 based upon the OE TACKLE - Live Bait Tuna Hook.
If you are not sure on the size, simply go into the cabin and see what the galley man/mate on the party boat you are upon, is either selling or giving out. Match the hatch, and then take it from there as far as attempting to go smaller with your hook size (if you brought along your own package of tuna hooks) but if they are using a particular hook size, stick with it.
As an example, you can make yourself a little kit up with different size Live Bait and Circle hooks, and I am not going to get into the debate which is better to use since we already have written about this a number of times previously!
Our preference.......tough bite day, circle hook...at night, stick with the standard Live Bait tuna hook. One point here, once a circle hook sets in a fishes jawline, normally it stays.
WHEN THE BITE IS TOUGH - REALLY TOUGH
Sometimes your on a trip where it is just a dead bite night...nothing is going on except some nuisance from sharks and most of the customers on board are catching up on their sleep in the cabin bunks (yes canyon hotel on the water) thus making for barely a few fishermen at the rail.
Here you can set out two bait fishing outfits at different depths (those rail rod holders now come handy), and with one fishermen I know, having a third in his hands either jigging or sending another bait out!
Does it make a difference?
Depends on who you ask, but for sure, it does keep those fishermen who are up, busy during the night, thus in the game in increasing their chances of getting a hookup from something which we have seen at times can be a nice big eye or swordfish.
Since many have brought along a few pounds of jigs for tuna fishing, if you are sticking with jigging, then USE THEM!
During those lulls, slow bite or even dud of a fishing day, have a lineup of jigs at the ready, that includes using other then the GO-TO jigs listed above.
Change weights....change colors...change designs....change depths....and most of all, work the jig for between 10 -15 minutes, and switch out and rotate to another jig.
If you see one style and as much color of the jig working, even on those tough trips, try to dig up one similar to the jig that has put a few fish on the boat for that trip.
Once again, thanks to those captains and fishermen who passed their knowledge, info and pictures along. Paying attention to these details is what makes the difference as we keep harping upon here.