Without a doubt, the most exciting fresh or saltwater expeditions here on the west coast end with the letter “a” as veteran charter boat captains will attest. I’m talking about offshore tuna fishing. Spirits—along with adrenalin—escalate when pelagic species such as blue fin, albacore, and yellow fin tuna move into range of 100 miles of local sportfishing landings.
But these marauding bullets, moving through the water at speeds of over 35 knots, can be a frustrating proposition at best. Charter boats travel at 7–10 knots, in a 10,000 square mile grid, in an attempt to intercept these migratory tuna. Talk about a virtual miracle when they finally find a school of fish, let alone one willing to bite!
There are rare days when the tuna fish will practically eat the wooden railings off the boat. Most days, however, these gamefish can be as finicky as a rainbow trout in a gin-clear alpine lake. From the hundreds of tuna expeditions I have led with my Owner Hooks Fishing Schools, I have found a few inside tips worth noting.
First of all, be prepared to precisely match your hook size with the bait in the bait tank. Often, the captain may have a mix of fresh anchovies and larger sardines. The #2 hook you use with the ‘chovies will not be adequate for the larger ‘dines, where a #2/0 hook is better matched.
Second, consider fluorocarbon leaders. I was a real skeptic as far as using fluorocarbon offshore. But I have to honestly admit, far too often the only students getting bit on these offshore tuna trips are those we have rigged with 20–30 pound test fluorocarbon leaders.
Third, change that bait every cast! This simple ploy is crucial. These live baits will typically not survive a back-to-back casting sequence. At best, on that second cast, the sardine and anchovy are pretty beat up from the hook, weak and near lifeless. For the offshore charter boats, live bait is in ample supply for both chumming and bait fishing. It is absolutely imperative to change your baits every cast!
Last, fish with new fresh line if you are using monofilament. For many anglers, an offshore tuna trip is the adventure of their year. You have spent hundreds of dollars on booking the trip, so why scrimp on a critical link between you and a catch of a lifetime—your monofilament? Invest in filling all the reels you bring on board with fresh, new mono!