I’d managed to talk myself into going after bluefin this week, despite my misgivings about doing it in the month of June. The reports I’ve been seeing from the boats seemed to all tell the same story, there’s a lot of fish around and with a little luck you could find a willing school to bite.
Unfortunately, I had to fly back up to Seattle (family stuff) and I wasn’t able to get out. I’ve continued to monitor the bite though and I’ve only seen more things to encourage me to get out offshore upon my return. For example, on Satuday the SAC (Sportfishing Association of California) plane was up and spotted what they described as,,,
“absolutely massive schools of bluefin”
It’s enough to get even the most skeptical traditionalists among us excited enough to dust off the tuna gear and book an offshore trip.
And it’s not just the quantity of fish, but the quality is impressive as well. Obviously, they aren’t all cows on full day trips (as I reported in last week’s article), but even the “average” fish are a beautiful 50-80 pound grade of fish.
My buddies, Leroy Velasco, Rony Somo and Elmer Mun (L-R) were in the middle of it Saturday on the San Diego and caught some of those “average” fish. And it seems like almost every trip, some lucky angler is catching a fish over a 100.
I get hit up a lot by out-of-towners looking for help in planning their trips. I was reminded this week of a piece of advice I share every year, not just for out-of-towners, but even if you haven’t been out a lot recently. Go fish a halfie for bass before your tuna trip.
On my video, How To: Flyline A Live Sardine viewer Randy P. commented…
” Every time I cast a sardine out, it always comes back to the boat and I never catch anything. Annoying”
You can help yourself (gear-wise) with casting out a sardine if you use a fast-action rod. That springy tip definitely makes it easier to flip a bait out and away from the boat. But the key takeaway here is you MUST have the ability to cast your bait away from the boat. The sardine’s natural inclination is to swim to cover for protection. If the closest cover is the boat itself, guess where they’re going to want to swim.
You can practice this skill in your yard casting a clothespin (the bait has been smallish this year), but there’s really no substitute for doing it live. Along with the casting aspect, you also have the opportunity to practice other essential skills like selecting a good lively bait, and pinning it on a hook while handling the bait as little as possible.
You can also experiment with different hook placement. Nose hooking is the standard way anglers are taught to hook a live bait, but especially when fishing bluefin, it helps to have other options.
When fish are right around the boat, often times a butt hooked bait will get bit first. Butt hooking is near impossible with a circle hook though (without ruining the bait), and you really want to use a circle (vs. a J-hook) to give yourself the best chance of not getting bit off. I’d only try it with bluefin when all else fails (reducing line test, smaller hooks).
My personal preference is a collar hooked bait. It can be done easily with a circle hook. Fifty percent of the time, the hook is hidden from view. It will last longer than a butt hooked bait. And another advantage is the hook won’t rip out on the retrieve giving you more bite opportunity.
Fluorocarbon is an absolute must.
These fish are getting hooked in a variety of ways…flylined baits, rubber band rig, flatfalls and colt snipers. I hesitate to say it, but bring everything. It’s even worth bringing a backup of your 30 or 40 pound setup (the #1 setup right now). When it’s biting, those extra minutes spent re-tying could mean the difference between a limit and a skunk. I hate being the guy with too many setups, but the worst thing ever is needing something and knowing it’s sitting at home. A bluefin trip isn’t the time to be conservative with the gear you bring.
The bite is on. Good luck if you get out there.