Several hours were a blur of rigging ballyhoo, getting attacked by huge yellowfin tuna, and keeping the spread of lures clean.... Continue reading
We set our alarms for 11:15pm with the plan of being off the dock at midnight. After a day preparing, RAPTOR, our Yellowfin 36 was geared up and ready for a run to the edge.
As we loaded rods onboard we could hear in the background the bars in downtown Edgartown were at capacity. Once everything was sorted our crew of six pushed off and headed out past the lighthouse. Our destination was a temperature break on the edge of the continental shelf, east of Hydrographers Canyon, 120 miles from Muskeget channel. It was a clear night and we quickly broke through the fog. Calm conditions made for a smooth ride.
We arrived at 3:30 am. Outriggers out, lines in. Everyone got to work putting out lures behind the boat and started rigging ballyhoo. We sent back a few spreader bars from Sterling Tackle, because they wail tuna. Recent reports had told us ballyhoo baits were hot so we had brought many, prepared to rig them relentlessly. A few boats in the area started waking up and reporting their catches from the night before, big yellowfin tuna and “eyeballs” or bigeye tuna had been caught. Everyone was excited, busy and fishing hard.
We got a full spread of lures out trolling and started working the area. Then one of the lines snapped out of the outrigger and a rod doubled over, then another, then another. The first fish up was a medium sized yellowfin. We got him in the boat then settled into the other two, these were bigger yellows, nice hard fight in them. After a bit of work two more quality yellowfin tuna came on board. Fish on deck!
It was still dark. Stars were out as we re-rigged ballyhoo and re-set lines. Then we started checking and re-checking lures. It’s tough to see seaweed on the lures in the dark, so we steadily pulled them in then sent them back out into the darkness.
It was just starting to glow from the upcoming sunrise when we got attacked again. Four fish on at once. The smaller fish were released, but one was another big yellowfin tuna we pulled to the gaff. Nice round fish.
As the sun came over the horizon the action started heating up. The next several hours were a blur of rigging ballyhoo, getting attacked by huge yellowfin tuna, and keeping the spread of lures fishing clean. There was one instance where all eight lures got hit and eight rods bent over with drags going off in every direction. We kept a couple of the biggest yellowfin and released many, some big yellowfin tuna got sent back in to fight another day. We went hard, no one stopped, breakfast never happened.
Around 11 am it started to slow down. We trolled away from the fleet a bit, hoping to find more life elsewhere. Trolling into some nervous looking water patches we found hordes of skipjack tuna schooling on the surface. As we went into them huge splashes erupted behind the boat and two rods went down hard, after a good fight two more monster yellowfin tuna came up from the depths.
A while later we found one of the biggest pods of dolphins we have ever encountered. Hundreds of yards of them pushing water, jumping, and playing around the boat. Many of the dolphins had babies swimming alongside a parent. We trolled along with the dolphins, thinking the tuna fishing would likely slow down because it was getting later. Then it happened, the flat line position lure got hammered and line started peeling off the Shimano Talica 25 reel. Two more big strikes on the other side of the boat and two more rods go off. Then two more splashes and a fourth and fifth rod go down hard. One rod broke off as the line ran into the pod of dolphins. The other four held. One fish seemed quite a bit smaller than the others, and turned out to be a nice yellowfin. With three fish still on we released that one and brought up a second, even bigger yellowfin to the gaff. We then settled into the remaining two fish with one tuna on deck. They took a while to come in. Hard fight and both had taken serval hundred yards of line on the initial hook-up. When the first bigeye came up and saw the boat it took another run, always a tense moment. But we got him back and hoisted a nice 100 lb bigeye over the rail.
We cautiously removed the plug with its two offshore treble hooks from the bigeye mouth, keeping others clear of the area so they wouldn’t be hooked. Then in the excitement of getting it free left the lure sitting there on deck next to the bigeye. The big tuna flopped twice and I felt the treble hook snag into my left calf. The hook went in and out, solid hookset about a foot up from my ankle. “I’m hooked..” We made quick work of the situation, I was lucky it hadn’t hooked me somewhere more vital, or tender. We cut the lure now attached to me and I went forward followed with heavy pliers; cut thru the hook below the barb, then back it out.
The crew did a great job in all the excitement. Especially the female angler fighting standup on a bigeye with two tuna on deck at her feet, and me hooked in the leg. With the hook removal behind us we switched anglers on the second bigeye and settled into our end game, sealing the deal with the gaff. We were all more than a little excited, it was awesome.
We released a number more yellowfin tuna and lost one bigger fish we thought was another bigeye. Then it was time to search for mahi mahi. We had heard reports on the radio from Mic Beth of large floating debris holding nice mahi and wahoo. The mahi were big and plentiful, we managed ten or so from the seemingly endless school of 6-15 lb mahi below the boat. Then we saw something different, two big wahoo swimming slowly in and around the mahi a few feet below the boat. “Gaff that wahoo!!” someone yelled and I looked up and saw a third wahoo swimming by just inches below the water. For a moment, they were everywhere. In the excitement, we got them to eat our mahi squid rigs several times but got bit off instantly every time. They were gone by the time we got a wire rig ready to fish. We tried trolling a wahoo spread faster thru the area to no avail.
Mid-afternoon we started trolling north, out of the canyon towards home. While we’re stowing gear both the marlin lures get hammered, one stays hooked and we are on again. Big initial run on the 80w reel had us all thinking it was a monster wahoo, but in comes a beautiful white marlin. Biggest one we have caught. Everyone was super excited and we took a quick photo before swimming it boat-side to revive and then releasing it back into the deep.
Smooth ride in put us at the dock around 7pm. Everything washed, dried and put away for the next run.
After a five-hour fillet session we gave fresh fish to friends and family, and a customer appreciation party got a few nice tuna loins as well. There is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from giving fish to people who love to eat fish.
Thank you to the family and friends who make this all possible.