Crash Course in South of the Vineyard Bluefin

On Thursday, I hopped aboard the Riptide with Captain Terry Nugent for a trip south of Martha’s Vineyard where schools of bluefin tuna had recently moved in. Reports had tuna ranging from 27 inches to 60-plus inches.

Leaving Falmouth Harbor bright and early aboard Captain Terry Nugent's 35-foot Contender.
Leaving Falmouth Harbor bright and early aboard Captain Terry Nugent’s 35-foot Contender.

We had a great day on the tuna grounds, putting four fish between 44 and 60 inches on the deck, and Terry gave a quick rundown on the keys to tuna success South of the Vineyard.

A trolling speed between 5.5 and 6 knots works well for South of the Vineyard bluefin.
A trolling speed between 5.5 and 6 knots works well for South of the Vineyard bluefin.

Not too Fast, Not too Slow

Unlike in the cold waters east of Chatham where fishermen troll as slow as 3 knots, or the canyons where fishermen regularly troll faster than 7 knots, Terry found that the sweet spot for bluefin south of the Vineyard is between 5.5 and a little more than 6 knots.

He matches his trolling speed to the baitfish, which recently has been sand eels. When faster baits, like halfbeaks, are present, he kicks his trolling speed up a notch.

Dolphins, whales, and shearwaters tip off fishermen to the location of the baitfish and often the tuna.
Dolphins, whales, and shearwaters tip off fishermen to the location of the baitfish and often the tuna.

Find the Life

Regardless of where you tuna fish, the areas with the most bird and marine mammal activity will also be the areas most likely to encounter bluefin tuna. The bluefin south of the Vineyard have been running tight with massive pods of white-sided dolphins. Terry also uses whales to tip him off to dense concentrations of sand eels.

Captain Terry Nugent provides instruction while Jeff Parrish fights a 50-inch bluefin.
Captain Terry Nugent provides instruction while Jeff Parrish fights a 50-inch bluefin.

Bar Hopping

Terry’s south of the Vineyard spread is a mix of spreader and splash bars. He fishes Standard Issue Tackle spreader bars on the flat lines and short riggers, and Standard Issue Tackle splash bars on the long riggers and shotgun.

Keep the Spread Short

Terry keeps his spread relatively tight to the boat, which helps him maneuver through the fleet crowds when the word of the bluefin bite gets out.

Lingering until the early afternoon yielded this tuna feed, and a subsequent hook-up that ended the day on a high note for captain and crew.
Lingering until the early afternoon yielded this tuna feed, and a subsequent hook-up that ended the day on a high note for captain and crew.

Stay Late

Many boats call it a day when the mid-day doldrums hit, but sticking it out into the afternoon has yielded several fish for Terry this season. Yesterday, with only a couple boats in sight (compared to the 20-plus boat fleet in the morning) Terry found a school of blitzing bluefin and put a fourth fish in the boat to make sure that each of his sports had landed one tuna.

White sided dolphins playing in the bow wave of the Riptide.
White sided dolphins playing in the bow wave of the Riptide.

4 on “Crash Course in South of the Vineyard Bluefin

  1. jeffrey labelle

    great pictures. Any advise as to how to catch some bass for a first time saltwater fisherman? My family has been fishing for large mouth bass for as long as I can remember. Just venturing out into blue water for the first time this year. Any advice would be helpful.

  2. Glenn Hermann

    I am possibly interested in blue fin fishing this coming September. Could you contact me with suggestions. I am very interested in taking tuna home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *