I couldn’t wait to get back out with
Crimson Tide Charters after the amazing time we had fishing The Monster Shark Tournament, so I jumped at the chance to join them on a 130-mile trek offshore out of Falmouth Harbor to Oceanographers Canyon.
Two weeks prior, Captains Chris Joyal and Fred Lavitman had texted me a report from their recent trip to Oceanographers. The Crimson Tide crew limited on yellowfin tuna, released a white marlin, and to make the trip, the crew landed a beastly wahoo for the grill. Two gentlemen from England had chartered the boat and had the experience of a lifetime aboard
Now, no two canyon fishing experiences are the same – that definitely adds to the allure of fishing the edge – but I was hoping that this next trip would at least be similar.
Although photos really can’t do justice to the incredible experience of fishing an overnighter in the canyons, I hope you enjoy this look into the trip:
Sunrise over Oceanographers Canyon, 130 miles SE of Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Signs of life: Captain Chris spotted yellowfin slashing across the surface 300 yards away. These aggressively feeding tuna were cutting through the bountiful amount of bait in the area. Moments later the tuna took to the air, quite possibly trying to avoid becoming prey to a large blue-and-billed predator.
Trolling: Akula's 9-rod spread was wolf-packed right off the bat by yellowfin. The class of fish was anywhere from 30-60 pounds. Most of the fish hit rigged ballyhoo and spreader bars; it was not uncommon to see 4 rods go off at a time.
Here a the sun illuminates the beautiful colors of a mid-size yellowfin. Captain Fred gaffed the fish in its gill plate as to not damage the meat and to reduce the risk of losing the fish boatside.
Both a blessing and a curse: Sargasso seaweed blanketing portions of the canyon. When trolling through weedy seas, it's important to check your spread and make sure your baits are swimming unencumbered. These floating weeds also create a mini-ecosystem for small baitfish and predators like mahi-mahi; trolling close to this floating structure can be very productive.
A nice mahi mahi taken trolling near the floating weed mat. They are beautiful and aggressive fish; their colors are often visible under weeds or hanging near high-flyers.
Sign of life: a large pod of porpoise popped up to say hello. They are curious mammals and are not bashful about coming in close to take a look at you.
Sharks: Here a mako pup was caught trolling. They are just as furious at a young age and should be handled with care. The mate made sure to keep the head angled out, gripping the fish behind the head.
Whether it was other sport-fishermen or large freighters like this Korean container ship, we saw plenty of boat activity. It is important to give these freighters a wide berth.
Scott with one of the bigger yellowfin taken on an Islander-and-ballyhoo rig. We would watch boils behind our spread in amazement as these aggressive fish attacked. In one instance we witnessed a yellowfin attack our naked ballyhoo just feet from the transom. Its wake pushed the bait into the air the fish then inhaled the rig as soon as it hit the water.
Sign of life: Huge schools of skipjack, their purple and cyan coloration visible while traveling at high speeds just a foot under the surface of the water. Skipjack and seabirds like shearwaters feeding on the surface indicated that there was a high quantity of bait in the water.
We trolled through the crimson sunset, picking up a few fish at last light. Another impressive and humbling display of the ocean's vastness. The sunset was over in minutes and it was time to set up for the night bite.
Captains Chris and Fred with a remarkably rare catch. These baby sailfish were dip-netted when we were collecting baitfish swimming near the boat's lights.
A closer look at the young predator. Sailfish are not common north of the Carolinas, however there have been documented reports. After taking a few pictures, we released them, no worse for wear. It was fascinating watching the 12-inch fish achieve high speeds in the water as they chased smaller baitfish around the boat lights.
Night bite: 20 minutes later we were visited by a significantly larger billfish. This 150-pound swordfish was caught 60 feet down on a mackerel. Initially thinking it was a shark, the crew came to life when we saw the long, broad bill cut through the water. Captain Chris positioned the boat during the fight and Captain Fred was quick to grab the harpoon and stick the fish.
The bill is broad and flat on the top and bottom, coming to a sharp point. Each side of the bill is sharp to the touch and should be taken seriously. The skin of the swordfish is rough like a shark's, and the eyeball of this fish was huge, about the size of a tennis ball.
The next morning we were back on the troll. We had no other visitors during the night, and we were happy to see the sun again. We could not get more than 2-3 lines in the water before yellowfin would explode on the bait. Even spreader bars lofted and dragging from the outriggers where hit by tuna.
John with one of many yellowfin tuna taken at first light.