I’m happy to report that the slump I was in is officially over! It took a woman’s touch on the boat to break the curse, but once the curse was broken it has been a fast rise back to the top of the game.
It all started with a report from a good friend about some tuna he found on the way home from a canyon trip. He was generous enough to share his numbers and his observations. The word was big numbers of fish in the 50- to 150-pound range feeding on halfbeaks. That’s the perfect setup for topwater fishing, especially for charters.
Unfortunately, I had prior obligations for the next 2 days. A lot can happen in 2 days, as tuna are not called “highly migratory species” for no reason. I knew we had to act, and act fast, so I called Capt. Shaun Ruge and asked him if he would run the Riptide on a recon trip to start to pattern these fish. He enlisted the help of “Fishchick” and our good friend Capt. J.C. Burke. Together they ran to the tuna and the trip ended up with Fishchick landing a nice 60-pound-class tuna on an Ocean Lure (you can read the Ruge report here at BoatingLocal: Chasing Rumors Turns to Tuna Excitement. The curse was broken!
The next day Ruge and I were able to get on the boat and bring a few friends out to Ruge’s numbers. We found fish, but Mother Nature wasn’t quite done with beating on me, so pea-soup fog and sloppy conditions kept us from boating fish, despite getting some shots and a few swings and misses.
The following day I had a charter with Max and Bob. The weather started off a little rough but visibility was great. We could see for miles, but there was nothing to see! The prior day’s spot was barren. After several hours of high-speed searching for signs of life, I made the call to run long and change the game plan completely. After a big relocation, my hunch paid off and we began to see life.
We hunted spraying schools of halfbeaks and random tuna splashes over a vast area. Eventually we came upon a large school of halfbeaks launching out of the water, with no tuna splashes in sight. I told the guys to cast at the fleeing bait. Bob’s Ocean Lure hit the water and in 2 cranks he was tight to something. A few seconds later, an 85-pound-class white marlin launched itself out of the water and began cartwheeling and greyhounding all around the boat. This was a shock to all of us, but we composed ourselves and Bob was able to best the marlin in around 10 minutes and I was able to get a hand on the leader. Perhaps too good of a hand, as after 20 seconds of playing tug of war on the 100-pound leader I popped the fish off before we could get any glory shots with the camera. It wasn’t a big loss, since the fish was certainly not going to be kept anyway.
As we basked in the glory of the unexpected marlin, the tuna began to show in decent numbers. A short time later, Bob nailed a cast and the Ocean Lure again got blasted, this time by a 60-pound tuna. After 5 minutes and we had meat in the box. A great way to start a run of charters to be sure.
The next day I had Big Mike, his son Mike Jr. and Tom Richardson from BoatingLocal.com on the boat. Tom was looking for a good crew to shoot pictures and video of, and Big Mike has worked with Tom and me in the past. It was the perfect opportunity. We ran out into pea-soup fog and calm conditions. After attempting to hunt tuna on top, we soon realized it just was not going to happen with the zero visibility. So we put out a few swimming plugs and some Hogy’s and began a slow troll around the area. It wasn’t long before we were tight. Big Mike was on the rod and in no time we had a very fat 10-pound bonito in the boat—another surprise for this early in the season. Not the tuna we wanted, but still a welcome guest.
Around noon the fog lifted enough that we were able to get back on the hunt. We coved a ton of ground and found an area with a lot of life, and soon tuna were busting all around us. We had several swings and misses on the Ocean Lures, but none more exciting than the tuna that tracked Big Mike’s lure to the boat before eating it 3 feet off the rod tip. Tom being in the right place at the right time caught the entire eat on video, which you can watch here. The fish was shy, however, and spit the plug when he saw the camera. Not one to wallow in defeat, Big Mikes next cast put him tight to a 60-pound tuna that ended up on ice a mere 4 minutes after eating the Ocean Lure.
I was up next and bested a nice little 45-pound-class tuna in no time flat. This fish was released. While we were chasing tuna, we came upon a thresher shark that was smashing and thrashing a school of hapless halfbeaks. It was an amazing sight to watch the big whiptail tearing up the water. All in all, a pretty good day, and we got some good video as well.
My third trip in 3 days was a charter with good friend and regular sport Jeb. While still on the hunt for a tuna on the fly, we recognized that these fish we not the best choice for the fly-rod attempts. They were the right size, but the highly erratic feeding behavior did not lend itself to close-up shots, so the spinning gear got the call for the day. It proved a good thing, because despite slow showings of fish, when Jeb did get a shot he hooked into a really angry 55” 110-pound tuna that would have been a bear on the long rod. Jeb put the Big Gun/Stella combo through its paces and in 15 minutes I stuck the first fish of the day.
Once the boat was cleaned up, we were back on the hunt. A short time later, Jeb and I got casts into a nice feed and I drew the lucky straw with a 42-inch, 50-pound fish that ate my Ocean Lure. The poor fish didn’t stand a chance against the Big Gun/Stella, and in a minute or so he was winched in with 30 pounds of drag. Two for 2, and we scored the “Over/Under” for the day.
On the ride in, some white water caught our eyes, so we drew closer to check it out. What we thought was tuna turned out to be jumping bluefish. But they were not chasing bait— they were bait! We got up close just in time to watch a 5’ mako launch clear out of the water and catch a 5-pound bluefish in midair. Like a dog with a Frisbee, the mako swam around with its prize for a minute before chomping it into bits. Quite a sight.
It has been a great week on the water and a welcome change from the rubber hooks and heartbreak I’ve been dealing with earlier. Getting a sport the first marlin ever on my own boat is going to be the highlight of my season for sure. But if that were not enough, there is no more exciting fishing that topwater tuna on halfbeaks. The fish are fast and aggressive, and they just can’t pass up an Ocean Lure RTS Halfbeak. It’s almost not fair how well it works. It’s nice, since your shots are short-lived and often at long distance. Having only one long cast to get it done requires a lure that will produce if you hit your target. The RTS Halfbeak casts a mile and just plain gets eaten.
Hopefully this fishing continues and builds. I enjoy the change of venue; mixing it up beats the monotony of going to the same place over and over again. The wide open spaces and lack of any land boundaries lends itself well to the big Contender. We are very fast in nearly all sea conditions, and being able to cover 200 to 260 miles in a day to hunt and locate these fish as they roam around the open ocean is a huge advantage.
Over the next few weeks we will be continuing to chase these school tuna around, as well as run some shark trips. And if the weather permits, we’ll maybe try a canyon run or two. If anyone is interested in getting in on any of these trips, drop me an email. We try not to book much in July and August since the inshore fishing is generally on the slower side. So when offshore opportunities come up and the weather co-operates, we are free to take advantage of them spur of the moment.