Atlantic bluefin tuna is a species of bony fish often sought by avid fishermen for its fierce fight, extreme size, value and taste. Ranging in size from over 300 to almost 1,500 lbs., full sized tuna are not a good quarry for beginning anglers. Experience, strength and the right equipment, from your boat to your reel, are all required to bring these monsters in to shore.
Obtain a permit. A federal permit is currently required to fish for bluefin tuna as the species is in danger of overfishing. Check all current local, state and federal laws before setting out to save yourself time and money.
Find the best location and charter a fishing boat with a captain experienced in fishing for giant bluefins. New England and southeastern Canadian coasts are known for their bluefin fishing, particularly in the early fall. Bluefin can sometimes be found far offshore, requiring a large boat, a winch for truly giant specimens and a fighting chair. You'll also need an experienced captain to pilot the boat once you have a bluefin on the line.
Use the right equipment. When hunting giants, a slingshot may have worked for David against Goliath, but you'll need something more substantial. Use a 130 lb. class rod with 200 to 300 lb. test monofilament line.
Chum the waters. Some fishermen prefer trolling for bluefins but chumming the waters is your best chance for snaring one. Cut bait herring into large chunks and toss them into the water around your hooked bait. Don't pour straight blood in the water or you'll likely hook a shark instead of your desired fish.
Hook your herring chunks. Run your hook through some of the herring chunks you're using as chum. It should be indistinguishable for the fish from the loose bait drifting down from your boat. Set hooked lines out at 30, 60, 90 and 120 feet deep. Change the bait every hour as the scent dissipates. Use balloons as bobbers so you can clearly see when there is a hit on the line.
Get in the chair. Some experienced fishermen choose to fight giant bluefins standing up, but this is neither advisable nor safe. There have been numerous cases of people pulled overboard by these large, fast and strong fish. Always strap yourself into a fighting chair for safety.
Land your giant. Giant bluefins should be harpooned and gaffed when they are alongside the boat. Once they are dead, they can be brought aboard using block and tackle.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep your hand away from the rods and reels when waiting for a bite. Bluefins can bite hard and run fast, which makes for a dangerous combination of fast spinning, high strength line and vulnerable fingers if your hands are near the reel when they take off.
- Always listen to the captain's instructions. People have died while fighting bluefins. Trust the experts and stay safe.
- Resist the urge to grab the line even if your bluefin looks done in. Bluefin have been known to revive and take off again, which can quickly trap you against the gunwale or pull you overboard if you are hanging on to the line.
- Never bring a live bluefin into the boat. The rare bluefin giant can weigh 1,500 lbs. That's almost the equivalent of a Smart Car thrashing around on deck.
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