Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: San Bernardino
With the tuna season fast approching I was thinking it might be time for some tackle recomendations. This post isn't intended for you tackle ho's( you know who you are), but rather the guys and gals who are fairly new to this sport.
The tackle used for the most part can be broken down into 2 groups, Bait fishing and trolling.
Let's start with bait fishing first.
If you do not own fishing tackle, thier is gear you can rent.The landings offer rental tackle that comes with a conventational reel such as a penn 500 and load it with 25lb test mono. The reason for this is a 2 fold trade off.
1st reason being lighter line tests such as 15 or 20lb gets bit much better when the fish are being picky than say 30 or 40lb test. Also for the most part the fish your going to catch are under 25lbs and can be handled with lighter line.
So why do they load the reels with 25lb?
Wouldn't it be better to just fill them with 20lb?
No, and the reason is one, if the fish do decide to bite like crazy you don't want to be hindered by lighter line. You will be moving fast following your fish, under and over other angler's rods and they will likely have a fish of thier own on the line. Heavier line like 30 or 40lb holds up much better in tangles than lighter lines do and you will get into some tangles to be sure! 2nd reason is that there are BIG fish out there. There is always a chance of running into larger tunas like Bluefin in the 40 to 60lb class. These fish will just flat out kick your butt on light line and most of the time the get away, but with heavier lb test lines they can be caught. Hence to get a balance of power verses getting the fish to bite in the first place they load the reels with 25lb test.
For those of you that do own or are planning to buy your own gear( if your budget allows for more than just 1 rod and reel setup) the most important setups (2) to get yourself well prepared for what your trip might encounter would be:
1) a 20lb setup. This will be your basic go to rod for almost everything. A good choice here might be a penn 535 or Diawa 30. Match that to a 7ft rod with a fairly light tip and a strong butt section, such as a Seeker 270.
2) A second setup which hold at least 300 yards of 40lb test mono. A Shimano 20/40 is a good choice. You will want to put this reel on a rod with a stiffer tip section and a much stronger butt section. A Seeker 660H or a Calstar 700m would work nicely. This is the setup to use on the bigger fish or when the fish are eating every bait in sight.
Trolling gear: Most of the boats that I know will provide thier passengers with a trolling rod to use when its your turn in the rotation. Only 4 to 5 guys troll while everybody else is waiting for the trollers to get hooked up. This tackle most of the time will be something like a Penn 6/0 filled with 80lb test. The reason for this very heavy line is for 1, the shock to the gear when a 20 lb fish hits it going 20 miles per hour going in a different direction than the boat is trolling. Believe me, YOU KNOW when you get a bite trolling. Another great reason to use the boats gear is that feather the crew has tied on has been getting bit or it would be changed to one that will.
The other reason for the 80lb test is to get that trolling fish to the boat as FAST as you can. The idea behind this is, the rest of the school of tuna will follow the hooked one to the boat and this in turn is how everybody else on the boat will get thier fish on bait.
Well, this is just the basics on tackle and there are other things to discuss, such as hook selection, what size sinkers to use, jig fishing, fishing the slide etc.......I will follow upon those subjects in the weeks to come
The number 1 thing to remember out there is just simply RELAX! You went fishing to have fun and you can't if your all wound up.
Listen to the crew and ASK QUESTIONS! It's their job to get you fish and believe me they want you to catch fish every bit as bad as you do!
On my last post I talked about rod and reel setups and what lb test lines. This post will be centered on bait selection and terminal gear, hooks, sinkers.
The 2 primary baits used in our "local" saltwater tuna fishing are Anchovys and Sardines.
Anchovy's are a small bait fish from about 2 1/2" (pinheads) up to about 6" The best ones will have a nice green or tan colored back with no red spots on the nose or body. The bait you want to use is the one you have a hard time catching in the bait well. Don't try to grab the bait, but rather cup your hand under the bait and gently lift him out of the bait well. If you drop it on the deck forget it and go back for another one. Anchovy's are hands down the #1 bait for Albacore.
Sardine's are larger and huskier than Anchovy's they range from small little "pinheads" of about 21/2" and go up to "horse" of maybe 8"or 9". You want to look for the same back colors and lack of blood spots on the body just like you do with anchovy's along with checking to be sure the bait has all of its scales and has a slimy feel to it. These larger baits are ideal for Bluefin, and Yellowfin Tunas and also Yellowtail. This is not to say you can't catch an Albacore on a Sardine or any of the others on Anchovy's
Some of the other baits you might see would be Green Mackrel, Spanish or Jack Mackrel, and rarely Squid.
Let's talk about hooks. First point I would like to stress on is, You match the hook size to the bait you are using and NOT to the size of the fish your expecting to catch. There are 2 basic type of hooks that are used on our "local Tuna trips. These would be "J" hooks and circle hooks. The J hook is what is most commonly used and the size you use will range from #4 or even #6's for pinhead baits up to #2 to #1/0 for anchovy's and for average Sardine's the size should be 2/0 -3/0. For the really big Sardines you may want to go as big as #5/0 or 6/0. When you get a bite, free spool for a 3 count with anchovys up to maybe a 5 count with sardines. Put the reel in gear and WAIT FOR EVERYTHING TO COME TIGHT before you set the hook.
Circle hooks are a different story. For one thing the sizes are different. I use 1 numerical size smaller than I would for a J hook to match the bait I'm using. Example would be: if using a #2 J hook I would use a #4 circle.
Also the MOST IMPORTANT thing about circle hooks is that you NEVER EVER set the hook by swinging the rod. With circle hooks you put the reel in gear and wait till everything comes tight and then WIND THE REEL. don't lift the rod tip till the fish starts to make a run.
Egg Sinkers; My favorite rig for fishing albacore with anchovy's is a J hook tied onto a 24 inch piece of mono line the same lb test as the reel has on it this is tied to a small ball bearing swivel without snaps on either end. On the main line, I will thread on a 1/2 to 3/4oz egg sinker. For Sardines you may want 1oz on upwards of 3 or 4oz's This is my personal favorite rig, but you can rig this in a number of different ways. One way is to eliminate the swivel. This lets the sinker rest right on the eye of the hook. It works, but I think you get better results with a leader.
You can also use a toothpick and jam it into the sinkers hole after you space yourself out a length of leader. Or you can use a split shot. BECAREFUL not to pinch on the split shot to hard or you will nick the line making it much weaker.
The size of your sinker will varies depending on a number of things such as wind speed, how deep the fish are holding etc... Listen to the crew for recomendations on sinker size.
Rubbercore sinkers: These are twist on sinkers with a rubber band in the middle. You lay the line in the slot and twist the tabs on the ends of the sinker in different directions They vary in weight from 1/4oz up to something like 2oz A drawback to using these is that they spin and twist your line.
Torpedo sinker; I use these sometimes instead of the egg sinker rig I mentioned above. My main reason for this is sometimes the added flash of a CHROME torpedo will trigger strikes when the fish are being picky. Try this trick during the britest part of the day.
All this brings us to how to hook your bait:
Gill Hooking: These small baits are somewhat fragile and you need a bit of a delicate touch to hooking them. The placment of where to put the hook depends on how much weight your using. If less than 3/4oz the best way I believe is to "gill" hook them. This not on the baits gill plate but rather just under the bone on the anchovy's body directly behind the gills. Hooked in this fashion your bait will swim well away from the boat and out to the fish your after.
Nose Hooking: If your using more weight and or there is alot of current (drift) you will want to hook them across their nose. Look for the white spot on the tip of their nose. This is where you put your hook thru. Try NOT to injure the baits eyes as this will kill the bait in a hurry. Also another side benifit to hooking your bait this way is if you reel your bait back in slowly you may very well get bit.
The same spots as anchovy's apply to sardine's also with the added location of butt hooking them. There are 2 ways to hook them this way. Across the the fishes body abody about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the sardines anus. The second way is to place the hook point directly into the sardine's anus and up into the fishes body leaving only the hooks shaft and eyelet showing. If done right the hook will be clost to the sardine's body and the eye of the hook will be pointing towards the fishes tail. Sardines hooked in this way will swim fast and will go deep. Just keep a very slight tension on the line and it will swim straight away and hopfully right at a big hungry Bluefin.
This about covers the basics for hooks and sinkers. Next post will cover use of Iron Jigs and soft plastic lures
This part will deal with both, Live bait and artificial lures. There is just something special about tricking a fish into biting a lure. A plus side to this way of fishing is that it's quite common for the larger fish to be caught this way. There are 2 types of lures I plan to talk about here. They are "iron" jigs and soft "plastics". There are also 2 different ways to fish these lures. 1 way is called "fishing the slide" and the other is after the boat is stopped and drifting.
Let's start with fishing the slide:
Your trolling along waiting for a jig strike...... (this could last for a couple of minutes or hours).... All of a sudden the words HOOK UP!!!! are being screamed LOUDLY! This is to alert the Capt. that a school has been located. The Capt. will begin slowing the boat to a stop. In the few moments it takes to stop and while the boat is still sliding forward, there is a golden time that the chance to get a bite are VERY MUCH better than after then boat has come to a complete stop. Getting a bait or lure out during this time is called fishing the slide. 2 Very important things to remember here. Make sure the boat you are on ALLOWS fishing the slide (some boats don't) The second thing is if fishing the slide is allowed, is that you NEVER EVER DROP YOUR LURE OR BAIT IN AT THE STERN. You must cast out to the side, as far as you can in order to stay clear of the trollers and the fish they drawing close to the boat.( this is where your practice casting will really pay off) Let your lure or bait free spool back (with a light tension with your thumb on the spool) Let it go back 100 to 150 yards before putting the reel in gear. ** As a note here the vast majority of fish that bite your lure will bite it as it's sinking back** OK so now your back there and you didn't get a strike, it's time to wind it back to the boat and fish the drift. Don't just wind it back as fast as you can but rather wind it at a meduim speed and stop and pause every 5 to 10 cranks of the handle. Something about these pauses makes the fish strike your offering HARD, so be alert. I believe the best Lures for this are the soft plastics and small to meduim sized chrome and blue HEAVY jigs
( For those of you that have fished the half day or three quarter day boats before and were issued a number at the rail to fish from, FORGET IT. This is Tuna fishing and NOBODY owns a spot at the rail. Everybody does what has been dubbed "The Tuna Shuffle" which I'll get back to in a moment)
1ST rule here is ALWAYS FISH WITH THE WIND IN YOUR FACE. Most boats that I know of drift a little bit stern first. This means that you get your bait, pin it on, go to the stern, pick an open spot and cast out **ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE ON YOUR JIG OR BAIT WHEN CASTING** It's a big Ocean, you can't miss it but you could hook somebody if your not careful. Now your bait is out there - let it pull line off and swim freely or if a jig sink freely. keep a very slight tension on it so you know where it is. NOW FOLLOW YOUR BAIT!! This is the tuna shuffle. Every 10 to 15 seconds take a step to your left or right depending on which side you are on that will take you up towards the bow.
**Another note here is if your using an iron jig, just drop yours in about half way up the windy side and let it sink at least 200 ft. then wind it back at a meduim to fast speed till you can see your jig and if no biters drop it down again**Watch for strikes on the SINK!!
Now this part, some may argue, but in my experience, if all the fish you are catching are Albacore begin winding your bait back in about half to 3/4's the way up the boat. Get a NEW FRESH BAIT and do it all over again. If BLUEFIN are in the mix then continue all the way up to the bow. I know that on the Mustang the bow is "Bluefin Paradise" Most are hooked up there.
This a post from another Allcoaster "Rubes" and contains useful information.
1. Trollers, wind your jigs in fast on a jig stop regardless if you have a fish on. Yes this means you won't be in on the slide if you're on a troll rod. If you have a fish on, wind it back to the boat as fast as you can. It should not take very long to land a 20 pound tuna on 60 - 80 pound test. This brings the school back to the boat so others can catch the school. I've been out on three trips this June where trollers are leaving their troll rods unattended, a very bad move.
2. Keep moving your feet toward the bow of the boat, with wind in your face. If your feet are facing the stern how can you keep moving forward? If you need to put your elbows on the rail, go to your bunk. If you're not constantly shuffleing then problems will occur. If you stop moving you create gaps between anglers and some dork will inevetably drop a bait in the middle and tangle everyone. Which brings up another important point.
3. Cast or drop your bait in the water at the downwind corner of the stern and move in an orderly fashion around the corners. When you cut in line or cast over everyone we all get tangled.
4. Keep your live bait line tight. Let em swim but don't feed out a bunch of line the fish can't keep up with. Loose lines make for a mess when someone has a fish on.
5. Pay attention to your line. If you don't know where your line is how will you know if your over or under someone else? Wear Poloroid glasses so you can see your line.
6. Once you hook up, follow your fish. If someone else is hooked up let them follow their fish. If the say under, then raise your rod and step back to let them pass. If they say over then duck and let them pass. Don't just stand there like a statue.
**end of insert**
These lures are made up of a weighted jig head 2 to 2 1/2oz work best,and the plastic tail is threaded on the jig hook up to the base of the weight. Some of the better brand names for these are Fish Trap and Big Hammer. The colors of choice are "Channel Islands 'chovy", Purple Haze, Sardine and last season the brightly colored Zuchini. Get yourself a small tube of super glue and glue the plastics on to the hook or leadhead. If your plan is to fish these lures just remember that you'll need a new plastic tail after EVERY fish and sometimes after every bite.
These lures I believe are the best ones to use on the slide but after the boat has stopped I favor the Iron Jigs or bait.
This is the place where your new 40lb rig comes into play. fishing these lures on your light tipped 20 or 25lb rig just doesn't cut it.
The jigs I'm referring to here are the HEAVY, medium to small jigs. Brand names such as Salas's 6xjr and christyII, Tady TLC, Fire Iron #5 and Mega Bait in the 5 and 6inch sizes are just a few of the one's out on the market. If possible get these rigged with a large single hook instead of the regular treble. These hooks hold much better in a Tuna's mouth than does a treble hook. Notice now I said HEAVY and not light jigs. Light jigs have there place but this isn't it. As for colors Chrome/Blue, followed by all chrome, Blue/white, Dorado and the purple Mega Bait are the best choices.
This style of fishing is called yoyo fishing and is done as described above and if your lure gets deep with out a hit point the rod torwards the jig and start winding it back to the boat. If you get a bite resist the urge to swing but rather keep on winding till line slips off your reel from the drag. Then you can set the hook and pump your prize up from the depths
Well this is long enough for this post. Part 4 is to follow
In this section were going to cover some non fishing topics but are still very much related to your trip.
These would include what other things to bring to make your trip enjoyable, such as clothing, bunkrooms, seasick meds, ect....
Clothing: It is important to remember that it is much colder 60 to 80 miles offshore than it is on the beach. While it might have been a steaming hot sunny summer day with temps over 100 degrees at home, out on the tuna grounds it could very well be Cloudy, drizzling and 50 degrees! I suggest that you bring at least 2 changes of clothes for a 1 day trip. DON'T FORGET your heavy jacket!
What I do is dress in layers, A pair of long johns (early and late season) and bluejeans. For shirts I wear a tee shirt, a long sleeve flannel shirt, topped off by a sweat shirt. You can take these off as conditions warrant.
You might want to invest in a pair of "shorty" deck boots. I suggest that you get a pair of the better boots as your feet will get quite sore if you spend the whole day on your feet in the cheap ones. Look for some sort of padding in the inside soles of the boots
Also don't forget to bring your personal hygine items such as, tooth brush and paste, hair brush and or comb, a towel, shampoo and soap. Put all of these into a large ziplock bag. Most of the boats have a shower in the "head" (bathroom). It feels great to be clean on the ride home!
Bunkrooms: The boats have either a single bunkroom with lower, middle and upper bunks in 3 or 4 rows in the lower part of the boat. Some of the boats have staterooms that have 3 to 6 bunks in each one. The boats with state rooms generally charge more money for their ticket price.
A few of the boats assign you to a stateroom or a bunk, but most are first come first served. In this case you have to choose which bunk you want. The best bunks are the ones closest to the middle of the boat and the lower bunk is better than the uppers. The closer you get towards to bow the rougher the ride is. This is important since the ocean isn't always calm. Try your best to get a good nights sleep before your fishing starts in the morning.
And finally 1 last thing about the bunkrooms that is very very important to remember.....That golden rule is.....
THOU SHALT NOT EVER GET SICK AND THROWUP IN THE BUNKROOM!!
If you are feeling seasick and feel as though your going to get sick GET OUT OF THE BUNKROOM.
If you are traveling at night and your going to get sick just throw up on the outside deck or in the trash cans.Don't worry about the mess on the deck. The deckhands will wash it down. DO NOT throwup OVER THE SIDE... A wave could knock you overboard and if that happens the chance of survival are slim at best. Even if someone happens to see you go over and alerts the Capt. its almost impossible to find somebody in the water at night.
Seasick Medications: There are about a half dozen kinds of motion sickness meds on the market and some work better than others I suggest that before your trip make a visit to your family Doctor and ask him about which one he would recomend. I personally use Transderm Scop (scopolamine patch). This is a prescription only medication. One thing to remember is you must take your medicine at least 1 hour BEFORE you get on the boat. In my experience, the meds will only make you sicker if you wait until your at sea and sick.
Ilegal drugs and Alcohol: Leave them at home!! The boats have a zero tolerance policy, meaning if your found to be caring them or caught using they will be taken away and the police will be waiting for you at the dock. Enough said.
Fish Cleaning and Gratuities or Tipping: The boats charge about $5 dollars per tuna to fillet or gut your fish. I highly recomend that you have your fish filleted. It saves a huge job when you get home and believe me when you get home you'll be in no mood to clean fish!! All your going to want to do is hit the sack!! You don't have to get them all filleted. you can trade some for smoked tuna or cans at the dock. I believe the rate right now is something like 6lb of your tuna to 1 can. The rates change though so don't hold me to it.
It's a common practice to tip at about 10% of your ticket price if you had a good time. This means the crew took care of your needs and were friendly and helpful.Were they there when you got in a tangle? Did they stay with you during your battle with a fish? Were they polite and respectful? Did the galley cook serve you well? Was the food good? These are the things to base your tip on. Don't base your tip on whether your caught lots of fish or not. As a final note, the crew makes most of thier living off of tips. The deckhands are not getting rich out there. they work this job cause they love fishing and the ocean so much!!
Well thats about all I have to say except HAVE A GREAT TRIP! and we (boat crews Capts. and passengers) Hope to see you out on the water again!!
Thank You and Welcome Aboard.