Fishing for Bluefin Tuna
Traditionally, Mid Atlantic offshore fishing enthusiasts have probably spent more time fishing for bluefin than any other species of tuna. Bluefin are very exciting to catch and also frustrating at times. Tolling cedar plugs fast in the early part of the season was once a standard technique, although the practice is somewhat of a lost art. In good years, the potential for productive fishing to come is sometimes evident early on by the abundance of sand eels. A sign of a good bluefin year to come is sometimes indicated by bluefish, bonita, and other early season fish that contain large numbers of sand eels in their stomachs. When this happens, anglers may also detect large amounts of bait on hills or other structure near the 20 fathom line. Clouds of bait seen on a fishfinder sometimes precede a knockdown or even multiple hookups.
Early season bluefin tuna fishing sometimes depends on reaching 20 fathoms as quick as possible. By arriving on time and working together, an experienced crew can get the lines in as early as possible in order to catch the morning bite. Popular bluefin tuna lures include a bird, several vinyl squid and a green machine daisy chain on the center line way-way-way back. In some areas, triple cedar plugs are still popular during the early season, including sets of black, blue and white, red and white, and natural. Lures such as natural plugs work well right up close on the flatlines. Also a "zuchinni" tuna clone can be effective when run close to the prop. During early season fishing for bluefin, hookups can be one after another for a couple hours or more. By 9 am the bite is often over as the fleet increases in size. This is a good time to put on a #3 1/2 drone spoon and #2 planer in place of a flatline and exchange the plugs for ballyhoo/seawitch rigs.
By early July, one of two things normally occurs. Either the fish begin to shift their preference from plugs to lures like the green machine run way back and ballyhoo or they quit biting altogether and must be caught by chunking, slow trolling, or other techniques.