Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No. 1 - Page 9

by Patrick Lemire Rod & Reelin’ TUNA FISHING Simplified inter... when tuna are the primary target species for many fishing our offshore Gulf waters. Casting topwater poppers, hard and soft bodied swimbaits along with speed and butterfly type jigs, are a route taken by most. There is another way (there always is); using “Carolina rigging”, and for more simplification, a nose hooked sardine. “Tuna Fishing Simplified”, it’s what this piece is all about. A Carolina rig, with its slip weight above the swivel and leader, is the easy way to go as opposed to casting the options previously mentioned. It’s as simple as it gets and has worked for many years, but is under used when targeting yellowfin and blackfin tuna. The slipweights generally used are in the one half to two ounce size range, depending upon the strength of the current and depth of the tuna. Since most of this type of fishing will be done while on overnight partyboat trips, listen to the captain on the P.A. for what depth the tuna are being marked. Adjusting the slipweight size gets your bait presentation into the strike zone. Old, or “seasoned”, slipweights and their dulled surface are preferred so as not to give off a distracting flash...stealth is best. If your slipweights are shiny, do as I do and spray paint them flat gray. The slipweights I’ve used for years are Quick Change slip leads. They give you the ability to attach and remove them from your line without cutting and re-tying at each weight change. Americanbandit.com has them on their website. Beyond the swivel of your choice, is the leader of 80 to 130 lb. mono with my “Poor Man’s Fluorocarbon” treatment, or one of fluorocarbon. Sufix Superior is the mono I have used as leader material for years. The one reason is simple; their leader spooled mono is 10% to 25% thinner than other brands I’ve taken the time to measure. For instance, their 60 lb. is about 10% thinner than others; 130 lb. is about 25% thinner. If it’s thinner, it’s that much harder for a tuna to see... stealth again. Five to seven feet swivel-to-hook gets the job done. Hook sizes for circle or “J” hooks are roughly about the size of a quarter across the bend area. A non-slip mono loop knot at the hook works for all the reasons outlined in my piece in the last issue, especially with a circle hook, or use your knot of choice. All that hook needs now is a Spanish sardine of about 5 to 6 inches nose-hooked on it. Circles also should be inline and not offset. An option of fishing this rig is to eliminate the slipweight if the tuna have appeared in the near-surface area. When fishing any of the rigs described, drift your sardine out to the “edge of the light” at a minimum, especially when W fishing shallow, and 175 to 200 ft., at a maximum. Give the sardine a “rod tip twitch” every thirty seconds or so as it drifts out. This gives an ‘alive’ look to your sardine. The sardine’s flash, plus vibration at the twitch are also strike attractors. When using a sardine, in particular, the wind back after a long drift should be done with rhythmic half turns of the reel handle combined with occasional rod tip twitches. These rigging and fishing methods will give the chance of a high success rate when fishing for yellowfin or blackfin tuna to just about anyone out there. It’s not magic, just logically simple rigging that works and has shown up on recent overnight trips again. There are partyboats across the Gulf coast that offer these trips. Check local websites for availability and timing. The partyboat I fish on, the Capt. John out of Pier 19 in Galveston, has had some of that recent success. A pair of fishermen, one from the Texas panhandle, the other from Oklahoma, had never been tuna fishing, much less offshore. Using boat supplied tackle and Carolina rigged Spanish sardines, one had a 65 pounder and the other brought three yellowfin to gaff from 55 to 70 pounds. The next trip produced yellowfin for a couple of guys who make very few tuna trips, with 60 and 65 pound yellowfins taken again on Carolina rigged Spanish sardines. The following trip had one of them with a 70 pounder, again Carolina rigged Spanish sardines did the trick. While these yellowfins aren’t monsters, they are representativ