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Fish Tales

 

Carolina Bluefin

 

Mike Moulton shares his experience as he tries some far coast tuna trolling ...


On February 15th, Jim Strode, Red Jones and I flew to Wilmington, North Carolina to meet my son who had arranged a bluefin tuna fishing trip out of Cape Hatteras. We arrived on Saturday night and stayed over Sunday to see the sights and play some golf.

Monday at around 11AM we left with my son Mike for Cape Hatteras. We arrived in Hatteras at around 7PM after a couple of ferry rides across the Pamlico Sound. We located the motel at which we would be staying, checked in, and then went to the marina to find our boat, TARHEEL. After that we went out to dinner and then home to bed. The next morning we arrived at the boat at 6:30AM. The skipper and mate were waiting for us as we left the dock, fueled and took off through the Hatteras Inlet heading north.

After about an hour's ride we set out three trolling lines, one from the flybridge with a rigged ballyhoo and two from the cockpit rigged with menhaden. All the baits had #10 circle hooks. The water temperature was 70°F and the air temperature around 60°F - you could see the steam coming off the water.

We trolled for about fifteen minutes when we had our first hookup from the flybridge rod. The skipper said he was getting a lot of meter marks, so we started chumming with chunk bait. Mike was the first up on the rotation, and he brought in a nice 175-lb fish that was tagged and released (if one of your tagged fish is caught at a later time, the state of North Carolina notifies you and sends you a certificate). In no time at all we had a school of tuna working the stern of the boat and by noon we had released 12 fish ranging in size from 175 to 300 pounds. At times we had three fish hooked and working. We finally called it a day at 3PM when we had tagged and released 21 fish. We were 18 miles offshore and fishing in 40 fathoms of water. The reels were Shimano Tiagra 80W's with 200 yards of 175-LB mono and 130-lb dacron backing. When you got down to the dacron while fighting a fish, you knew you were in for a hard fight.

The TARHEEL was a custom Carolina boat, 55 feet long with a 16 1/2 foot beam, powered by a single 12V71 Detroit Diesel. With its high flared bow and light weight, we were doing 20 knots going home, a nice smooth ride. The next day we again took off around 7:30 and headed to the same place as the day before. Upon arriving we again could see a fleet of about fifty boats and a number of gillnetters working the menhaden and bluefish schools (more than likely this is what brings the tuna to this area every year). Today instead of using whole baits we only used chunk baits as this was the only thing the fish would take. It wasn't long before we had a hookup and we knew it was big when it got down to the dacron. We saw proof if this we got the fish to the stern. It was estimated to be over 400 pounds, and we tagged and released it.

During the time my son Mike was working the fish we brought in two other tunas in the 250-lb class which were released. By noon we had released 19 fish and we were all getting tired. We kept working the school with chunk bait all day and when we quit at 2:30 we were the only boat on the school. The largest fish caught on the second day was estimated at over 450 pounds and was another of those fish that went down to the dacron after being hooked. When we left, the skipper called other boats in on the school. The total count for the two days was 48 bluefin tuna tagged and released. One fish that was tail wrapped was kept. We also lost another 15 fish due to broken and crossed lines.

I don't think I'll ever see another two days of fishing like this.