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
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