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March 16, 2011

Bahamas Yellowfins

Northwest Providence Channel bisects the Bahamas, creating a tuna hunter's paradise.

We were "all alone in the end zone," as I like to say, and about to score - I just felt it. I had eased MARC VI into a frenzy of busting fish and diving terns. Bobby Brack and I free-lined circle hooks hidden inside chunks of bonito and ballyhoo as Terry Flora and Jim Hanrahan pitched handfuls of tidbits to rally the fish. About three minutes into the drift, Brack's bait was eaten. He advanced the drag, wound tight and held on as 50-pound monofilament sped off the reel. We'd hooked our tuna!

Brack brought it to gaff in fairly short order, a 43-pounder. We bled the tuna and buried it in crushed ice in the fish box. But we barely had time to snap pictures of the catch; the fish and birds were back up. We raced to the action as Brack, Flora and Hanrahan readied the gear. Once again I slowed as we approached the fish and edged the boat into the ruckus, and we repeated our tactics. This time Flora hooked up.

Judging by the initial run, the pressure on the rod and how Flora had his hands full, this was a bigger yellowfin. Flora wanted this fish badly; if he was successful, it would be his first. After a long and tough fight, the tiring fish circled deep beneath the boat. Flora maintained his cool, smoothly pumping and regaining line until we got a peek at the tuna some 20 feet down. It was indeed a beauty! A few minutes later he boated his first yellowfin, which scaled 60 pounds.

View Bahamas Yellowfins in a larger map

In Northwest Providence Channel, we were some 42 miles from the Bimini Sands Resort & Marina. We had come for a few days of offshore trolling and reef-fishing. But after raising a single blue marlin to no avail, catching and releasing lots of small dolphin, getting our bellies full of yellowtailing and even catching a big king, we opted to spend this afternoon looking for yellowfin tuna. There were just two minor glitches: I had not brought enough bait to chunk with, nor had we rounded up live baits that morning, and my specially rigged yellowfin chunking outfits - Penn International 16s spooled with 80-pound braid and 50-pound mono top shots - were back at home. No sweat. We'd make it work.