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March 16, 2011

Bahamas Yellowfins

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

bahamas yellowfin

Bahamas Yellowfins

Northwest Providence Channel divides the Little Bahama Bank and the Great Bahama Bank. To its west, it opens into the Gulf Stream, and to its east, the open Atlantic, where it's referred to as Northeast Providence Channel. Within the waterway are major bottom peaks and valleys, as well as canyonlike depressions. While the Channel isn't influenced directly by the warm and swift-flowing Gulf Stream except along its western mouth, some internal eddying occurs well inside it. As with the United States' mid-Atlantic and Northeast canyons, some of the best fishing occurs when internal eddies wash against pronounced bottom structures and ignite the cycle of nutrient to baitfish to game fish.

It is relatively easy for South Florida anglers to fish the Channel from Palm Beach Inlet, Miami's Government Cut, Haulover Inlet and Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades. Although sharks can become a factor, losing a tuna in the Channel to predation isn't as likely as when tuna fishing in the eastern Bahamas, where sharks are generally a nuisance.

Loading up with live pilchards and chumming yellowfins into a frenzy is the hot ticket. Chunks of frozen sardines, squid, ballyhoo, goggle-eyes, bonito and even mackerel also do the job. During our June Bimini trip, we were bottomfishing when we decided to chase tuna that afternoon. I cut a few dozen ballyhoo, a couple of Spanish mackerel and a bonito we had caught earlier into small chunks, enough to fill a quarter of a five-gallon bucket and give us maybe three shots.

Next I altered our tackle. Our 50-pound trolling gear loaded with high-visibility yellow line was not promising for catching keen-eyed tuna. I replaced the heavy wind-on leaders with 20 feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon and attached each fluoro leader to the Bimini twist in the fishing line with a Bristol knot. I then tied an 8/0 VMC Tournament Circle in-line hook to the fluorocarbon. We were all set. If you go with the intention of targeting tuna, you won't need to make do with tackle. Here's the favored selection.

Rods: Conventional medium-action sticks light enough to hold and fight with but beefy enough for tough tuna.

Reels: Penn International 16 or equivalent matched to rod and sized for a balance of comfort and fighting power.

Lines: 80-pound braid with 200 yards of 50-pound nylon monofilament top shot.

Leaders: 50-pound and 80-pound fluorocarbon.

Hooks: VMC Tournament Circle Hook model 7385, size 8/0, and VMC Tournament Circle Hook model 5789, size 12/0, or equivalents.

Chunks: Bonito, goggle-eyes, mackerel, Spanish sardines and ballyhoo.

Other: A fishing analysis from Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service ( or a similar ocean reporting service provides a great head start when looking for the eddies and significant surface-temperature breaks that aggregate bait and tuna.