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August 21, 2012

Canada’s Maritime Tuna Return

Fish the best heavy-tackle tuna action in North America

Going Native
Most charter boats have the basic gear you’ll need, but you should make sure to bring the essentials to fish comfortably: warm clothing, rain gear, bibs, an overcoat and good boots. Be sure the boat is outfitted properly with quality tackle and a fighting chair; many of the local boats are not exactly up to date or equipped with the best gear. You may want to bring new line, hooks and leader material to supplement what the boat has unless you have fished on it and know it is fully and properly stocked.

The boats you’ll fish from are single-screw lobster boats, which add to the charm and mystique of the trip but also add transit time to and from the fishing grounds, and difficulty in fighting the fish. Bring your camera, and allow enough time for weather days and sightseeing. The Canadian Maritimes in the summer and fall are beautiful.


Because we were fishing for an extended time and I wanted to be prepared for everything, we drove to Canada with a truckload of gear, including four specially built unlimited tuna rods and 130-class reels, two 80-pound outfits, a fighting chair, bait rods, kite rods and kites, helium, leads, tag sticks, line, leader, rigging tools, crimps, crimpers, hooks, and wind-ons — you name it; we brought it.

Rods: Four unlimited rods with quality AFTCO Big Foot roller guides.

Reels: 130-pound-class two-speeds.

Lines: 130-pound high-visibility Magibraid Dacron backing, IGFA 130-class clear or smoke mono, 220-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader.

Tackle: An AFTCO Maxforce III GBR harness, Mustad 10/0 3X Strong Ultrapoint Demon Perfect Circle hooks, 240-pound SPRO swivels, multi-wind kites, two kite rods and reels, a large spin rod with assortment of large hookless swimming and popping plugs for getting topwater bites, sabiki bait rigs, R&R Tackle bait dehookers, two bait rods and calibrated crimpers, crimping sleeves, and rigging gear.

Tuna fishing in Canada is highly regulated, and rules vary from province to province. In PEI, you’re allowed one fish per trip. We split our day, fishing a half-day in the morning, heading in for lunch and then going back out for our second half-day trip, which gave us the opportunity to catch two fish in one day.

In Nova Scotia, you’re also allowed one fish per trip, but the distance to the fishing grounds makes a day split into two trips inconvenient. The rules, called Fishing Conditions, specify you are allowed up to four strikes per day, with a strike considered from zero to 45 minutes.

You are allowed one hookup, defined as fighting the fish from 45 to 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, fish must be cut off. In Nova Scotia, line cannot exceed IGFA-rated 130-pound-test, and the fish must be fought from a chair.

In PEI, it is accepted practice to leave the rod in the covering board, as few boats have proper fighting chairs and there is no limit on line strength. Some boats use tackle that is less than sporting, which disqualifies potential IGFA world records. It’s hard to set records here because a harvest permit cannot be filled by a paying charter. I watched several anglers attempt stand-up fishing, but few succeeded due to broken rods, blown-up reels and less-than-agile boat handling.


To learn how to make the perfect wind-on leader for big tuna, check out the photo gallery at the top of the page or see the instructional video below:


What: Giant bluefin tuna.

When: July through September.

Where: Canadian Maritime Provinces.

Who: For more information on regulations and fishery statistics, consult Fisheries and Oceans Canada at

Prince Edward Island
Capt. Scott Bruce

Nova Scotia
Capt. Darrell Neary
Hey Man’s Honey

Travel/accommodations: The charter skipper you book can advise you on accommodations and transfer details.

Frequent commercial flights serve Charlottetown, PEI, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The closest hotel in PEI for North Lake is the Inn at Bay Fortune (902-687-3745).

Antigonish has several hotels, including the Antigonish Evergreen Inn (902-863-0830) and Oceanfront Shanties (902-867-1985).