Joe Mahler / www.markerjockey.com
3. Chum Them Up
Unlike deep fishing or dropping back, chumming is an up-close-and-personal style of tuna fishing - it's a lot of fun. You can often get the fish to come in very close to the boat, making this method visually exciting as well as productive.
Another option for enticing wary yellowfin involves chumming. Live bait works best but can be difficult to procure in the Bahamas. Cut-up chunks of baitfish work just about as well, and you can bring them with you from home.
When you find yellowfin but have difficulty catching them with conventional methods, go into stealth mode. Shut off your engines and even your generator to drift quietly. Set up a steady flow of chum, live or dead, to attract the fish to the boat. It's amazing how close you can bring them when the boat isn't moving or making noise.
Drift a nose-hooked live bait back while tossing freebies. If you lack live bait, bury a circle hook in a chunk and let it drift back with the other chunks, taking care not to put pressure on the hook bait, thereby making it look unnatural. If the tuna are feeding in a specific area, your stream of chum will get their attention almost every time.
Several years ago, we used this method while fishing out of Harbour Island on a reef known as Dutch Bars. Tuna fishing had been slow, with mainly small fish biting on top, a mixed bag of little yellowfins and blackfins. My wife tossed out a live pilchard on a 20-pound spinning rod, expecting a small tuna - she caught two small ones before a third crashed the bait in a huge boil.
The big yellowfin took her to the spool of the reel twice as it went deep, but it finally rose to the surface, where we got a good look at it and realized how big it was. We backed down on the fish for over an hour before sinking the gaff into it. The fish weighed 135 pounds back at the dock, and no one else caught a tuna close to its size all week. Without the combination of stealth and live bait, we wouldn't have either.