Outer Banks Tuna
Bluefin jigging and popping has been standard practice in the Northeast for some time but has just caught on in the Outer Banks, with some ferocity.
Rods: Trolling gear has always been bent-butt rods matched with 130-class reels, but new composite jigging rods are taking over fast. Try a Shimano Trevala TFC58H, Penn Torque TJ8013C58 or MC-Works 5-foot Ultimate Monster SD538XX.
Reels: Trolling reels 80- to 130-class, conventional 20-pound-class reels or Shimano Stella 20000 spinning reels for jigging.
Lines: Braided line reigns supreme. Use a 100-pound braid running line with a wind-on leader system.
Lures: Trolled ballyhoo, Shimano or Williamson butterfly jigs, Shout Shab Shab jig or Yo-Zuri Hydro poppers.
The Outer Banks bluefin tuna fishery really opened up only in the mid-’90s and has had some up and down years since then, but Diamond Shoals consistently holds fish close to shore, with easy access out of Hatteras, Morehead City and other Outer Banks ports. Hatteras seas are unpredictable and volatile, and you really need to schedule a three-day window to ensure some fishable time, because seas can range from one to 14 feet and back in the course of a day.
What: Medium-class to giant bluefin tuna 100 to 900 pounds.
When: December through March, with federal regulations constantly changing. Call 888-USA-TUNA (888-872-8862).
Where: Diamond Shoals and surrounding areas out of Hatteras.
Who: Capt. Dan Rooks
A Note on Conservation and Handling
The bluefin fishery off the Outer Banks has remained strong, but giant bluefin tuna stocks are in trouble worldwide. The cause of their demise has been debated to death, but all arguments seem to point to the flouting of laws by the Mediterranean commercial fleets as a major factor. As U.S. recreational anglers play catch-and-release with bluefins, it is important that we beat fish as fast as possible and extract the hook with the tuna in the water. If you have to bring a large tuna on board to measure it for the icebox, Tuna Duck mate Mike Edwards has the method: “Slip the tuna through the transom door as carefully as possible with a gaff in the lower jaw; insert a running saltwater hose in its mouth to keep the oxygen moving over the gills; measure it; and quickly determine if it is to be kept or released. If it’s a release, slip it right back through the transom door headfirst.” Everybody loves a money shot, especially of their first large tuna, so if you do take photos for a release, either lie down next to the fish or hold it by the tail, but do not lift it up vertically. The tuna should not be in the boat for more than 45 seconds if you are releasing it, so plan accordingly and move fast to ensure the survival of the magnificent fish. For information on tuna tagging and conservation efforts, contact Tag-A-Giant: 631-539-0624; www.tagagiant.org.