The advent of light, high-capacity reels and rods designed for jigging have made traditional heavy-tackle bluefin tactics nearly obsolete. I prefer 51⁄2-foot 200- to 400-gram rods and two-speed conventional reels, spooled with 60- to 80-pound metered braid that changes color every 25 feet. When I see tuna on the fish finder at 75 feet, it’s easy to drop down three colors to the strike zone, rather than guess how much line to let out.
I normally use 40- to 80-pound fluorocarbon wind-on leaders that are attached to the braid with a loop-to-loop connection, which can be wound up through the rod guides, and allows maximum control of the fish at boat-side. I keep it simple with jigs, and use only a few styles such as Stingos, Jersey Jays and Shimano Butterfly jigs, but the old standby diamond jig works too.
A good day on the summer tuna grounds can have you catching double-digit numbers of bluefins. Since limits are conservative and most tuna will have to be released, it provides a good opportunity to tag fish and help gather information that can aid in their conservation. The Atlantic Tuna Project (savethebluefin.com) tagging program feeds data to NOAA’s Cooperative Tagging Center, which helps inform domestic and international fishery-management issues.
The current daily limit for bluefins set by the National Marine Fisheries Service that applies to HMS Angling category vessels is one large school/small-medium bluefin tuna per vessel per day or trip (i.e., one fish measuring from 27 to less than 73 inches). For HMS Charter/Headboat-permitted vessels (when fishing recreationally), the daily retention limit is one school bluefin tuna (27 to less than 47 inches) and one large school/small-medium bluefin tuna (47 to less than 73 inches). These regulations are subject to adjustment during the season, so go to nmfs.noaa.gov, check current regs, and make sure you have the proper permits ahead of time.
What: Bluefin tuna, skipjack tuna, dolphin, Atlantic bonito, false albacore, possibly yellowfin tuna
When: Mid-July through September
Where: 15 to 50 miles east of Manasquan Inlet on the canyons, wrecks, lumps and ridges. At 15 to 30 miles: Arunda, Little Italy, Humpty Dumpty, Monster Ledge, Oil Wreck, HA Buoy, Lillian, Resor, Tolten, north and south Barnegat Ridge. Farther out, from 30 to 50 miles: the Glory Hole out to the Princess Wreck, out to Chicken Canyon. There’s quick ocean access out of Will’s Hole Marina, Manasquan Inlet, well located to go northeast or southeast as necessary.
Capt. Jim Freda
Capt. Gene Quigley
Shore Catch Guide Service
Manasquan, New Jersey
Capt. Rich Kosztyu
Shark River, New Jersey
Capt. Freddie Gamboa
Andreas Toy Charters
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
Do Your Homework
With the high cost of fuel, it’s wise to do your homework if you want to maximize productive running and fishing time. Start on the phone and find out where others have been finding fish. Then hit the computer, and analyze offshore charts for water temperature and turbidity breaks. Ocean-reporting services help. I use Offshore Satellite Services (offshoresatelliteservices.com). I specifically look for temperature breaks between turbid and clean water. These edges act as structure and attract plankton, baitfish and, consequently, the predators. If these edges overlay bottom structure, put those coordinates in the chart plotter as a starting point for the day.