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January 05, 2010

North Carolina Cold-Weather Blackfin Tuna

Hefty off-season tuna take the dead out of winter off Hatteras.

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

The key to catching blackfinsis weeding out the false albacore and amberjack. "You have to decipher blackfin marks from other fish on your fish finder," Capt. Scott Warren stresses. Once a skipper knows what to look for, it is possible to search out the schools of tuna while avoiding the other fish. Warren says that blackfins can occur on any of the many rock piles 20 to 30 miles from the inlet. "We usually start at the 230 rock and then work our way up to the 250, 260 and 280 rocks," he says, referring to the loran coordinates of each structure. "The tuna aren't always on top of the rocks either," he adds, explaining that strong current will often chase the fish into the lee of the structure. Another good place to look for blackfins is on any of the wrecks in the same vicinity. Water temperature plays a big part in the equation too. Warren looks for temps from 63 to 70 degrees but admits one of his best days was in dirty, green 59-degree water. When the tuna are absent from the rocks, Warren runs out to the edge of the Gulf Stream and looks for the fish on the temperature break. "You've got to be a fisherman and find the fish," he says.

What: Blackfin tuna.

Where: Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. The only launch ramp is located behind Teach's Lair Marina.

When: December through March.

Who: Hatteras has one of the best charter fishing fleets on the east coast, so you won't have a problem finding a ride to the tuna grounds. Here are three top captains to get you on your way to a day of great blackfin action.

Capt. Scott Warren
The Big Tahuna

Capt. Jim Bowman
Marlin Mania Charters

Capt. Andy Piland
Good Times Sportfishing