If you fish offshore from Long Island or New Jersey you already know that the canyon season has been different. The water has been generally cooler, especially around the Hudson Canyon. While there have been some large and sustained Gulf Stream interactions in the form of warm core eddies from Block Canyon to the East and in the Southern Canyons (Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington), not much of it has found its way into the massive Hudson.
Ah, but that doesn’t mean the tuna fishing in the Hudson has been nonexistent. Quite the opposite is true. Even without major warm water masses and the cooler, blue-green water found there the fishing has been interesting, sort of a throwback to my experiences canyon fishing twenty or more years ago when bigeye and longfin tuna made up a good portion of the seasonal catch and offshore water temps were generally cooler.
The bigeye and longfin are back in good numbers and the not-quite-so-blue water is no problem for them as long as there is plenty of forage. I remember back in the day Tred Barta used to say, “fish the dirty cold side of temp breaks for bigeye” and while the water isn’t exactly dirty, it is cool. It seems the bigeye come in around the edges of the warm eddies, but once they find forage they aren’t leaving and there has been plenty of squid in the Hudson this year. The profusion of marine mammals is a dead giveaway. Black pilot whales and the ghost-like silver-gray Risso’s dolphins have been hunting the Hudson for weeks and are a sure sign there are massive shoals of squid in the area.
On a recent trip aboard the Reely Hooked owned by Dr. Ken Klein, we fished the East Wall and while the water temperature never rose much above 70 degrees and was actually cooler most of the time, we found upwellings where the water was super clean and full of life. The whales and dolphins were so thick in these spots that it was almost like fishing in Sea World watching the Risso’s surfing the waves and the pilot whales massed in amazing numbers. There had been a red hot bigeye bite the day before, but we had to settle for a nice catch of longfin that seemed very happy to jump on dark-colored spreader bars around first light and pretty much anything green later in the day.
Which leads me to another throwback thought—the past few years meat was very effective so a cooler full of rigged ballyhoo was always in the cockpit. Not so much now. The longfin and bigeye seem to turn their noses up on the meat in favor of good old plastic squids and Green Machines, just like in days of old. Our daytime longfins all hit Green Machines behind soft birds dropped back behind spreader bars run off the ‘riggers. Reports from other boats indicate that the more lures you had in the water the better your chances of hooking up. Some boats ran six spreader bars with a few lures scattered around the pattern, and dredges are definitely helping bring the fish up, but most are filled with plastic squids rather than rigged natural baits.
If you’ve never fought a bigeye tuna you’re in for a treat, or some backbreaking work, depending on your idea of a good time. They are incredibly strong and seem to never give up. I think you reel in the last 100 feet of line about a hundred times when there is a large bigeye on the other end.
If this continues the fall fishing in the Hudson could be epic, just like the old days. Maybe we’ll cross wakes while pulling the plastic in the Hundred Square.