Cape Cod's Bluefin Tuna Fishery

By Captain Ryan Collins

Cape Cod's School Tuna Fishery

The school tuna bite off Cape Cod has been remarkable over the past few seasons. Locations around the globe have sighted decreased landings of bluefin tuna, however the numbers of bluefins off the coast of Plymouth has increased annually.

Many anglers focus their tuna attention on Stellwagen Bank. The Bank is a marine sanctuary that is home to tuna, whales, and a variety of other fish and marine mammals. However there are many tuna haunts other than Stellwagen that produce plenty of school tuna. Fortunately for small boat tuna anglers, the trek to Stellwagen is not always necessary.

The area 3-10 miles off the Plymouth coastline has supported impressive tuna action the past couple seasons and there is reason to believe that it will happen again this year. When tuna are targeting half beaks, the bluefins will often propel themselves straight clear of the water. A 300 plus pound tuna coming clear of the water is an impressive sight to say the least. It is a nice surprise encountering tuna when in transit to and from Stellwagen Bank. Remaing vigilant, and scanning the horizon for surfacing bluefins can reallly pay off.

Throughout the past decade, spin fishing for bluefin tuna has dramatically increased in popularity. Spin fishermen routinely "jig and pop" on Cape Cod with fantastic results. When the fish show on the surface, nothing beats the excitement generated from a slob tuna destroying a top water plug. When the fish stay deep, jigging will present anglers with a reasonable chance at hooking up. Just be sure to beef up your split rings and hooks to tuna standards.

The key is to successfully taking tuna on spinning gear lies in developing a game plan that works for your boat, crew and budget.

The Giant Tuna Bite at Cape Cod

For many fishermen, their ultimate dream is successfully landing a giant bluefin tuna. Giants around Cape Cod have been known to exceed the 1,000 pound mark. Many of these fish are taken on live bait. Mackerel, pogies and bluefish are all prime baits for Cape Cod's giant bluefins..

Readily available throughout June on Cape Cod are Atlantic mackerel. Unfortunately it may take a bit more searching to find them as the month wanes into July. Live lining mackerel under balloons, as well as fishing the colorful speedsters under a kite is always popular amongst the fleet.

Menhaden are another option for live lining a tuna. Menhaden can be cast and gill netted in many of the Cape's back bays and estuaries. Finding and catching live pogies is not an easy task. Expect to invest a lot of time and effort in order to learn the trade. An easier option is paying for live bait. A few very talented Cape Cod locals sell live pogies throughout the tuna season. For a reasonable cost these guys will fill your livewell with menhaden-granted they are able to find the pogies in the first place.

Another option is to fish with live bluefish. Bluefish may indeed be the most desirable of tuna baits, but they are also probably the most difficult to catch and transport to the tuna grounds.

Areas like the Race at Provincetown, Buzzards Bay, and the Cape's southside are all great spots to catch blues. Snapper bluefish also make fantastic tuna bait and can be found in many Cape estuaries. However the extra mileage and time spent making the run to Provincetown or Buzzards Bay for bait really puts a dent in the gas tank, as well as eating up valuable tuna fishing time. Fishing for bait, when you should be fishing for giant tuna, is situation none of us ever want to find ourselves in.

Spending time filling a bait cage with blues prior to a tuna trip is a smart decision. This way you have guaranteed bait the morning of a trip. Transporting snapper and juvenile bluefish from Buzzards Bay to Stellwagen is an entirely different matter; however it can be done and has paid off big for us in the past.

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