How to fish for tuna

Blackfin tuna is the smallest of all the tuna. Usually not reaching more than 46 pounds blackfins have football-shaped bodies, black backs with yellow on their finlets, and have a fading gold color that runs along the body. Blackfin feed on the surface as well as down deep for fish and squid but are usually caught on the surface trolling. Like some other bluewater fish, they are fast-growing short-lived fish. They rarely lived to be five years old. They may be a smaller tuna but what they lack in size they make up for by their ferocious appetite for bait and their abundance.

How to fish Blackfin Tuna

Blackfin tuna offshore are pound for pound some of the best fighters in the ocean. At the Marathon humps, there are a few different ways to catch tuna. Trolling, jigging, and live bait are the best ways to catch them. Trolling bait is the conventional way to catch tuna. Following the schools of birds and seeing tuna shoot out of the water into the air tearing up a big pod of baitfish is a very cool thing to see.

Most of the tackle we use is 20 pound for trolling. Deep jigging is also a very productive way to catch tuna, while it is a little more work. Feeling the strike is extremely fun. You also more regularly catch bigger tuna. Dropping down live bait is a very effective way of catching large blackfin tuna also. Bycatch while jigging or livebaiting can produce very hard fighting amberjacks that can weigh up to 100 pounds. It can take every inch of energy you have to land them.

Once it makes it to your table, blackfin tuna is very good either raw (sushi), seared or fully cooked. It’s all delicious, especially when you know how fresh it really is. If you are totally worn out after a full day of charter fishing catching fish, I can tell you which local eateries will prepare your meal the best for you.

Check out our Florida Keys Fishing Calendar for an approximate idea of the best season for tuna and other Florida Keys fishing. Contact Captain Brent Kindell at 305-481-9018 or contact form to catch tuna aboard one of our Marathon fishing charters!

How to fish for tuna

Live baiting is usually the most productive method for catching yellowfin tuna. Some of the most common live baits used when tuna fishing in the gulf are threadfin herring, menhaden/pogies, blue runners/hardtails, and mullet. When choosing a live bait for tuna fishing, you want to “match the hatch.” Whatever the tuna are feeding on that time of year is the type of live bait you want to use. Tuna feed on different bait fish at different times of the year, so matching the hatch is how you select bait for tuna.

Live Bait Presentation for Tuna

Live baiting is usually the most productive method for yellowfin tuna fishing but presentation is key. The most effective live bait presentation for catching yellowfin is achieved by collar hooking the bait. To collar hook a bait, you want to hook the bait on the back side of the gills on top of the fish. You also want to match the hook to the size of the bait, bigger hooks for larger and/or stronger swimming baits and smaller hooks for the smaller baits. A nose hooked bait keeps the bait on the surface which makes for those dramatic top-water bites, but it isn’t the most consistent presentation. Live baiting with multiple lines in the water can be difficult to manage if there is too much slack in the line. Keeping the line fairly tight by using the current and wind to your advantage will help you avoid a tangled web of baits.

Best Live Bait for Tuna Fishing

The right bait is crucial for tuna fishing. Tuna feed on different baits depending on the season, so if you have every bait but the one they want, you’re going to have a hard time. Take the necessary time to get the right bait and it will pay dividends.

A livewell full of bait doesn’t always guarantee a boat full of fish. Tuna feed and key in on species specific baitfish at certain times of the year. Catching and fishing with the correct live bait at the right time of year is crucial when you are targeting tuna. To be successful when tuna fishing, you need to take the necessary time to catch the right live bait and it will pay dividends.

How to Find Tuna in the Gulf of Mexico

You can catch tuna in a lot of different variables, so the main consideration when trying to find tuna is food. Tuna like to eat, so if you find the bait, you’ll find the tuna. You can use services like Hilton’s Offshore that will tell you altimetry, which is where your bait is going to be. If you find the bait and structure that will hold the fish, you’ll have a good day of tuna fishing on the Gulf of Mexico.

Best Conditions for Catching Tuna

Is it better to catch tuna in sunny or overcast conditions? For Captain Kevin Beach, the preference is overcast, 1 to 2-foot chop with some dirtiness to the water. You can use heavier leaders if the water is a little dirty, which means you can increase the drag on the reel allowing you to catch fish faster. If the conditions are calm and clear, you have to scale down on the leader size which creates a greater chance for error and a longer catch time for each fish.

Trolling for Yellowfin Tuna

If there isn’t a lot of current, trolling can be very effective because tuna can get spread out on a rig or buoy. You want to catch their attention whether it be with a teaser or dredge, using ballyhoo or squid for example. The main thing is to pay attention so you don’t miss them.

Blackfin and Yellowfin tuna are often found feeding in large groups on current driven bait balls in a specific location. When there is little to no current and the bait is spread out, trolling can be very effective. Blackfin, Yellowfin, and even Bluefin tuna will spread out around an oil rig or buoy when the current is down. When trolling for tuna, you want to catch their attention by using a teaser or an underwater dredge that imitates a school of squid or baitfish. In theory, the dredge or teaser will bring the fish into the bait spread that you are trolling; allowing them to single one of the baits rigged with a hook in it.

What is Chunking for Tuna?

Chunking is taking dead bait, cutting it up and releasing a slow and steady stream of chum. You don’t want to overfeed, but have enough to get the tuna to come up to your chum slick. Be sure your hook baits are larger sized so other fish won’t take it. Have enough slack in your line so the larger bait drifts down through the column of chum. Keep trying different things to see what works. Cut the bait up in different sizes, skin on and skin off, changing your presentation. You never know what the tuna will take to on a particular day.

Now you know how to bait and catch tuna. Next, you’ll need to clean that tuna so that none of the delicious meat goes to waste. Here’s how to clean and store your fresh-caught tuna.

Albacore tuna fishing can offer nonstop action landing fast-moving, hard-fighting fish. Charter trips make tuna fishing accessible to all anglers. In addition, many well-equipped private boat anglers have been making the long trips offshore. If you don’t see tuna fishing for yourself, we’ve even included a brief video on how to buy fresh Oregon tuna from a commercial fisherman at the dock.

Albacore: A newer Oregon fishery

The recreational fishery for albacore off Oregon was a late development worth waiting for. Although historically there had been some interest in the albacore fishery from a handful of charter vessels and a few private boats, the fishery really began to see substantial growth beginning in about the year 2000.

The number of anglers pursuing albacore tuna off the Oregon coast continues to grow. The 2019 sport albacore season saw 102,510 albacore landed by 15,311 angler trips – the most albacore ever recorded from the recreational fishery off Oregon.

What makes tuna worth the effort

How to fish for tuna

Albacore tuna are not the easiest fish to get to, but there are several things that make these fish worth the effort:

  • Thrilling hook ups with fast-moving, hard-fighting fish.
  • Potential for non-stop action.
  • Delicious, fresh albacore tuna.
  • A generous 25-fish bag limit (in aggregate with other offshore species) – enough to fill a freezer, or to invest in a canner and a lot of jars.

Where and when to catch albacore

Most years, tuna fishers must travel 30 miles or more offshore to find albacore. The fish start migrating into the waters off Oregon around the end of June, and are most commonly found in waters with surface temperature of 60 degrees or more with “clear blue water*.” The best fishing is typically in July and August, but fish are usually still available through early October.

Albacore tuna tend to travel in single-species schools, so once you find a school the action can be fast and furious. But don’t be surprised if you happen to catch one of the other pelagic species that are out there. Species like bluefin tuna, opah, yellowtail, Pacific pomfret, dorado (dolphinfish), and thresher shark have all shown up in the catches by tuna anglers off Oregon.

* “Clear blue water” is technically defined as 0.25 mg or less of chlorophyll per cubic meter. That’s pretty clear, and blue.

Oregon-caught tuna are good for you

The young tuna caught off the Oregon coast are just starting their cross-Pacific journey and are three to five years old. Most albacore caught by Oregon anglers are between 12 and 30 pounds. They are high in the desirable omega-3 oil.

Because of their young age, the fish caught off of Oregon have reduced mercury accumulation in their meat, compared to those caught in many other areas, according to the Oregon Albacore Commission (Oregon Department of Agriculture).

How to catch albacore

How to fish for tuna

Recreational albacore tuna fishing is most typically by surface trolling jigs or plugs. More recently anglers have been casting lures, angling with live or dead bait, and deep jigging. All these techniques can be successful.

Due to the distance from shore and the highly variable and sometimes volatile marine fishing conditions off the Oregon Coast, this fishery requires specialized boating and safety equipment and a good maritime knowledge base.

Fortunately, several ports on the Oregon coast host private charter boats the offer the transportation, specialized gear and fishing expertise needed to make albacore fishing available to many anglers.

Check the weekly Recreation Report to get the latest on current tuna fishing conditions. Visit this page to learn more about Oregon’s albacore tuna fishery – including management and annual catch information.

Buying tuna from the dock

You don’t have to catch the fish yourself to enjoy Oregon tuna — not when you can buy it fresh off the boat.

Kaety Hildenbrand of Oregon Sea Grant Extension shows you how to buy an Albacore Tuna directly from a commercial fisherman: questions to ask, what to expect, and what you need to bring to get your fish home safely.

Tuna are some of the hardiest, fastest and strongest fish in the ocean. This makes tuna a prime candidate for deep sea anglers and those hoping to take the fishing trip of a lifetime. But, in order to catch and reel in these giants, you must first have the proper tuna fishing gear. From the rod to the line and even the sinkers – tuna fishing gear must be strong enough to withstand the strength and speed of a fleeing tuna. Below, you will find a list of suggested tuna fishing gear. But, don’t go out and buy it straight away. At Scott Bruce Tuna Charters, we provide all the necessary gear to pull in a large bluefin tuna and the expertise to guide you through the exciting process!

A quick note: Gear varies slightly depending on the type of tuna fishing being done. Chunking, or anchoring the boat and using balloons to float stick bait and live bait to attract the fish, requires sinkers and other bait that will entice the tuna to bite. On the other hand, trolling uses spreader bars that when seen from below (like a fish), look like a school of fish swimming behind the boat with the furthest from the boat containing hooks. Find out more below:

The rod – When attempting to catch a bluefin tuna, rods must be strong. Tuna can weigh from 300 – 1200+ lbs on Prince Edward Island with an avg weight of 700 lbs. Bluefin caught off the coast of New Jersey or Canada generally weigh between 80 and 120 pounds. These “smaller” fish don’t necessarily require the same type of rod used for an 800 pound marlin, but an unlimited class rod can ensure you are ready for anything.

The reel – A strong rod can take the weight of a strong fish like the bluefin tuna, but the reel must also be tough. A 130 pound reel is a good bet. Back this up with 200 pound dacron line in black when chunking. Dacron is a synthetic polyester material used in textiles, but can also be used as backing as it is big, soft and hollow so it floats.

The outrigger – Equipped with roller trollers, outriggers allow more lines to be in the water simultaneously, and it keeps them from tangling – allowing you to have more opportunities to make a catch!

The line – Most trolling crews like to use a high visibility lines to ensure they can see behind the boat. By splicing it to the dacron, you can create a strong and durableline that is less likely to let you down in a fight with a bluefin. High visibility lines can also be used when chunking – but it is not necessary.

The leader – A leader attaches the lure to the rest of the line. This is an often underappreciated piece of tuna fishing gear. Leaders should be strong and durable, and rated for at least the weight of the line they are attached too. Leaders are attached by a knot, a crimp, or both. G crimps tend to be most used by tuna crews.

The lure – Lures are what get the tuna to bite, so using lures that are attractive and enticing is important. Tuna are generally about 60-100 feet below the boat, so lures that dive down will catch their attention more easily. Lures can also be hooked onto a spreader to entice the tuna to bite.

The hook – This is where things begin to get a bit more complicated, depending on the type of fishing you are doing.

  • Chunking: Hook size should match the size of the bait you are using. By using a hook no larger than your bait, you can entice the tuna to take a bite.
  • Trawling: Hooks can be larger when trawling, especially when using a spreader bar. Spreader bars function as bait – they look like a swimming group of fish

No matter what kind of hook you are using, be sure it is strong enough to withstand a fight with a bluefin.

Tuna fishing gear can be complicated and expensive. If you are considering trying tuna fishing, be sure to consult local guides or other fishermen who may have good tips about what types of bait, line and lures work for them. Looking to try tuna fishing on for size before making the financial investment? Scott Bruce Tuna Charters offers charter trips including gear to spend an afternoon fishing for bluefin tuna. Find out more about the tours and the crew here.

Tuna is a species of saltwater fish that ranges in habitat from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Indonesia. The most commonly known species of tuna in the United States are Skipjack, also known as “light” tuna, and Albacore, also known as “white” tuna. Albacore is the only kind of tuna that can legally be sold under the label “white meat tuna.”

Tuna fish is one of the most popular varieties of seafood in the world. In addition to its abundance and meaty flavor, tuna is also extremely nutritious.

Health Benefits

Tuna is an excellent source of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin needed to make DNA. Vitamin B12 also helps you to form new red blood cells and prevent the development of anemia.

The health benefits of eating tuna also include:

The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in tuna fish may help to reduce the level of omega-6 fatty acids and LDL cholesterol that can accumulate inside the arteries of the heart. Studies have shown that eating more omega-3 is associated with reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.

Prevent Vision Problems

The omega-3s in tuna also seem to have a positive effect on eye health. In a study of 40,000 female health professionals, women who ate multiple servings of tuna per week had as much as a 68% lower risk of developing dry eye. Omega-3s are also thought to contribute to the overall health of the retina.

Tuna’s omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to slow the growth of tumor cells and reduce inflammation in the body. This is important because many types of cancer are correlated with chronic inflammation.

Tuna is a lean meat. It’s relatively high in protein, but low in calories, which means that it keeps you full longer and stops you from eating more. In one study, adolescents who regularly ate lean fish like tuna for several weeks lost an average of two pounds more weight than the control group that didn’t eat fish.

Continued

Nutrition

Tuna is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Just 3 ounces of canned tuna yield as much as 50% of the recommended daily level. Vitamin D is necessary for bone health, strengthening the immune system against disease, and ensuring optimal growth in children.

Tuna is also a great source of other vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Iron
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Iodine

Nutrients per Serving

A 4-ounce serving of white tuna contains:

  • Calories: 145
  • Protein: 26.77 grams
  • Fat: 3.37 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Portion Sizes

Because of its potentially higher mercury content, pregnant women and young children should consult with a doctor before eating tuna. Canned tuna contains less mercury than fresh tuna because of the smaller sized fish used for canning.

The FDA recommends about two or three servings per week of light tuna and only one serving per week of white tuna. This is because of the higher mercury content in white tuna.

The serving size of tuna for a typical adult is about 4 ounces.

How to Prepare Tuna

You can find tuna fresh or canned at grocery stores across the country. Since canned tuna contains less mercury than fresh tuna, it may be a better option for some. Canned tuna is always cooked beforehand and can be eaten directly upon opening.

Tuna steaks purchased at the grocery store can be baked, grilled, or sautéed in a skillet. Apply the seasoning or marinade of your choice prior to cooking. You can buy frozen tuna steaks year round or wait for tuna to be in season.

Here are a few ideas for incorporating more tuna into your diet:

  • Add tuna to a fresh Mediterranean salad.
  • Marinade tuna steaks with olive oil and minced jalapeño for a spicy kick.
  • Place slices of bread topped with tuna and cheese in the oven to make quick tuna melts.

Use tuna in place of beef to make a tuna burger.

Sources

About Seafood: “Tuna Species.”

AllRecipes: “Tuna Recipes.”

Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Are There Benefits?”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Vitamin D.”

International Journal of Obesity: “Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content.”

Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Innovations, Quality & Outcomes: “The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency.”

Nutrients: “Protective Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Cancer-Related Complications.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “The Relationship Between Dietary N-3 and N-6 Fatty Acids and Clinically Diagnosed Dry Eye Syndrome in Women.”

How to fish for tuna

Although tuna is most commonly sold in cans, many grocery stores and fish markets sell fresh or frozen tuna steaks. Most steaks come already deboned and skinned and cook up quickly — so the following easy tuna steak recipe only takes a few minutes.

Video of the Day

Choose Your Tuna and Seasonings

For the best baked tuna steak, start with the highest-quality fresh tuna you can get. As the Food and Drug Administration explains, tuna is rich in polyunsaturated fats that, when eaten in place of saturated fat, can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. But that oil content means this heart-healthy fish goes bad fairly quickly.

So look for the firm, dense red flesh and "meaty aroma" that signal you're looking at fresh tuna steaks. Stay away from tuna steaks with marked discoloration or a dull gray hue.

Your choice of fish in the grocery store can have a big impact on the vitality of your favorite species. Many tuna species are already overfished, so opt for (relatively) plentiful varieties caught using sustainable methods.

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, the best types of fresh tuna to purchase are albacore, yellowfin and skipjack, as long as they're caught with trolling lines, hand lines or poles. Try to avoid varieties of tuna that are caught with less-sustainable methods: drifting longlines, deep-set longlines and purse seines.

Seafood Watch also recommends that you stay away from bluefin and longtail tuna varieties, regardless of the methods by which they're caught.

Tuna's high oil content and rich flavor means you can add plenty of seasoning without overwhelming it. But don't be afraid to start simple: Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, brush them with olive oil or melted butter, and add salt or pepper to taste.

Other flavorings that go well with tuna include garlic, cayenne pepper, lemon juice (mixed in with the oil or butter) and herbs such as rosemary or tarragon.

If you want to get especially creative, try marinating your tuna. Asian-inspired marinades pair well with this fish; try an easy sweet and savory marinade recipe and soak the meat in the refrigerator for anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours before you put it in the oven.

Choose Your Tuna Bake Time

If your tuna steaks are frozen, defrost them in the refrigerator before cooking. Although searing on a grill or pan is typical, you can also broil or bake your tuna steaks.

To broil the tuna, take a tip from FishWatch and heat your oven, place the marinated tuna steaks in the oven on a well-graded broiler pan, baste the tuna and broil the steaks on a high rack, just a few inches from the heat source.

FishWatch advises a cook time of about three minutes and says that the tuna should be pink in the center when you remove it from the heat.

To bake your tuna, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and lay the raw tuna steaks out on a single layer on a greased baking sheet, or wrap them individually in oiled foil. You can test the steaks for doneness with a fork: Fresh tuna is typically considered "done" when it begins to flake on the outside but remains pink in the center.

Some people like to eat their tuna red in the center — however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes raw and undercooked fish as one of the foods more likely to transmit food-borne illnesses. For food safety, the CDC recommends cooking all seafood to 145 F.

Measure the temperature inside your tuna steaks with a meat thermometer and be ready to leave thick steaks in the oven a little longer than their thin compatriots.

What About Mercury?

According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), eating contaminated fish is the No. 1 cause of mercury exposure in America, and tuna is the most common source of mercury exposure. The council goes on to note that mercury exposure can damage your kidneys and nervous system and has the potential to interfere with brain development.

According to the NRDC, ahi and bigeye tuna have particularly high levels of mercury and should be avoided by women who are pregnant, nursing or plan to become pregnant within a year. If you're a woman of childbearing age who likes albacore tuna, the NRDC advises that you consume no more than 4 ounces per week. And finally, you shouldn't feed ahi or bigeye tuna to children under 6 years of age.

Tuna and offshore fishing refers to the taking of seasonal migratory game fish that frequent Southern California. It also includes pelagic shark fishing. Some species are regular visitors to Southern California while others are relatively rare and only arrive in years when water conditions are suitable. Some of the most challenging and exciting fishing available in California, includes fishing for tuna and other offshore species.

While these species are often denizens of blue water, that is to say, very deep water areas, the most productive offshore spots are often over banks, or subsea mountain ranges. In these areas, upwellings bring rich, nutrient laden water to the surface feeding algae blooms attracting microscopic animals, which, in turn attract huge schools of small bait fish. Naturally, wherever there is an abundance of prey, predators aren’t far behind.

Map of Tuna and Offshore Fishing Spots with GPS Coordinates

Like on the shore, offshore are many submerged mountains that form the structure for upwellings that attract sea life, including the bulk of the offshore species. Here are the major fishing banks in Southern California:

The following table shows the approximate center of the main offshore fishing banks, both in US and in Mexican waters. They’re fairly large, some covering dozens of square miles, so locations are not as specific as, for instance, a sunken ship:

IMPORTANT NOTE! The GPS coordinates indicated here are for informational purposes only. They represent the author’s belief of the correct approximate locations of various fishing areas. These numbers should NOT be used for navigation. No guarantee of the accuracy of this information is expressed nor implied. ALWAYS use proper navigation methods and techniques when operating a boat anywhere in coastal or offshore conditions.

Best Times of Year for California Tuna and Offshore Fishing

Following is a chart of the commonly caught tuna and offshore fish, along with the time of year you’re likely to catch them. In addition, the best water temperatures to fish in is included. Be SURE to check with the California Department of Fish and Game for the latest regulations on closed seasons, closed areas, minimum size and maximum bag limits on any fish you plan to take. The regulations change often. This information is available on-line on the Cal DF&G website at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/

Fish Best Fishing Possible Water Temp Best Bait
Striped Marlin Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Lures
Albacore May-July Mar-Nov 63-67 Live Bait
Bluefin Tuna May-July Mar-Nov 63-67 Live Bait
Yellowtail May-Oct Year Round 60+ Live Bait
Yellowfin Tuna Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Live Bait
Bigeye Tuna Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Feathers
Dorado Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Live Bait
Mako Shark Dec-Mar Year Round N/A Mackerel

The Best Techniques to Catch Tuna and Offshore Fish

Nearly all offshore fishing is done by searching for schools of fish by trolling. Trolling lures are put out behind the boat and dragged at low to moderate speeds to locate schools of fish. Particular attention is made to areas with signs of free floating kelp paddies, diving birds, and feeding porposes. When a fish is hooked when trolling, live bait is generally generously sprinkled on the surface of the water to attract the feeding fish to the boat, then live bait flylined without sinkers to catch the fish. It is important to keep the baits fresh and lively, and to not fish with too heavy a line since these types of fish tend to be “line shy.”

Artificial lures are also an excellent way to catch tuna and offshore species. Hard metal lures cast and retrieved when tuna schools are in the area is an effective and popular technique. Rubber swim baits fished “on the slide” (when coasting to a stop after a jig strike) or cast and retrieved when the action is good, also produce well.

Mako Shark fishing is a specialized type of offshore fishing. Some trolled lures work well, but the most common method is to release a chum “slick” of ground fish offal and small pieces of bait. Into this slick, whole dead mackerel are floated below bobbers made of either a rubber balloon or a plastic water bottle.

How to fish for tuna

Ever think about building a boat?

It’s easier than you probably imagine. You could be out fishing in your home crafted boat yet this summer. Stop by my other web site for lots of information and to download free study plans for many different boats you can build. There’s also free e-books, videos, and photo essays of boat construction.

How to fish for tuna

It is no secret that kite fishing for tuna has proven to be one of the most successful offshore fishing methods all around the world.

The best captains and crews on both the East and West Coast of the U.S. use similar kite fishing methods for everything from sailfish to yellowfin tuna.

The idea is simple really; present a struggling baitfish, on the surface of the water, in a way that keeps 90% of your terminal tackle and leader out of site from fish lurking below. For our fleet in the Northeast though, we have a few things that we do a little differently to give us an advantage, specifically with bluefin tuna.

How to fish for tunaOne of the biggest challenges for us up here in the Northeast is, believe it or not, the size of the tuna we are fishing for. We are typically kite fishing for bluefin ranging from 200-800-pounds, and to do that, a lot of the time we are fishing BIG BAITS. It is not uncommon to see our tuna fishermen using an 8-10-pound bluefish as a kite bait. On a calm day with light and variable winds, we need any help we can get keeping the kite up and the bait at the surface.

How to fish for tuna

The most important thing we use when kite fishing big baits is braided line. The boats in our fleet all have at least two 130-pound class setups loaded with 500-700 yards of 200-pound hollow braid top shot. The reason I say “braid top shot” is because we are fishing 130-pound class reels. Most 130-200-pound test hollow core braids out there have a monofilament equivalent diameter of 50-pound test. So to put that in relation to the line capacity specs on a typical 130-pound class reel; a typical 130 has a 1000 yards of 130-pound mono capacity and a 2000+ yard 50-pound mono capacity…there is no need for that much braid, so what we do is splice the braid top-shot into 200-pound Dacron backing. We end up with about 600 yards of braid and 300-400 yards of Dacron backing.

Why is braid so important for us? Because it is much lighter than monofilament. When using braid, you don’t get a large amount of sagging slack from your bait rod to the kite clip on the kite line, like you would with mono. The more line and line sag you have between your bait rod and the kite clip, the lower your kite will fly because the weight of the line, and the harder it will be to keep your kite bait swimming on the surface.

When I say on the surface, I mean on the surface. We typically keep the entire back of the bait and the hook out of the water.

Braid top-shot combined with a light wind kite and a large helium balloon attached is a MUST for fishing big baits in light wind.

Another key component of our kite fishing setups for bluefin is heavy leader. We don’t run anything under 300-pound test on the kite. 300-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon is our go-to leader material, but sometimes we will fish 300-400-pound mono as well. The only advantage to using flouro is it is more resistant to leader chafe during a long fight with a big tuna fish. Using flouro on the kite has nothing to do with “visibility” for us. The entire leader is out of the water anyways, so it really wouldn’t matter if you used 400-pound cable as leader either (which we have seen done up in Canada for big bluefin).

How to fish for tuna

The final key tactic our crew uses when kite fishing for bluefin is “drop back.” As far as getting a bite while kite fishing, the standard with most crews seems to be; let the fish eat the bait, pop the kite clip, then simultaneously reel tight and set the hook. When fishing bigger baits with bigger fish though, we will almost free-spool the reel when we see a tuna grab the bait, but ONLY when we are 90% sure it has the bait in its mouth. We watch the kite bait marker (a bright colored float or deflated balloon attached above the swivel on the leader) start to be pulled down fast to judge this.

There are two reasons for this:

1) We don’t want the tuna to feel the resistance of the kite, kite clip, and line when it grabs the bait

2) When using big baits, we want to make sure HE HAS IT.

A lot of times when we see a big fish eat the bait, we will put the drag just above free-spool and let the tuna take line off the reel while it is still in the kite clip.

How to fish for tuna

We will begin clearing the other rods, or drop the anchor, and then come back to the reel, lock it up, reel, pop the clip, and set the hook. There is no worse feeling than pulling the bait and hook out of a 600-pound bluefin’s mouth after you just watch him destroy a kite bait.

How to fish for tuna

Hopefully you will find these little tricks helpful and applicable to your local offshore species while kite fishing.