They're here, they’re hungry, and they're widely spread all over the Mud Hole.
The short story is, 2 different spots where fish were caught, but this year it is definitely the usual haunts where BFT show up in December. One guy had 5 fish between 40-60lb fish and lost a few. Another guy 2 miles away jigged 3 within a school of busting fish in the 60-80lb class. Then while anchored busted off 2 and had 2 more, one over 150lbs plus a lost "big one."
Fish are everywhere and being caught by a small group of sharp guys that I know getting bit daily and putting fish in their boat. All top secret about publicly saying anything, but now with a change in the weather, guys are talking about it. But it’s not usual with BFT fishing like that in December.
Now the long story is I've asked my crews over the years, at least a hundred plus times if they want to tuna fish in December. No one thinks tuna when it's 30 degrees out, but that when they're there. They all have been crying into their drinks about the small porgies and sea bass on the offshore wreck trips or how the black fishing has been so tough in making a limit and worse that there are no cod to spark up a catch of bottom fish over the past two months. I tell them fine, now it’s time, no matter how cold it will be because as long as you hear about the mackerel around (because there are sand eels to eat) the tuna will be there too.
The difference, and I can confirm this, is that there are mackerel and herring here along with sand eels in the Hole. It isn’t Stellwagon Bank with the sand eels, but it's the right bait for December BFT anywhere around the Hole. We can talk about issues with the weather, or the optimum water temps, the right water clarity, wrong moon phase, etc., and they are all a far distant second to bait, and there is three things that are most important to bluefin.... 1) bait, 2) bait, and most importantly 3) bait. When I heard the sand eels showed up with the mackerel and herring, case closed and I will add that I would have went without any reports just knowing about that there were sand eels here.
I finally went because I saw the past weekend weather and knew It would end up we would be picking a weekday with reasonable seas since it has been cranking up to pure-nautical conditions throughout the last few week ends. I told the crew that we are expecting fish from 120 lbs and smaller, but the normal size of the fish is from 20-250 lbs right up to those freight trains that you never see even when hooked on 50lb class tackle. From what we saw, most of the average size fish are in the 40-60-80 lb size which is workable with the regular tackle we bring out for BFT fishing, but there have been some giants with one dressed out that weighted over 500 lbs…or so I heard.
Now armed with reports about the bait and some fish caught, I then made my calls to a few guys who have fished with me who are always hocking me to go BFT fishing and I tell him the news about the fish that were caught (one guy had caught a giant with me a couple years ago) and all are pumped. I finally emphasize to them that if you want to go, it will be not only cold, but to get down to the boat very early in the morning since I don’t want to miss the sunup bite.
I had already set up the tackle and picked up 3 flats of bait, made up of two flats herring and one flat mackerel along with a few big jigs. Left the inlet in the pitch dark and headed to where I got info from my sources but as I said, if you have done this before, there are places where you see the fish when they are going through at this time of the year.
Knowing there's a mini fleet on the east and west side around the 500 line and just a tick to the south (which is no secret these days), we went well to the southeast. Get a few miles near the west bank at false dawn and as luck would have it, there they were. Couple dozen birds working, and some pretty big tails beating the water white with the bait flying. Small area, but a lot of commotion.
I see which way the current is running and put it on the drift. The three guys as well as me picked up the jigging outfits and 4 jigs proceeded to hit the water and within 2 minutes, 3 fish on. The 4th guy reels up and grabs a gaff. We end up losing one and bringing to the boat our first two December BFT. Mine was a workable to crank fish just over 40 lb fish while one of the muscle heads on the boat fought and brought to the boat a fish of 120 lbs that we released since I figured we were going to see a larger fish (or two). I was tuckered out on my 4/0 (because I'm old), I again focused upon the water and easily saw fish were still busting a short distance away. I backed up slowly to get in range of those breaking fish but then the fish sounded as we got to them. Typical.
Drift anyway with no boat noise and after 5-7 minutes we have another on. As one of the kids is fighting it, I get bit 5 minutes into his fight. Thankfully, I got dumped in 10 seconds. No guess as to size, but my 40 year old 4/0 was smoking, the fish never even paused. The line was peeling off too fast for me to put my thumbs on it without burning them. The reel, and what was left of any kind of drag washers, we're just burning up after I locked up the drag. I see my 20 year old mono leaving the reel pretty quickly. As I get my first glimpse of the backing line through the remaining mono, all I could think was, "please don't stop, please don't stop."
I couldn't chase it because the other guy was still on (thank God). When I had less than a quarter spool left I was happy I knew I was going to get dumped. I didn't even tell anyone I was low on mono, so that it would break me off in peace. Had to replace that 20 year old mono anyway. Thankfully it just dumped me because God knows I didn't stand a chance. I could have never fought it, stand up, with a tennis ball as a gimbal on the rod butt, on an old Senator. I'm not saying it was big, might have foul hooked it in the butt and it never paused. I could feel the tail beating on the line but I don't think it was tail wrapped
Getting back to that other fish, after 40 minutes of the kid struggling on some fancy silver Shimano or Avet type reel (like a big 4/0ish size aluminum billet) we put a gaff in a legit 190-200lb fish. We did have to do a little bit of chasing it and now looking at the fish in the boat and saying “holy cow.” Everyone's smiling, and it's not even 830 in the morning. 5 bites, 3 brought to the boat, "great let’s go home." Nope it's early! Fish and birds are gone, but let’s anchor on the bank and then decide. With the anchor set I say "fine, wake me up when it's time to go."
Anchor was set in 160 feet of water and they start rhythmically start tossing the meat. I give instructions so that two are working the lines and one jigging along with throwing chunks, and me lying on my back with one eye half open. Hour and a half with no bites, no readings, no signs of anything and I had already fallen into a deep sleep.
Mind you I am zonked out sleeping and for some reason I hear the bottom machine "fish alarm" beeping. Now half groggy I get off my beanbag chair and look at the picture on the screen and see what looks like a decent cloud of bait come under the boat. “How about that” but now everyone else has lost the early excitement by now and is just half-azzing on the deck so I bark some inspiration to be prepared for possibly the last blast of fish for this trip.
It is amazing how all the lines start getting worked correctly again even with one guy properly working the jig while I take over chunking duties. We wait, watch and no readings or bites for another 30-45 minutes. Anticipation is fading quickly again.
Boom! Dead stick gets bit on a blind bite. Go figure one of the guys puts his rod down and grabs the one bit and now smoking off the dead line reel. Here it gets even better as he cranks down on that rod while the outfit he was just previously holding now gets bit. We went from nothing during a two hour siesta to full out 2 on craziness, but this is to be expected as schools of mixed size BFT are quickly moving through the area. Everyone is full of piss and vinegar as it gets close to total mayhem with two fish on and the machine beeping as I've got 4 fish under the boat as well. Bang as the jig is hit as it is being swept through the water column. I reel the other 2 bait lines in to avoid any more bites.
So 3 guys on, bait lines and the jig fish. I start the boat, tell one guy to get ready with the tie off on the bit at the anchor just in case, and I watch. 2 bait fish that look substantial and a jig fish not so much that I shake off at the boat with a football-sized jigged fish of maybe 25lbs. The other two aren't so cooperative.
Finally see one of them, easily 200-225lbs super charged fish that is a fat, round turkey. Definitely a money fish. Spits the hook because of angler error 30 feet away up on top. Oh well. That was not an angler release I told him, you just lost your fish because of the way you were fighting it.
15 minutes later, the other fish finally gets right next to the boat, a legit 200 or so lb fish. “Take a picture and let it go” and that was it as everyone is huffing and puffing, high fiving, and whipping their brows before I say "had enough?" Without waiting for an answer as the boat is still running, I say to the muscle head, "you've got 2 minutes to catch your breath then go put the ball on the anchor line."
Best part is steaming home and everyone except me is laid out and were offshore a bit but we are getting well in site of the shore and its birds and bass tearing it up. Two guys sleeping and the other in a daze and I look at the guy and he says, "forget-about-it!" I steam right through a big blast of fish at 30 knots. Talked to a buddy on my way home from the dock and he said they had them around the Hole today as well. Didn't ask him how big.
With the water temps still in the high 40s to loooow 50s range, numerous schools of those fish will be there for a while even though they can move 15 miles in a day. They will stick around, at least until the bait leaves or they get mopped up by the fishing boats that descend on any area where the BFT show up. That’s why it has been kept so low key over the past two weeks.
That’s my season ending story since it really sucks that it's gonna’ to blow all weekend and the next is the Christmas weekend. At least we got our shot in with December Bluefin in the Mud Hole.