As the sun starts to paint the early dawn Eastern sky in pinks and blues over Cat Island, we glide along the 100 fathom line, looking and scanning the sky for birdlife. Small birds appear to the naked eye, that soon become the quarry we are searching for. The glasses confirm our search--diving terns. Few in number, but in the direction we are looking for. We glide closer, with our lure spread, and discover our quarry are tunas. One pass wide, circling, and nothing. We head beyond the school, come to idle and let the lures sink. As the birds and school approach our boat, we put it in gear and come to trolling speed while making a large circle in front of the birds, and the far center rigger line starts screaming.
I scream, “All lines in!”, as we bring in the lines and the teasers. Soon, the tell-tale sign of a pumping line, spells tuna. My guests get tighter on the line as it goes nearly vertical. Another thrust of the engines forward brings the fish at a better angle to fight.
As Jack Zimmerman gains line, I keep an eye on the school that is now a slight ways off. I hear the screaming below as the fish nears the surface, only to make that mad dash to the depths again, taking more line off the 50-wide. With only 1/4 spool left and the fish not appearing to stop, I engage the engines once again and bring the fish to a better angle. With line still stripping, we head into the fish to recover line as quickly as we can.
The battle goes on like this for over a half hour and my client’s reel still has several hundred yards of line out. I tell him to get in the chair and pump and wind hard as I back up into the fish. Again, we get it to the top, where I can see it’s a tuna. But, this one does not appear to have the colors of a yellowfin. As the fish draws closer, I see its bigger cousin, a bluefin.
I slide down from the tower as quick as I can to leader this fish. The first this year, and of good size. The colors of a bluefin are amazing in the water as they come to gaff. They lack the yellows and golds of yellowfin, but that blue-black hue is unmistakable. The fish is not one of the giants once commonly roaming these waters, but a great fish to start the day.
I leader the fish closer and finally take the gaff shot and anchor it well in the shoulders. The strength these fish possess is immense, even for a small to medium-size bluefin. Pound for pound, they are a fish that will strip line out of a big reel faster than any other fish I have ever fished for. This guy is no exception.
Once the fish calms and surrenders to the battle, it takes all I can muster to bring this fish into the boat.
Glistening with the sun beating on its skin, showing the cobalt blue colors and silvery side, both angler and captain pause silently admiring this fish. Simultaneously, we both let out our victory yells and high fives for this battle. Always on my game plan, I shout, “Let’s get another one!” Jack, exhausted from battle, tells Steve, “You get the next one! I’m done!”
After icing the fish down, we are on our way again looking for the birds. Off in the distance, I spot the terns diving. I make a huge sweep in front of them way ahead, and let the lines out again--this time on 80-wides and bent butts. I tell Steve to rig one of the speedos on the 50-wide with the circle hooks and leave it in the bait well, armed and ready.
As we get closer, the birds scatter and it appears the fish have all but disappeared. We continue trolling in the area, in the same general path the school was on. Occasionally, I see blips on the sounder that look like big fish. We continue on the trek, following the depth we caught our first one, but to no avail. I decide to pull in all our lures and motor fast about 1 mile from our position.
I’m judging these fish will continue on their migration trek in the same depth down along the Straits as they make their way to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. The giants have a reputation of not eating while on this migration, as they have one purpose in mind, and that is to reproduce.
I come to a halt, turn off the engines, and put out three speedos rigged on balloons at various depths and, hopefully, drift into the school. Patiently, we wait as our screen marks fish at deeper depths, but not what we are looking for. A few minutes go by that seem like hours, until one of the reels starts screaming. Just as soon as Steve loads the rod it pops straight up. A shark grabbed the bait and cut through the leader.
We begin to mark fish on the screen and anticipate a strike. I am quickly deploying another live bait down, when one of the rods goes off and line is pulling away fast. “A tuna, I hope!”, says Steve. Only to find out by the strike and method of battle, was a wahoo that managed to get hooked without cutting the leader. This is when you begin to admire circle hooks! Welcome as he was, he was not our wish. Bringing the zebrafish boatside was a first for Steve. He quickly forgot our quarry and marveled at the neon stripped beauty.
Three hours past sunrise, and only two fish accounted for--the famed Bahamas speedster, the wahoo, and one of the legends of years past on Cat, the bluefin tuna. What a morning!
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