Paul Snyder’s Inshore Journal

Trolling with a whale 40 miles south

My friend Geordie invited me to join him and his friend Ian for a daytime tuna trolling trip on Monday August 14th. Throughout the night before, I wondered how Sunday morning’s thunder and lightning storm would affect the trip. I had been checking forecasts for wind and seas on my FishWeather app and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. Winds were forecasted to be light with no more storms so I was hopeful.

We pulled out of the slip on Geordie’s Regulator, a 2012, 28 foot, center console named “Mr Fun” at 4:30am. It was still dark but we had enough light and ran along Gin Beach and Shagwong Point behind a larger boat. It flattened out the seas for us until we headed south near the lighthouse. As we headed south the ride was not as smooth as I had hoped. The ocean was still churned up from the previous day’s storm and we saw lightning far off in the distance. I didn’t hear thunder and knew the lightning was far away. The conditions made it tough to go faster than 20 knots. Geordie maneuvered the boat to lessen the pounding and we continued south. The plan was to fish about 20 miles south. The ocean came alive 16 miles south with whales, shearwaters and storm petrels flying around. The water temperature was 66 degrees and the sonar machine showed marks on the bottom. Both were telltale signs that the area had bluefin tuna. We trolled around with a few other boats. One boat was hooked up. They most likely were jigging at first light when we arrived. We were set up to troll and tried to see if any fish would come to the surface.

Ian, Geordie & our Yellowfin

After trolling the area for awhile, Geordie made the call to head south. We knew from a recent picture of sea surface temperatures that south and west had warmer water. Eventually, we found the water warming up as we headed south. Off in the distance we saw a lobster/crab boat working his pots. As we trolled south near his gear a whale popped up. The water temperature had gone up to 71 degrees. All of a sudden the reel on the starboard side rod started screaming. Fish On! Ian took the rod from me once it was out of the stern rod holder. Without another bite it was time to clear the rods. Once we slowed the boat to idle Ian brought a yellowfin tuna up along the port side of the boat. I grabbed the bird daisy chain which led to the green squid lure and wired the yellowfin to the surface as Geordie readied the gaff. When the fish was swimming along side the boat at the surface Geordie gaffed it and dropped the fish into the cockpit. Immediately, I took the lure out of the fish’s mouth and we got back on the troll. I bled the fish and Geordie hit it with a brain spike before dropping it in the ice. We trolled the area for a couple more hours but didn’t get another bite. We were in the shipping lanes about 40 miles south of the Lighthouse.

Geordie decided to call it a day and we headed home at 32 knots. I laid on the bench seat in the stern watching the outriggers and the sky as the boat flew back to Montauk. I thought mission accomplished. We didn’t get skunked. It was tuna fishing not tuna wishing.