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The weather has been absolutely great for this entire past week. It is unimaginable to get so many days of light winds, not to mention warm temperatures.
Fishermen from all genres awakened from their winter slumber and got on the water, with most reporting action from a variety of species.
Inshore the redfish, flounder and trout are all starting to show good. Offshore, the Gulf Stream is producing good catches of wahoo with scattered blackfin tuna and Mahi-mahi.
Over the weekend, many boats made the 60-mile run offshore and fished up and down the 30-fathom break. The 100/400 area and the Winyah Scarp areas seemed to be the best producing, but most know that changes on a daily basis. March is only the beginning of Gulf Stream season with action typically picking up through April and May. I will have more reports as more fishermen hustle to get their boats and equipment ready for the early season.
This past week Team OIFC—Brant, Barrett and Rube McMullan—combined forces and set sight on bluefin Tuna action from Oregon Inlet. Also cool was the addition of professional photo/videographer, Chris Campbell, whose job was to document the adventure.
We arrived to the boat ramp last Thursday morning to a hustle of action as dozens of boats were busy unloading, all with similar visions of bent rods and big fish. We, too, had similar thoughts, but a plan to do it our way: while most boats chose to troll Ballyhoo and most had success catching a few bluefin, we made a stop inshore and loaded our well with 2- to 4-pound live bluefish.
From there, it was just a matter of delivering these poor, innocent sacrifices to their demise. I assure you that while bluefin can stick their nose up at trolled Ballyhoo, vertical jigs, poppers...they will not turn down a live bluefish. It was automatic and it was ugly.
We started with 50-pound tackle to “have some fun” but quickly realized “fun” lasted way too long and hurt too much. We caught and lost (breakoffs from putting too much pressure) dozens of bluefin. Our first fish to the boat was a 68-incher, a good-eating size, so we helped him make the decision to come home with us.
By 10 a.m. we were whooped and it was break time. We sat around eating lunch, lounging and messing with monster hammerhead sharks until about 2 p.m., when we decided we’d give it another go. Luckily, I had brought a couple of my TLD 50 reels on OIFC custom bluefin rods, so we geared up.
We decided to spice things up as a 10-to 15-knot breeze had kicked up, thus allowing the chance to fly the kite. We pulled upwind of the fleet and put the boat in neutral, deploying a bait from the kite on one side of the boat and another on a flat line on the other side.
It was quiet. Action and reports seemed to be scattered. Then from nowhere, the biggest bluefin that ever lived—at least it looked like it at that second—with no warning, erupted from under the kite with the bluefish in its mouth and left a hole in the water that sent whitewater 10 feet up and a bubble trail 20 feet down. It was incredibly cool.
The line came tight, the clip released, the circle hook set and Barrett went to work. We were drifting as Barrett did battle when the telltale marks of bluefin showed under the boat. I just commented to Rube that if the other bait got eaten, it’d be interesting, and of course, it did.
I was hooked up and shoved the drag apparently too far and broke the bluefin off on the initial run. I wound in, retied, rerigged another sacrifice, freelined it down, felt it stop, twitch and then get heavy.
Again, I engaged and again got too aggressive and again busted the fish off on the initial run. All the while Barrett was working on his fish, making good runs, sounding and fighting like a nice fish. Now I’m mad. I had a weak link of 100-pound mono topshot over the 150-pound braid, so I spooled the 100-pound off and tied my leader straight to the 150-pound braid. Now I’m ready.
I again hooked the bait, threw it over and it swam right into another hungry mouth—15 seconds wait time, maybe. I came tight and threw the drag in the corner; at least 30 pounds. The fish had some shoulders and did its thing. Barrett worked his fish to boatside after about 20 minutes and we released his 82- to 84-inch, 350-pound bluefin.
My fish was now the focus and it fought hard, staying deep. We had to spend 30 minutes on this fish but eventually Barrett had the leader and the 88- to 90-inch, 400-plus pound fish was at boatside and released. And that was all we wanted.
We released the remaining baits from the well and watched as the water around us boiled as big tuna chased the blues around the boat. The fishery is obviously healthy and pretty darn cool. Chris got a ton of footage, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.
We had planned to fish two days, but as we rode back to the motel from the boat ramp we concluded there really wasn’t much more that could be accomplished. So, we made an early exit and headed back home, where kids and dogs always think we’re super heroes, fishing success or not. I love it when a plan comes together.
Brant McMullan, a two-time winner of the SKA national championship, is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.