A Typical Day Trolling Offshore
To kick off the June tuna season, Capt. Mike Hogan and Capt. Nat Chalkley from Get the Net charters set out to fish The Claw, a Bluefin Tuna hot-spot, 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
“You have the Claw south of Martha’s Vineyard, greasy calm conditions, cooperative fish and plenty of life,” Capt. Mike said. “You really couldn’t ask for a better June day to kick off the tuna season.”
Typically, early season bait south of MV is heavy on sand eels but you could encounter butterfish, squid and mackerel. Capt. Mike and Nat started the day with a mixed spread of natural colors. Trolling in the open water truly feels like fishing fora needle in a haystack, as Mike Hogan would describe it.
When Capt. Mike and Capt. Nat Chalkley arrived at their usual hot-spot fishing grounds, there were no tells and no signs of life.
After surveying the area, they made the decision to head 4-5 miles South of the Claw where they started to see a few birds and noticed the temperature of the water increased from 55 degrees to 59 degrees. Although this isn’t a huge jump in water temperature, it was enough to keep the bait balled up in this area.
They quickly noticed birds sitting on the surface, waiting for the sand eels that would soon streak the fish finder and were pleasantly surprised to see porpoises, another good sign that tuna were probably in this area.
With the Bluefin being keyed in on sand eels, Capt. Mike chose to fish small baits and natural colors. To start, he rigged up a 40-inch spreader bar with 6-inch bulb squids for the inside and outside riggers.
“Larger bars lead to a bigger target and a bigger presentation,” Capt. Mike said. “They create a natural presentation in the water.”
You want a spread or large spreader bars with a lot of bait to really create a big presentation that can’t be missed by any tuna remotely close to the spread.
“When the fish are keyed in on sand eels, you’re going to want to stay with smaller baits,” Capt. Mike said.
Today, they are fishing a seven rod spread, which is a classic spring Bluefin spread. This particular spread includes the Hogy SI Spreader bars which is a 6-inch bulb squid spread bar, both on the inside and the outside riggers. On the flat lines, they are fishing larger softbaits such as the Hogy Harness Jig.
“We’re going to fish the flatlines a little further back than we normally do,” Capt. Mike said.
The flat line lures will sit a little deeper in the water, under the spreader bars. He continued on to explain that on a very clam, greasy day, you’ll want to speed the boat up a little bit and fish the flatlines further back.
On the flatlines, Mike rigged up a Hogy Harness softbaits on a Jighead. To do this, you want to start by lining up the hook where you want it to exit the bait. Eye ball it and mark it with your thumb as you thread the hook through the softbait and push it through the plastic.
You might notice the shrink tubing at the end of the jig head may make it a little difficult, but a hard push will give you a semi-stiff rig after you get it over the hump.
“There is no better sand eel imitation than this,” Capt. Mike Hogan said.
Once the fish is hooked, Capt. Nat leaves the helm to gain control over the screaming drag. Taking over, Capt. Hogan positions the boat with the fish off the corner by taking the boat in and out of gear several times, forcing the fish to fight at a 45 degree angle off the corner. To do this, Mike has to keep all the action on the starboard side by engaging the port engine, which in turn, will swing the boat starboard.
The boat is left in gear to keep the lines from tangling.
“When I’m handling a fish I know I’m going to release, I stick a salt water hose in its mouth,” Capt. Mike said as he began to remove the hook. “You wanna get the boat in gear for when I carefully release the fish.”
If the spreader bar is a little disconfigured after bringing in a heavy fish, don’t worry – this is mostly by design (and tuna strength). The bars on the SI spreader are made with light, wire frames, designed to pulse and flutter while trolling. Mike has found that the more dinged up they get, the fishier they are.
Rod: 5’9″ Shimano Terez TZC-59HSB
Reel: Shimano Tyrnos 30
Line: 40lb. Test Mono
Boat: Fortier 3o
Suggested Bars: Bird Bar, Flexi-Bar Squid Bars