Problem Solving: Breaking Tuna Won’t Eat
Here’s a call we get at Hogy from time to time:
“Hey guys. I was out last weekend, I got up super early, got to the spot at sunrise and an hour later, at slack tide, tuna were erupting everywhere. We were licking our chops. We had nice, long feeds with plenty of shots, but the fish weren’t eating anything. I felt like I was in the middle of a bad dream. What was I doing wrong?”
Notes: Sometimes you find yourself in situations where the feeds are so aggressive, you can barely hear yourself think but the fish won’t take anything. Personally speaking, I find that this happens most frequently hen in the Northeast with Bluefin tuna feeding on sand eels or herring. But I have seen this phenomenon with other small baits such as juvenile squid, butterfish and other small baits in different situations around the world. West Coast and Gulf Coast anglers have extreme challenges with imitating the micro squid that they get.
What’s going on?: There are massive amounts of bait, and massive amounts of tuna and the tuna are simply “bucket feeding” through the schools with their mouths open, thereby not targeting any one baitfish to eat. If you try to compete with the bait, you are not going to go noticed unless your lure accidently falls in a tuna’s mouth!
Game plan: In this situation, I stay close to the feeds but avoid casting near fish I can visibly see and target those I can’t. I want to find those fish that have lost their way from the feed for whatever reason and I want my lure to be at the right place and time for a tuna to gulp it with little or no effort. I will blind cast colors that are highly visible, like bone glow, in all the styles of lures to keep a common color standard, which will make it a little easier for me to isolate what presentation they want. If I get a hit with one lure, I will start experimenting with further colors.
- Blind cast: In my opinion, you don’t really have any other choice than deciding to being in the immediate area of fish, not in the feeds. I would just focus on working my lures properly and covering all layers in the water column. As temping as it may be to run and gun, your lures will get lost in the shuffle in the feeds with bucket feeding fish. You want to find the tuna that have been separated from the pack. They are far more likely to single out just one bait, namely your lure.
- Troll scan: To conserve energy, you can switch to troll scanning, effectively giving you two massive blind casts. Circle around the schools of feeding fish and randomly drop the lures down with the boat out of gear, even if there are no visible targets. This will often result in a strike.
- Fish “every club in the bag”: Assuming you have subscribed to my “golf bag” theory of rods and differing lures, you are set up nicely to fish this situation as you have lures of various sizes, shapes, colors and depths to easily switch through the rotation. If you have fewer outfits, no problem, just remember to swap out lures and techniques every 15 minutes or so, making sure you gave it enough time to either work or decidedly not work.
- Gear List:
- Sliders: I will start with blind casting 4oz Bone Glow Hogy Slider fished slowly. If that doesn’t work, I’ll switch to a 6oz weighted version and let it sink to fish deeper.
- 5” Hogy Pro Tail Paddles: I will fish through the possible top water retrieves A through C. If no love, I will slow jig it.
- Slow Jig the 9” Hogy Harness Eel all levels of the water column. If I am drifting, I will leave one dead-sticked while I troll other lures.
- Blind cast the Hogy Epoxy Jig® switching between retrieves A through C while slow jigging it. Sometimes the translucent fishing and the slow fall of the lightweight epoxy offers the subtlety to get the job done.
- Fish the Hogy Sand Eel Jig using the twitchy method at varied depths.
- Fish the Hogy Herring Jig using the fast jig method at varied depths.