This tuna trip playbook is based out of Falmouth Harbor but pertains to any Harbor from Westport to Onset to Falmouth To Hyannis, with some variation of start and end points. Of course this loop can be reversed if you are coming from the more westerly locales or have a head tide from Falmouth in a direction.
The total running distance from Falmouth Harbor is about 150 Nautical miles if you run the full loop, factoring in deviations for signs of life. There’s plenty of fetch from just about any direction for the duration you South of MV and can be quite rough in any wind direction. Please note, that it is very common for the SW wind to “honk” in the afternoon in this region so be ready for large amounts of spray on the return home. I can’t tell you how many times the roughest part of my trip has been from Gay Head back to Falmouth. Plan accordingly with wind and tide.
If it’s early in the season and you don’t have any reports, it doesn’t really matter which direction you loop. I can remember as many years where the first fish were caught on the eastern portion of this loop as on the western portion of this loop. I have the same level of confidence either way. I let wind and tide and which direction would be more pleasurable to run in. BUT, I live in Falmouth and it is equidistant either way.
Stop 1 – Gordon’s Gully
This spot is about 13NM from The Hooter, It’s an excellent starting point, and if you get lucky here, you could have a very close and easy day on your hands. There have been a few seasons where Gordon’s Gully has been stacked with small school sized BFT for weeks on end. It’s about 120’ here, which I consider to be the first realm of offshore for South of Martha’s Vineyard. This is one of the most easterly spots that I would consider “South of Martha’s Vineyard. It is very close the divide between the warm gulfstream waters and the southernmost extension of the cooler Labrador waters. For this reason, bait can ball up in this area and the temp break can keep the bait here for long periods of time and hold BFTs when they arrive.
Stop 2 – The Star
We’ll call this run about 10NM miles from Gordon’s gully with loops to investigate birds and whales factored in along the way. Keep your eyes peeled, as the journey here is as important as the end destination as your running the warmer water side as the crow flies, it may be worth a loop to investigate the cooler side. BFTs can hang out in the cool too.
Stop 3 – The Inside Fingers
If no signs of life, time to start heading the west, and about mid-way between the Star and the Claw you will find the Inside Fingers (about 10NM) which years ago used to be a very common early season spot but not so much in recent years. That said, it is such a good spot, that it is well wroth the extra miles. You will also be covering awesome structure on that trajectory, If you are just running the INNER LOOP, proceed to The Claw, in Stop 8)
Stop 5 – “31 Fathom Hole”
Time to head west about 5 nautical miles to the 31 Fathom Hole located NE of the Dump. This is one of south’s most under talked about spots. This area is often a good spot to find fish when they were around “yesterday, but nowhere to be found today”. Like anywhere else, don’t spend too much time here if the “signs” are weak.
Stop 6 – NE Corner of the Dump
I can remember a lot of first sitings here as well with large schools of long lasting BFT. This spot held fish for over a month in 2016 for one of the best South of MV tuna seasons ever. There was a good albeit short-lived top water yellow fin tuna bite in 2017. I consider the top line of the dump, which is a 10×10 square to be on the southernmost latitude for early season BFTs and for that reason, we are going to start pushing West and cover the structure on the North wall of the dump, until we reach the middle of the “square.”
Stop 7 – Fingers
Now run North to the Fingers, also known as the Outside Fingers and not to be confused with the Inside Fingers. There is a ton of structure in this region too. If you find fish here, it’s good fortune. Tuna, both yellowfin and bluefin tend to stay in at the fingers (and northern wall of dump) for long periods of time.
TIP: I associate the fingers and the NE corner of the Dump to be excellent jigging spots. Often, if there was a morning topwater bite but the fishing DIED, you can find them here down deep. Simply cruise around at 10kts and drop jigs on marked fish.
Stop 8 – The Claw
If running from East, I refer to the Claw as “Last Ditch” I don’t care to remember how many loops I’ve done in the last 25 years where I found fish here when I expected to keep running. But I just can’t win, just about every time I start at the Claw, I end up finding fish to the East. Oh Well, at least I’m finding fish. As an aside, the Mako fishing here is really good.
Stop 9 – Coxes Ledge
Coxes Ledge is a big area but if fish are coming in from some of the closer spots in NY, this is a very real possibility for an early season fish. There was actually a short-lived Giant bite in early 2018 here. There are a lot of sand eels here early season. Coxes is actually home to some decent cod fishing. If you have some cod jigs, it’s worth dropping on some live bottom if the tuna fishing is slow.
Bonus Spot 10 (East to West) Noman’s
On your way back, you will find yourself very close to Noman’s or Gay Head. There is excellent fluke fishing in about 40’ on the North side of Noman’s and great sea bass in the deeper rocky areas.
Bonus Spot 10 (West To East) The Hooter
On your way back, you’ll cruise through The Hooter and Wasque Shoals. Have your striper gear ready if its before middle July. If later in the least, bring your bonito outfits.