Fishing for blackfin tuna, skipjack tuna and bonita is done with similar techniques. They can be caught from Massachusetts to Brazil but are generally only north of the Carolina’s in late summer. This is a schooling fish that often feeds on fish, shrimp and squid. Blackfin tuna can be caught in the Florida year round and is one of the most consistent offshore fish to catch. The size of the fish can vary from 1 pound up to 40 pounds. Blackfin tuna is one of the best eating fish and can be made into steaks that can be seared or cooked through.
Fishing for tuna is very exciting. Often there are other larger fish around and you never know what you are going to catch when trolling for tuna. They can be caught from the edge of the reef in about 100ft of water all the way out to 1000+ feet of water in the gulf-stream. Tuna are often concentrated around bait fish. If the fish finder is marking schools of bait, fish are breaking on the surface or birds are diving there is a good chance tuna will be around!
I first wanted to fish for tuna when I heard that false albacore known as little tunny in the keys and albies in New Jersey were close to shore in late summer in Jersey. These particular tuna are not good to eat but they put up a good fight and look really cool! I was reading lots of fishing reports and trying to figure out the basic strategies, locations, lures and troll speeds to catch albies. It was not until we staring fishing in Florida that catching tuna became a sure thing on trips offshore. Hopefully this article will be helpful to anyone that wants to catch tuna! I will list the top five lures to use and detail the best fishing conditions to use each lure.
Billy Bait Mini Turbo Slammer Lure
Billy Baits Mini Turbo Slammer 5 ½ inch 5/8 ounce.
This red and black Billy Bait is are go to black fin tuna lure. Black fin are not super picky on lure choice but if only one pole gets a bite is is usually the black and red Billy Bait. Lots of time when trolling over a school and one pole gets a bite all the rest of the poles go shortly after so be ready to manage the number of lines that are out.
Billy Baits Mini Turbo Slammer 5 ½ inch 5/8 ounce. Comes in Pearl and Pink Shimmer, Pink and Silver and Purple and Blue Mylar. These are great colors for tuna and mahi!
Mustad 3407 2 Extra Strong Hook, size 7.
I would suggest changing to the 2 extra strong version of the standard 3407 hooks that come rigged with the Billy Baits. Often times due to predator fish like sharks being around the tuna need to be reeled in quickly. Basically the tuna needs to be winched in to prevent it from being eaten by sharks. I have seen a bigger tuna and other large fish eat the small tuna I was reeling in and the standard hook typically straightens out during the fight. This is a very frustrating way to lose a nice fish! With 100lb line these stronger hooks still feel like the weakest link in the setup but are a significant improvement over the standard rig.
Williamson Flash Feathers
Williamson Flash Feathers 4 inch .431 ounce with 5/0 hooks. Come is Black/Purple, Blue/White, Pink/White and Yellow/Green.
Small feather trolling lures are a very popular way to catch tuna. This is very similar to the Billy Baits and it is really just a personal preference and it is hard to say when to use one over the other because both options consistently catch fish. These also come in a 5 inch size.
Shimano Butterfly Flat-Fall Jigs
Shimano Butterfly Flat-Fall Jigs, 80 grams up to 250 grams white silver and chart white.
Jigging assist hooks so two hooks can be added to each jig. These would be tied to the solid ring with the fishing line tied between the two hooks. Hooks can be added to the rear of the jig but this is not typically done.
Butterfly jigs work well when going for deep tuna on on the humps. Humps are underground mountains that for example go from 1000 feet to 500 feet and then back to 1000 feet. Jigs work well when fishing humps. The Gulf Steam flows across the mountain pushing baitfish closer to the surface and cause water turbulence which makes bait vulnerable to predator fish like tuna, mahi mahi, amberjack, sailfish and marlin. Sharks are frequently lurking in the area which can make caching a fish that is pulling out drag tough to catch before it gets eaten by a shark. On the bottom there can be snowy grouper and snapper. The big humps in the Florida Keys include the Key Largo Hump, Islamorada Hump, 409 Hump, Marathon Hump and the Carlson’s Two Humps.
When deep dropping on the humps size 130 grams would be considered light and 200 grams would be considered heavy. This are used an heavy duty spinning rods. Initial the bail is opened and the lure falls freely. If it stops that means there is a fish on the line so real in the slack an fight the fish. After a 60 second count the 130 gram jig will be at about 100 feet and the 200 gram jig will be at about 200 feet. There is typically strong current and wind moving the boat so engine power is often needed to slow the drift. After the jig reaches a desired depth pump the rod with long jerks and pauses as the slack is removed by reeled down during the retrieve. These can be a great way to catch fish on high traffic days at the humps when heavy trolling pressure has pushed the tuna deeper. Sometimes the bigger fish are at deeper depths so it is worth jigging to see what is in deep water.
Daisy Chain with Cedar Plug
Three squid teasers on a 8 foot Daisy Chain with 4 inch purple and black Cedar Plug.
Daisy chains are popular lures to troll for tuna and Mahi. The added action of a “fish” chasing the squid baits can attract fish from deep depths.
Live Bait and Live Chumming
Size 4/0 to 7/0 depending on the size of bait.
Fluorocarbon leader line, 20-60 pound. When trolling using heavy leaders is a good idea but when pitching live bait light line allows for the bait fish to swim more freely and create more action.
A very fun way to catch tuna is by live chumming pilchards. When there are tuna around throw 20 to 200 pilchards overboard and as they scatter and go under the boat tuna will come up from great depths to all the commotion of other fish chasing them. Then live line a pilchard and there is a good chance a tuna will take the bait. This method is known for catching big fish. Pilchards can also be sent on a line deep all the way to 200 feet to see what kind of fish are around at deeper depths. Mixed in with the tuna can be amberjack, sailfish wahoo and marlin so it is always worth fishing a line deeper in the water column.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more blackfin tuna!
If you have any suggestions for top blackfin tuna lures and baits, leave a comment below!