Whole boredom. That’s what I used to be feeling. It was July 2014, 50 miles off the New Jersey coast, and my pals Nick Veneziale and George Berosh and I had been listening intently for the unbroken scream of a trolling reel. Thus far, all we’d heard for almost six hours was the monotonous drone of the outboards. All day, the sonar confirmed pink tuna marks under the boat—“meatballs,” as they’re typically referred to as. These meatballs, nonetheless, refused to rise and dine on the multicolored rubber calamari dancing within the prop wash. Contemplating the price of gas, this was wanting like an costly bust. Then, out of the nook of my eye, I noticed a 30-pound bluefin roll 100 yards away. Then one other. Then in a matter of 30 seconds, a whole faculty was waking throughout the floor in entrance of us.
In seasons previous, I’d gotten a few cracks at tuna on topwater lures. They had been all fleeting and all failures, because the fish by no means stayed up for quite a lot of seconds. However this faculty was totally different. Within the time it took to tear within the trolling strains and reset for casting, the tuna had been getting extra aggressive, boiling on some unseen forage. As Veneziale nudged the boat into vary, my coronary heart was jackhammering in my chest. I silently begged the fish to please keep up. They did, and when my popper hit, I solely chugged as soon as earlier than it was sucked underneath in a vacuum. 1 / 4 of my spool was gone earlier than I may get out, “Holy s - - t, I simply popped my first tuna!”
Be part of the Cult
Tuna popping is just not a brand new sport. As a younger editor at Salt Water Sportsman in 2005, I drooled over tales by writers like Al Ristori who documented tuna popping quests that took them so far as Panama and Australia. I knew that Gulf and Atlantic captains had been doing it for a few years, however at that time, and having solely ever trolled for tuna, I had but to see these fish current themselves in a popper-friendly situation. A primewater tuna eat was one thing mythic, one thing reserved for the fortunate. Judging by the recognition of tuna popping at present, one would possibly assume that luck is less complicated to return by.
Ten years in the past, popping a tuna largely meant leaning on customized rods, specialty reels, and a choose few lures that had the power to face as much as these pelagic tanks. At the moment, you’ll discover devoted tuna popping sections in sort out outlets from Louisiana to Massachusetts. Constitution captains who specialize within the tactic abound. Large manufacturers like Shimano, Penn, and Williamson yearly churn out new reels, rods, and lures for the duty, and also you’d be exhausting pressed to discover a tuna boat that doesn’t have a casting outfit or three readily available simply in case a floor chunk erupts. Berosh’s and Veneziale’s boats are good examples.
That day in July, I used to be the one one with a spinning combo able to dealing with a bluefin. My buddies had been life-long trollers, jiggers, and chunkers, however after they each popped their first tunas shortly after we landed mine, one thing modified. Inside just a few days, the blokes ordered related outfits and stocked up on topwater lures. The change was flipped, and we haven’t left the dock with out praying for floor motion since.
Fact in Numbers
Observe the suitable captains on social media and you’ll be fooled into believing tuna are all the time up and all the time keen. That’s simply not the fact. Whereas there are extra movies of floor tuna motion on-line than ever earlier than, there are additionally extra individuals doing it. In 5 extra runs after the day I popped my first, I bought solely two extra fast photographs that didn’t rating. Neither Berosh nor Veneziale popped one other tuna the remainder of that season. It wasn’t till August of 2015 that we bought really spoiled.
Profitable tuna popping is about being in the suitable place on the good time, which is not any simple feat within the open ocean. A ship only a mile away will be lined in fish when you bob round in lifeless water. Except you get referred to as in, you wouldn’t know what you missed till you noticed it on Instagram later. That’s why it’s good to have pals on this sport, and it was a great pal that referred to as us in to a yellowfin blitz that spanned a half mile that August morning. Up to now, it’s the solely tuna journey I’ve been on the place we threw nothing however poppers from begin to end. We chased 15- to 30-pounders round Berosh’s middle console till our legs virtually gave out. Numerous floor explosions stripped the paint off not less than a half dozen lures. And we stayed up till 11 p.m. that night time reducing and bagging our catch with victory beers in hand.
I bought offshore eight instances through the 2016 season. I caught fish trolling, however not as soon as did I forged to a boiling tuna, though different locals bought on popping bites. Relating to any offshore fishing, you deal with the nice days as presents, figuring out you gained’t be there for each floor feed each time. In no small manner, it’s the necessity for thus many stars to align that makes that blowup so superb when it lastly occurs.
Gear Tip: Certain Grip, Your Grip
Whether or not you’re steaking yellowfins, butterflying yellowtail snappers, or skinning yellow perch, a pointy, comfy fillet knife you belief is a should. In case your previous standby has seen higher days, Dexter Russell’s new UR‑Cut ought to develop into your new greatest pal. A fast dip in boiling water softens the UR‑Lower’s rubber deal with. Whereas the deal with continues to be heat, give it a squeeze to make a mould of your handprint, and also you’ve bought a fillet knife completely custom-made to your grip after it cools. —J.C.