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Topwater tuna

11/2/2009

For fishermen who like running and gunning for topwater tuna explosions, the bluefin are still taking butterfly jigs and topwater chugger style lures, but the really big tuna over 300 pounds have been taking live whiting near the surface.

Late last week, I jumped aboard Haley Elizabeth Charters captained by Ken Roth in Green Harbor, Mass. Our goal was to target big bluefin tuna and possibly some bottom fish. Since the cod bite had been slow in recent days, Capt. Roth and crew, including ESPN Outdoor's Deborah Smart and Pure Fishing's Hunter Cole and John Bartow opted to spend the time targeting tuna.

Capt. Roth situated the boat near the commercial whiting fleet and we began dropping sabiki rigs tipped with Berkley Gulp to the ocean floor. As live whiting came to the surface, Capt. Roth and I fizzed each fish by piercing a small hole in their bladder, making each whiting cozy and comfy in the livewell.

Using rod combinations consisting of Penn Tuna Sticks and International VSX30's spooled with 80-pound Big Game Braid and 100-pound Vanish fluorocarbon leader, our first tuna caught by Bartow measured 53 inches with a 43-inch girth.

"If I can get three tuna strikes, we are having a good day because we often catch cod and other bottom fish to round out the trip," Roth said.

Just as we were ready to head back to the barn, another quick hit and a miss was followed up by a vicious strike. It was Cole's turn on the rod and he brought in a 59-inch bluefin tuna in 15 minutes.

Between tuna strikes, the day was filled with plenty of spiny dogfish that struck our live baits and jigs. Smart, ESPN Outdoor's Endemic Sales Director, was the queen of dogfish catching while learning the speed jigging technique.

By day's end, Bartow and Cole both caught their first tuna and were in agreement when they said to Scott Paciello and Deborah Smart "You have outdone yourselves as usual." I particularly enjoyed the photo shoot while picking up pieces of information from Capt. Roth.

Sliding down the coast, striper fishing has really heated up. Long Island Sound and Montauk are providing anglers with good action, especially on these northeast winds that have been pounding the region.

"Fishing has been good this year as long as you don't mind fishing big surf," well-respected Montauk surf fishing guide Bill Wetzel said. "I have had a number of good nights despite 6-8 foot waves crashing around me."

The East River and Hudson River in and around Manhattan are producing consistent action, but the striped bass are on the smaller side. Using eels has been your best bet for a trophy bass in the East River. Metal jigs such as a 3-ounce T-Hex helps cut through the fast river currents, getting to the bottom fast. Chunking fresh bunker near the statue of Liberty on the Hudson River has been hit or miss but keeper sized bass are there for the taking if you enjoy waiting on anchor.

Yesterday, my paying fare was Mickey Melchiondo (better known as Dean Ween), lead guitarist for the rock band Ween. Joining us was two of his fans, Scott Consoli and Jeff Spears.

Earlier this year, Mickey began offering fishing trips to better connect with his international fan base while fishing at the same time. On this day, we never found big 30-pound bass, but we did drop two super heavy fish during the battle.

Those fishing around Sandy Hook, N.J., with us yesterday encountered tons of seagulls and gannets dive-bombing the surface as bluefish and small striped bass were filling themselves for their migration south.

"That was incredible," Consoli said as he left the boat. "We caught like 50 fish or more…and I can eat some striper, too."

The Delaware Bay region is still producing big striped bass falling to the bunker chunk. I have not heard of any real giants this week but 25-45 pound bass are still being caught. Expect the rips to heat up more and more each day through December.

Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).