Hatteras Bluefin Trip E-mail
Saturday, 13 March 2010 17:16

 
I was cooking Fajitas for my family when Captain Scott Warren of the Big Tahuna called from Hatteras. He had a day off, the weather was forecast to be tolerable, and he offered to take me and my buddies to target bluefin in our kayaks. While finishing the fajitas, I scrambled to pull together a crew and by midnight, Lee Williams, Matt Shepard, and I were heading for Hatteras.
We crashed on the boat and met Scott and mate Kenny Koci when they arrived shortly before 6AM. We loaded kayaks, tackle, and gear then pulled away from the dock just as the sun was rising.
For the past month, the bluefin bite has been phenomenal off Hatteras, North Carolina. Boats running to the edge of the Gulf Stream have been catching 100 to 200 pound bluefin by chunking, jigging, trolling – even throwing top water poppers. This was the first time anyone fishing out of Hatteras would try to catch one of these fish in a kayak.
We got to the temperature break and landed right in the middle of the fish. Before we launched the kayaks, Kenny put out a couple baits to prospect for fish; within minutes both lines were hooked up. We worked those fish to the boat – each around 50 pounds. While we ran back to the break to launch the ‘yaks, we put another bait out. That lasted less than a minute. After boating another 50 pounder, Scott kept the baits in and took us to the break where we launched the kayaks.
As usual, the weatherman was wrong about the conditions. Our forecasted 10 to 15 turned into 15 to 20 and 2 to 4 was more like 3 to 5. But we had come so far and worked so hard that we weren’t going to let the weather get in the way of making history.
Each of us carried two medium heavy jigging rods – one rigged with a vertical jig and one baited with a naked ballyhoo. The idea was to drift/troll the ballyhoo while dropping the jig on fish marks. Scott would troll down the line ahead of us and inform us over the radio when he marked fish. Then we would drift behind him while jigging.
I hooked up first, but it was only a 5 pound albacore. A few minutes later, Lee hooked up with a bigger fish. Much bigger. One second, Lee was bobbing next to me wildly jerking on his jigging rod, the next second he was being dragged through the 3 foot chop and 5 foot swells while screaming and hooting. A minute later his line broke and the fight was over, but we were all amped about the action.

Matt Shepard being pulled sideways and backwards by a bluefin tuna.
We continued to work the edge. Drifting in the 3 knot current and wind while watching giant hammerheads watch us, passing through hundreds of Portuguese man-of-war jellies, and catching a glimps here and there of swirling tuna. Each of us hooked a half dozen fish, but each battle would only last a few minutes before these powerful fish would break the line or pull the hook. Even though we were all experienced anglers, nothing could prepare us for the explosive speed and mind-bending power of these tuna. Each encounter unfolded the same way: a bluefin would hit like a freight train, whipping the kayak around into the wind and seas, then take off dragging us at up to 7 knots while emptying the spool of line in seconds. When we would increase the drag – to the point of being yanked out of the ‘yak – the line would break or the hooks would pull. But each time we lost a fish, we learned a valuable lesson.
After several hours in the water, and dozens of fish hooked, fought and lost, we finally figured it out.

Here's a pic with the fish up top.
As the conditions worsened, and we considered pulling the plug, Matt hooked into a big fish that pulled him from the warm water into the cool. He held on while the tuna dragged him and emptied his reel. After a half mile the fish slowed and took the fight deep. Matt let the tuna tow him around, gaining line when he could, loosing line when he couldn’t, and waiting for the fish to tire out.
An hour and a half and 2 and a half miles later, the fish gave up and came to the surface. Lee was poised to stick the huge fish with a gaff, but the tuna turned towards the boat and Kenny reached out with his gaff and ended the battle.
The crew celebrated like Super Bowl champions. Matt was hoisted out of his yak and into the handshakes and back slaps from his fellow anglers. His fish weighed 166 pounds – the first bluefin caught off Hatteras by a kayaker.

Doubtful that it will be the last.
 

Here is the prize

 

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