Fishing for blackfin tuna off Charleston
I was pretty fired up after writing Tideline magazine's latest cover story on blackfin tuna, and jumped at the first chance I got to give new the tuna techniques a try.
Guy Ackerman, a fishing buddy of mine, took me and a few other fellows out last week on his center console, Big Tease. Though we planned to troll ballyhoo and drop knife jigs for blackfin, Guy was also determined to try his hand at kite fishing.
Kite fishing remains a bit of a novelty in Charleston, but itís grown in popularity in other parts of the country. Kites are often flown from a moving vessel, usually by a stout rod and reel anchored into a rod holder. (Ackerman was using a brand-new electric reel to deploy and reel in his kite.) Fishing lines run from the boat to the release clips on the kite cord, then down to the oceanís surface. When done properly, this technique can keep soft-plastic lures dancing across the waves like a flying fish.
Kites also enable anglers to position baits far from the boat, often to one side or another, in the blue water well outside the wake. This is especially important to anglers targeting tuna, which are notoriously boat-shy.
We ran to the Georgetown Hole and experimented with the kite for a few hours while also trolling ballyhoo. Unfortunately, the water temperature out there was only 63 degrees; my sources tell me 69 degrees is the magic temp for blackfin.
Striking out at the Hole, we picked up lines and headed south, looking for warmer water. We zeroed in on a live-bottom spot near the 100-fathom curve and started fishing in 66-67 degree water.
The fish were there, but they were down deep Ė about 300 feet at times. Without surface schools, the kite was useless. We spent most of out time dropping knife jigs (also called butterfly jigs).
We hooked many blackfin, but the sharks kept eating our lunch. Time after time, the fish would make a frenzied run and our lines would go slack. We wondered if the tuna were somehow cutting 80- to 100-pound fluorocarbon leaders, but realized what was really happening when I reeled in one-quarter of a big snowy grouper. A 10-plus-foot shark was following the rest of his meal up to the boat.
I lucked out, though, and got a nice tuna past the sharks and up to the gaff. The 30-pounder, caught on a medium-action spinning gear, was my personal best tuna.