Tuna Time: How to Catch the Bluefin Blitz in the Northeast
If you are a fan of fishing for striped bass in the Northeast, you might have noticed a new phenomenon in recent years: tuna fish coming inshore extremely close to the beaches. This is not a fluke, but a result of changing ocean conditions and tuna behavior. In this blog, I will explain why this is happening, how you can take advantage of it, and what you need to know to catch these powerful and delicious fish.
Why are tuna fish coming inshore?
Tuna fish are highly migratory and follow their prey across vast distances. They are also sensitive to water temperature and prefer warmer waters. In the past, tuna fish would stay offshore in the deeper and warmer waters of the continental shelf, where they would feed on schools of herring, mackerel, and squid. However, due to climate change, the water temperature in the Northeast has been rising, making the inshore waters more suitable for tuna. Additionally, the abundance and distribution of their prey has also changed, forcing them to look for alternative food sources.
One of these sources is the mullet, a small and silvery fish that spawns in the coastal estuaries and migrates along the beaches in large numbers. Mullet are a favorite snack for striped bass, which also spawn in the estuaries and follow the mullet migration. Striped bass season in the Northeast typically runs from May to November, with peak activity in the fall. This coincides with the tuna migration, which starts in May and ends in December, with peak activity in the fall as well 1.
As the tuna fish move south along the coast, they encounter the mullet and striped bass schools and join the feeding frenzy. This creates an exciting opportunity for anglers to catch both species in the same area, sometimes even on the same cast.
How can you catch tuna fish inshore?
Catching tuna fish inshore is not easy, but it is possible with the right gear, tactics, and luck. Here are some tips to help you land the bluefin blitz:
- Use a heavy-duty rod and reel. Tuna fish are strong and fast, and can easily snap your line or spool your reel. You will need a rod that can handle at least 50-pound test line, and a reel that can hold at least 300 yards of line and has a smooth drag system. A spinning or conventional reel will work, depending on your preference.
- Choose the right lure or bait. Tuna fish are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything that moves, but they are also smart and selective. You will need to match the hatch, meaning use a lure or bait that resembles what they are eating. In this case, that would be mullet or other small fish. You can use live or dead bait, such as mullet, bunker, or herring, or artificial lures, such as metal jigs, poppers, plugs, or soft plastics. The key is to make your offering look natural and enticing, and to vary your retrieve speed and action.
- Find the fish. Tuna fish are constantly on the move, following the baitfish. You will need to locate them by looking for signs of activity, such as birds diving, fish splashing, or baitfish jumping. You can also use a fish finder or a GPS to mark the spots where you see or catch fish. Tuna fish often travel in schools, so if you find one, you might find more. However, they can also disappear quickly, so you need to be ready to move and follow them.
- Be safe and respectful. Tuna fish are highly regulated and protected, and you need to follow the rules and regulations for your area. You will need a federal permit to fish for tuna, and you will need to report your catch and release any fish that are undersized or over the limit 2. You will also need to be careful when handling and releasing the fish, as they can injure you with their teeth, fins, or tail. Additionally, you will need to be respectful of other anglers and boaters, and avoid crowding or interfering with them. Tuna fishing can be competitive and chaotic, but it can also be fun and rewarding if everyone cooperates and follows the etiquette.
Tuna fish coming inshore extremely close to the beaches in the Northeast during striped bass season is a rare and exciting event that offers a unique fishing experience. By understanding why this is happening, how you can catch them, and what you need to know to do it safely and legally, you can enjoy this amazing opportunity and have a memorable adventure. Good luck and tight lines!