There are few activities that compare to the excitement and adrenaline of tuna fishing. There's a unique thrill to cruising through the open sea in pursuit of a big catch, which is why so many angles get hooked on the sport.
If you're new to the tuna fishing scene, here's a comprehensive guide to help you get in shape for the tuna season.
Tuna Species: Everything You Need to Know
There are different tuna species in the ocean, and each of them has its own unique characteristics that make it a captivating target for anglers.
Bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and albacore tuna are some of the most popular tuna species when it comes to fishing, but there are over 15 species and subspecies of tuna found in different regions around the world.
Bluefin tuna is one of the most sought-after species in the world of fishing. Renowned for its impressive size, incredible strength, and delicious meat, bluefin tuna can exceed 10 feet in length and weigh over 1,000 pounds.
Bluefin tuna can be found in various regions along the coasts of the US. Its presence is influenced by seasonal migrations and water temperatures. The Gulf of Maine (especially during the summer months), offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and Southern California are some of the best places to catch bluefin tuna.
Yellowfin tuna is known for its speed, agility, and flavorful meat.
Characterized by its distinct yellow fins and sleek, torpedo-shaped body, you can find yellowfin tuna in tropical and subtropical waters, such as Florida, The Gulf of Mexico, and the Southern California Bight. Yellowfin tuna can range from 3 to 6 feet and weigh up to 400 pounds.
Albacore tuna is valued for its mild-flavored and light-colored meat.
Albacore tuna is smaller than some other tuna species, with an average size ranging from 2 to 3 feet and weighing between 30 to 80 pounds, but chasing after it is still a thrill. Oregon, Washington, and Northern California are the best albacore tuna fishing spots in the US.
Where Is the Best Tuna Fishing? DEKit Crew's Favorite Spots
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Tuna fishing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts draws anglers from across the country. Cape Cod's waters are rich with bluefin tuna, especially during the summer and fall seasons. The Cape's unique geography, where the cold Labrador Current meets the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, creates a rich marine environment that attracts some of the largest tuna species.
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico’s warm and nutrient-rich waters offer fantastic opportunities for tuna fishing. Yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, and skipjack tuna are abundant in the Gulf.
Some of the best fishing spots include:
Louisiana Offshore Rigs and Platforms: The oil rigs and platforms off the coast of Louisiana create excellent habitats for tuna.
Green Canyon and Walker Ridge: These deepwater areas in the Gulf of Mexico, known for their underwater canyons and ridges, attract tuna, especially yellowfin tuna.
Mississippi Canyon: Situated south of Louisiana, the Mississippi Canyon is another hotspot for tuna fishing, with nutrient-rich waters making it an ideal location.
- Alabama Offshore Waters: The waters off the coast of Alabama, including areas around the numerous artificial reefs, offer opportunities for tuna fishing.
When planning a tuna fishing trip to the Gulf of Mexico, consider seasonal patterns and water temperatures to make the most of your experience.
Located in the Florida Keys, Islamorada is known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World" and offers abundant tuna fishing opportunities. The primary focus is often on blackfin tuna, but you can also encounter other tuna species, including skipjack and occasionally big yellowfin tuna.
Some of the best spots for tuna fishing in Islamorada include the humps and offshore structures in the Florida Straits, such as Islamorada Hump and Marathon Hump.
Montauk, New York
The waters where the cold Labrador Current meets the warm Gulf Stream make Montauk one of the best spots in the world for tuna fishing.
Bluefin tuna fishing takes the spotlight, but you can also target yellowfin tuna during certain seasons. The best spots for tuna fishing in Montauk are offshore canyons, such as the Hudson Canyon and the Tails of the Canyons.
Cape May, New Jersey
Located at the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May is rich with opportunities to pursue various tuna species in the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing is the primary focus, but you can also find yellowfin and, at times, bigeye tuna. When in Cape May, explore deep-sea canyons like the Wilmington Canyon and the Baltimore Canyon.
When Is Tuna Fishing Season?
Tuna fishing seasons vary depending on the species and the region.
The bluefin tuna season on the Atlantic East Coast, particularly in New England, typically begins in late spring or early summer and extends into the fall. Peak months for bluefin tuna fishing in New England are from June to November. In the Gulf of Mexico, bluefin tuna season aligns with the warmer months, with peak activity from April to November.
For yellowfin tuna, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is productive throughout the year, but peak seasons are typically spring, summer, and fall. On the East Coast, you'll have the most luck catching tuna in the warmer months of late spring through early fall.
If you're after albacore tuna, tuna fishing season on the West Coast typically occurs during the late spring, summer, and early fall. On the East Coast, the best season is during the late summer and early fall.
Tuna Fishing Boat Set Up: The Tackle and Tools
To improve your chances of success when discovering new tuna fishing spots, it's essential to have proper boat set up and equipment. Tuna are known for their strength and agility, which means that you need sturdy and well-maintained fishing gear.
Rods and Reels
To catch massive fish like bluefin tuna, heavy-duty rods are a must. Crafted from advanced materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass, rods are the backbone of any fishing experience. Pair your rods with high-capacity conventional reels with a robust drag system.
For catching yellowfin tuna, you need spinning reels that offer agility and maneuverability to keep up with this fast fish.
Lines and Leaders
Experiment with different fishing lines to find what works for you. Monofilament and braided lines have their advantages, with considerations for visibility and strength.
Lures and Baits
For surface-feeding species like yellowfin and blackfin tuna, topwater lures such as poppers and stickbaits mimic the action of fleeing prey. Subsurface lures like diving plugs and swimming jigs are effective for targeting tuna at different depths. Live bait, such as small fish or squid, can be your go-to choice, too.
Techniques for Tuna Fishing
Trolling is one of the most effective techniques for tuna fishing.
This method involves trailing a spread of lures or bait behind a moving boat, mimicking a school of prey fish and enticing the predatory instincts of tuna. Trolling allows you to explore different depths and cover large distances, increasing the chances of encountering actively feeding tuna.
Chunking and Chumming
Another great tuna fishing technique, chunking typically involves cutting or "chunking" baitfish, such as mackerel or other oily species, into large chunks and dispersing them in the water. You can attract tuna with both the scent and visual appeal of the drifting bait.
Chumming refers to using a mix of ground-up fish to create a concentrated scent trail in the water. Both methods rely on the tuna's acute sense of smell and their inclination to follow scent trails to locate potential prey. Chunking and chumming are particularly effective when targeting yellowfin tuna.
Jigging and Popping
If you want to try a more dynamic and physically engaging technique, jigging involves moving heavy metal jigs in an up-and-down motion, mimicking the motion of injured or fleeing prey beneath the water's surface.
Popping uses topwater lures known as poppers to create splashes on the surface and mimic a distressed baitfish. Both jigging and popping capitalize on the tuna's aggressive feeding behavior and are often used when the fish are feeding near the surface.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the tuna fishing season?
The duration of the tuna fishing season can vary significantly based on the species of tuna, the geographic location, and local regulations. Generally speaking, tuna fishing season aligns with warmer months, such as spring, summer, and early fall.
Where to go tuna fishing?
There are a variety of exciting opportunities for tuna fishing, with different species available along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Cape Cod, Outer Banks, Cape May, Gulf of Mexico, and Islamorada are some of the best spots in the world for tuna fishing.
What state has the best tuna?
It's hard to pick just one state for the best tuna fishing. There are many states with productive waters, including Massachusetts (particularly around Cape Cod and Gloucester), Florida (Florida Keys and Islamorada), and Louisiana (Gulf of Mexico).
How do you get a boat ready for fishing?
Equip the boat with suitable heavy-duty fishing gear, including strong rods, reels, and lines capable of handling the power and speed of tuna. Upgrading your boat flooring is a great way to ensure that your boat is comfortable and reliable enough for an action-packed adventure.
Tuna Fishing with DEKit
DEKit formulates leading, premium marine products, including foam boat flooring and helm pads. Marine enthusiasts first, we would never turn down a thrilling day out on the water. Come along with the DEKit team and Captain Jimmy Nelson & Luiza as we slay wahoo, cobia, and blackfin tuna!