Bigeye tuna are one of the most desired gamefish in the Northeast Canyons. Unusual and explosively powerful, anybody who has been fortunate enough to fight among these splendid beasts knows they can put a major hurt on the angler. They often show up in “wolf packs,” wreaking havoc in the spread. When the “eyeballs” come calling, the bite is unmistakable and extraordinary. The water appears with bomb-like surges. Typically these 300-pound monsters take a bait and go totally airborne. Simply the idea of it occurring gets the heart beating a little faster, as does the call over the radio from a captain getting wolf-packed: “EYEBALL! EYEBALL! EYEBALL!”
Last summertime, we experienced one of the best bigeye bites in more than a decade. To offer you an idea of exactly how great the fishing was, there were practically 30 bigeye tuna weighed in during the two-day Tri-State Canyon Shootout tournament based from Block Island, with the majority of the bigeye drawn from Block Canyon. On a trip I made in early August on the Force Majeur to Oceanographer Canyon, there were 4 boats fishing in the area, and all four captured bigeye. In fact, on the first three trips I made in August we boated 4, a minimum of one on each journey, while hooking and losing others. And, we were not the only ones. The fish ranged from Hudson Canyon to Oceanographer Canyon, with the largest concentrations being discovered at Fishtails and the eastern canyons, like Oceanographer, Welker and Hydrographer. Fish were discovered largely near the pointers of the canyons and over structure on the northwest sides of temperature level breaks.
Bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus, called Mebachi in Japan, is among the most desirable of all the tuna species. It is usually higher in fat content than yellowfin tuna, and considered exceptional sashimi, equaled only by its larger bluefin cousin. Bigeye are reported to measure up to 12 years and reach a maximum length of about 98 inches, and an optimum weight in excess of 400 pounds. The present all-tackle world record is 392 pounds.
Bigeye spend a bulk of their day at depths higher than 250 feet, typically diving as deep as 1,500 to 1,600 feet searching for forage. This is in contrast to the yellowfin tuna, which spends over 75 percent of its time less than 250 feet from the surface area.
A bigeye can be hard to distinguish from a yellowfin at first, particularly if you catch one in the 100-pound range. They do have a slightly larger eye, and the 2nd dorsal and anal fins are shorter than a yellowfin’s. The best way to inform is by taking a look at the liver– the ventral side of the bigeye’s liver has actually striated margins, and both the right and left lobes of the liver are nearly equal in size. In a yellowfin, the right lobe is clearly larger than the left or middle lobes.
Bigeye Tuna Fishing Tips
Trolling a mixed spread in the canyons and along the edge of the shelf will catch the periodic bigeye, however there are a few ways you to enhance your odds of catching one.
Target Depth and Structure
I heard of one bigeye that was caught on the flats during the 2013 overseas season, but the huge majority are caught from the 100-fathom curve out. They typically hunt physical structure where baitfish gather, including seamounts, canyon walls and high-flyers. In fact, we captured two bigeye off high-flyers this season, however both were likewise off the edge of the shelf over known bottom structure.
Fish Low Light
The majority of bigeye are caught right before dark or initially light. It is not known whether this is due to the fact that their delicate eyes better tolerate the dimmer conditions or if when squid and other bait start moving closer to the surface at those times. A number of successful anglers even troll in the dark, and many have actually caught numerous bigeye tuna well after sundown. For anglers thinking about searching swordfish during the night, they will have to pick which species they want to catch more.
On days when the yellowfin and longfin bite is good on the flats, consider vacating a bit to the edge an hour before sundown to try a bigeye.
Log Bigeye Catches
A number of the top captains will tell you that logging your catches can make all the distinction. While fishing the Mulberry Canyon with Captain John Galvin in August, we hit bigeye on the exact spot he had caught them a year or 2 earlier. I have actually likewise caught bigeye on consecutive trips on the precise same numbers west of West Atlantis Canyon.
Porpoises, birds and fish-oil slicks can all help you to locate the bait. Look hard– it can make all the distinction! On a journey previously this season to Oceanographer, every bigeye was caught in a half-acre school of feeding porpoises.
Adjust Your Trolling Technique
There are various spreads that can be used effectively when targeting bigeye tuna. A basic guideline is that the spread must be tighter to the boat than the standard daytime-trolling pattern. Speed should be 6 to 8 knots so the lures are swimming in a luring method.
Many different lures can capture bigeye, and a variety of patterns can be effective. Brief and stocky lures in the 8- to 10-inch variety are efficient. Dark colors stick out much better in dim conditions. Meat is constantly great, and plenty of it– ballyhoo must be stepped up to pick and horse sizes. My favorite lure of all is the Braid Bigeye Rocket. With the skirt trimmed, positioning the lure back or off a corner rod has yielded an extraordinary quantity of bigeye. I don’t know precisely what it is about this simple lure, however it draws them in. On three successive journeys this year, we captured bigeye on this one lure. On one journey, a friend boat captured 3 utilizing the precise same lure. Other good choices include Moldcraft Hookers, weighted Green Machines, big jets, Joe Shutes, or other weighted lures that aren’t pressed out of the way by the substantial wake of a charging bigeye. Spreader bars on short-riggers likewise work well.
My go-to bigeye spread has mini Green Maker bars on the left and right short-riggers and, placed 6 to 8 feet behind the bars, weighted Ilanders or Joe Shutes entices (rigged with select ballyhoo) off the long riggers,. Off the left corner is a purple/black Bigeye Rocket and off the right corner is a black/orange Moldcraft Senior citizen Hooker. In tight to the transom are two skirted ballyhoo. A lone Bigeye Rocket is fished short off the center rigger and a daisy chain consisting of a bird and junior Ilanders rigged with select ballyhoo is set method back.
Captain John Galvin, a proven competition fisherman who has captured more than his share of bigeye tuna, uses this spread: Two Moldcraft Squid daisy chains in tight, Green Maker bar on left short-rigger and Loan Maker chain with ballyhoo on right short-rigger. Both bar and chain are run high off the rigger. Long-riggers are both Canyon Gear Hoo Devices with horse ballyhoo. Flat lines are Hairball orange/purple skirts with horse ballyhoo in tight. The center rigger is rigged with two Carlson birds with Ilanders/horse ballyhoo trailers. He trolls these at about 6 knots.