Dave fishes mostly Long Range out of San Diego, California. Very fortunate to have become a product tester for many tackle companies, but he really enjoys helping others learn to enjoy this sport and improve their techniques.
I have to thank Kerry for the idea for the blog this week, as he asked just a couple of great questions on the Long Range Board on Allcoast!
#1. Say you are at the hurricane bank and the sharks are a problem. How do you get your bait past the sharks in a condition that the tuna will still eat it?
You can run into this situation at almost all locations, although the lower Mag Bay banks tend to be "cleaner" fishing.
Sharks are actually a pretty decent sign. I've been on Shark Fest trips, and wake up one day to find the sharks are gone!
Bad thing is, so were the fish! They feed on the same stuff, so if the feed leaves, the sharks and tuna leave too.
As far as live bait goes, a lively bait will entice a tuna, and a lethargic bait is almost certain to end up a grinner. One trip I was on where I caught back to back cows, a friend of mine complained he had just caught 17 straight sharks! The key was to have a bait that is really swimming.
SALAMIS and Sharks
Salamis by nature, get fairly lethargic way too quickly. We locate them in deep water, put them in the tank, and they don't even last for the afternoon bite most the time. If I look in the insert tray, and see a bunch of salamis that are side stroking or belly up swimming, I know I'm going to test drive a shark soon if I pin that slow stroker on!
There is only so much bait we can put on each night, so you can't pin salami after salami on until you get a swimmer. I look in the tray, if I like what I see, I ask the crew member for the one I want, or get it myself if we can. Of course, that one WILL be the hardest one to catch. It'll be worth it, trust me. If I don't like what I see, I fish another method or type of bait.
SARDINES and sharks
Same trip I had the back to back cows, we had shark problems. That was Ralph Mikkelsen's Big Fish Special in 2008. I got one cow on Salami, but a couple more on sardines. I love fishing sardines, such a great bait. We had a cluster of sharks hanging off the stern, and I don't care if you had a great Olympic swimmer of a sardine, you got a shark when casting off the stern. So you had to find a way to avoid them.
One of those methods was to run to the bow, and cast your bait off the bow and hopefully you got a tuna bite before you get to the bad neighborhood. This worked well for my roommate Peter, who caught this 300 pounder in just that fashion.
Another method was the bobber balloon. For some reason, you could get a bait past those pesky sharks using the bobber balloon. Andy Marcum used just this method to catch this cow and a few other really good size tuna!
CHUNKS and sharks
There is a myth around long range that when sharks are around and abundant, you can't use chunks. I disagree. I don't even care if the crew has abandoned the chunk line to hopefully discourage the sharks, but I still feel a chunk bait is a valid option for a cow.
There are ways around the toothy critters.
The second long range trip I went on, I fished the chunk quite a bit of the time. I think I went through a whole box of 100 Mustad circle hooks, but I caught a cow, and many other large tuna. That is when I coined the phrase" You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you get a princess!"
On that trip, which was in the early days of long range when we fished very long top shots of mono. Now, if sharks are bad but I want to fish the chunk, I'll fish a fairly long mono top shot, say 75-100 feet long. That way the crew can do a release on the sharks, and you aren't constantly changing top shots.
Another method I use when I feel conditions are right for the chunk, yet the sharks are thick, is counting the pulls, or timing the soak. Either one works, I normally count the pulls. I'll do 30 pulls, wind in, and next soak, 35 pulls. Still no sharks, 40 pulls. I want to soak the chunk as long as possible without getting a shark.
So, I get up to 55 pulls, and I get a shark- now I back it off 5 pulls and fish 50 pull soaks for a while.
Here's my biggest chunk fish, oh yeah, my biggest fish!
#2.How about you are at Clarion and the birds are thick as flies on a turd? What are some of the tricks to getting a bait to the tuna?
This whole idea of this blog came from the thread on Allcoast.com, and some great suggestions on dealing with these items are posted by some very good fishermen. Here is the link to that:
One of my favorite areas to fish for giant yellowfin tuna is the northeast corner of Clarion island. I remember sliding into that zone once, and thinking: Great, no birds to contend with!
Truth be told, there were no fish there either.
So, the birds are a great sign, they are our friends, and they are simply trying to earn their living. Don't get frustrated, don't hurt them. Frigates or boobies, they help us. Here's some methods to keep your trip from going to the birds.
One of my favorite methods is to run up to the bow, and fish that section of water that not as many anglers are angling in. But the birds get on to you pretty quick, and it does get maddening when you run all the way up there only to have a boobie bird swoop down and get your sardine as soon as it hits the water.
Remember, it's called angling, and that means you need an angle to increase your odds. So, I'll run up the port side of the boat, only to trick the birds and cast off the starboard side. Seems silly and simple, but I only need a few seconds for my bait to swim down and avoid the birds.
Dropping your bait right next to the boat while belly hooked is another great way to avoid the aerial attack, as is using a small sinker, say one to two ounces of lead, either a torpedo sinker rubber banded on two to two and a half feet up from the hook, or simply an egg sinker slid on the line.
Remember, when using a sinker you almost always want to nose hook your bait, as it will appear a lot more natural that way. If it gets to you, and it starts to affect your attitude, maybe take a break. The birds seem to have some sort of work schedule, really they do. Strange as it seems, as dark approaches, they birds head back out of the fishing zone to feed their young. Taking a break in the afternoon until the whistle blows and their shift is over might allow you to be cool headed and serene when that sundowner starts to occur!