I probably jumped the gun when I wrote about bluefins in January. Yes, that is when they typically make their appearance, but in February things really get rockin’. Of course, things are always subject to change, but for the last ten or more years, February and March have been the best of it.
Back in the 1990s when we first realized what a phenomenal fishery we had right outside our back door, people came from all over the world for a chance to tackle one of these beasts.
Nobody owned 130-pound class tackle, and we quickly saw that 80s weren’t gonna cut it. We scrambled to order one or two 130# rod and reel combos, heavy line and 16-0 circle hooks. Captain Omie always said that “rigged up” was the biggest word in the dictionary, but we were doing the best we could to get there!
Even though we were doing all we could to keep our fighting chairs from breaking and rod holders tearing out of our washboards, people always want to find a greater challenge. We bought “stand up” tackle and fighting harnesses for those brave enough to wrestle a Bluefin on their feet. Still, after a few more years, 50# stand-up gear proved not to be enough of a challenge for some.
As technology made advances in spectra braided fishing lines, it became possible, because of the super small diameter, to fill a much smaller reel with an adequate amount of line. Technology made advances in the rods and reels as well, making it possible to fight a fish with forty pounds of drag on a reel not much bigger than your fist. Rods with the diameter of a pencil would accommodate these super strong reels. This tackle is most commonly used with vertical jigs and has become very popular and effective. Most of the guys I’ve talked to make it a priority to hit the gym for a couple months before one of these adventures.
Many winters yield great yellowfin fishing as well. Last winter was great, and all the reports I’ve heard as recent as last week were of great yellowfin and blackfin tuna fishing. Yeah, it can be a little chilly, but once you hit water that’s in the 70 or more degree range, the air warms right up as well. I’ve had some of my best yellowfin catches in February.
Gillnetters are hard at work, with some still after the croakers, while others stay closer to shore and hope for a catch of dog sharks. Longliners can still get a great catch of tuna and swords out in the deep as well.
As far as I know, the puppy drum fishing has still been good in the surf. A couple of weeks ago there were reports of “the best I’ve ever seen.” I was fortunate enough to have one dropped off at my house for supper one night!
The boatyard in Buxton is getting busy as the charter boats haul out to do their annual maintenance to prepare for another season. Bottom paint must be applied to prevent the growth of barnacles and slime. Zincs are fastened to the running gear as a sacrificial metal, to prevent electrolysis from damaging or destroying shafts, props and rudders. Sometimes bigger projects are planned, but the annual stuff is always necessary.
Today the weather is supposed to be in the 70s again, and even though it may just be teasing us, we are reminded that spring isn’t far away!