Bluefin Tuna In the Florida Keys – A Day Offshore To Remember
On Wednesday, February 22nd, Captain Marty Lewis called his wife, Katie, and asked if she would like to go fishing the next day. Marty felt Thursday would be an excellent day to look for sailfish tailing in the waves. Katie wanted to say yes, but she had spent most of the week tending to their sick daughter, so she declined to catch up on work-related tasks.
Captain Marty started calling around to friends and fellow fishing companions to see if anyone wanted to go fishing with him on his rare day off. It seemed like everyone was already booked or busy, so he asked his 16-year-old son if he wanted to take a “mental health day” from school and go fishing with his ol’ dad. Unsurprisingly, Alex quickly said, “yes!”. Main Attraction mate Josie Kidd also had the day off and happily accepted the invitation.
The Main Attraction team was up bright and early as usual, catching live pilchards for the days paid charters and the Main One fun fishing trip. The three-person crew left Marathon Sailfish Marina at approximately 8 am and started heading towards Sombrero light. Within minutes of their destination, Captain Marty began to spot the tailing sailfish from his tall tower. By 8:52 am the first sailfish was officially released, and it was game on. By 10 am, the team had already secured ten sailfish releases!
Not long after, Captain Marty spotted a school of Bluefin Tuna surfing in the waves. It is common for Marty to spot migrating Bluefin Tuna this time of year; however, catching a Bluefin Tuna in the Keys is no small task. So much so that catching a Bluefin Tuna is a dream for many fishing enthusiasts and professionals alike.
Like most rarer species to land in the Florida Keys, it is vital to be well-prepared to catch a Bluefin Tuna. Captain Marty called out to his two-person crew to grab the large conventional 80-wide Shimano Tierra fishing rod he keeps rigged and ready for such scenarios.
Captain Marty positioned the boat and called for a live mullet caught by Ben Zdan on the morning bait run. Alex Lewis handed the bait to Josie, who dropped the Mullet back to the Bluefin on Captain Marty’s command.
The first two baits didn’t trigger a bite, but the third attempt succeeded. At approximately 10:30 am, the bluefin exploded on the bait as it came crashing through the water’s surface, leaping into the air. The fish was hooked in a depth of 140 feet and headed for deeper water. The team was having a blast taking turns on the rod as they fought the big fish. Once the tuna reached a depth of about 400 feet, miles from where they initially hooked the fish, it turned and started heading inshore.
After a 10-mile ride and a long, arduous fight, the fish was finally along side the starboard side of the vessel.
Because we don’t often catch Bluefin tuna, the rules, and regulations for possessing one could be clearer. Some believe that we should have kept this beast, while others disagree. While Captain Marty was fighting this fish, he called a local FWC officer and asked the question. Unfortunately, the officer needed further clarification on the rules since it was such a rare catch. So to err on caution, Captain Marty asked the FWC officer if jumping in the water for a photo was ok, which was confirmed.
Once First Mate Josie leadered the huge fish, Captain Marty came down to the cockpit and asked Josie and Alex if they wanted to jump in with the large fish to get a photo. Without hesitation, the two leaped into the water and smiled for the camera. The team released the massive 750lb Bluefin Tuna, and it swam off to see to another day!
After that excitement, Captain Marty went back to looking for tailing sailfish. It was only minutes before the team had another sailfish hooked up. They continued to catch and release 14 more sailfish throughout the afternoon, it was definitely a day to remember!
While chasing around the tailing sailfish, Captain Marty got a phone call from Captain BJ Meyer on the Silent Hunter boat, as he had been trying to hook a blue marlin with no luck. He asked the Main One team to come over and try their luck. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the Blue Marlin hooked up, but seeing it was incredible.
If you’re asking yourself what on earth was going on that day, what was getting all these incredible species so fired up, the answer is the conditions. We have highlighted these Tailing conditions in a recent Sailfish article. We identify them by seeing a beautiful color change line, when the gulf stream pushes in close, with an easterly breeze and abundant sunshine. Those are the three key ingredients for fantastic sailfish conditions. Captain Marty has been doing this for so long that he can anticipate days like this a day ahead of time.
The Main One crew ended their day with 24 released sailfish; one released Bluefin Tuna and a shot at blue marlin. Not too shabby! The most memorable highlight of this day as it was shared with Captain Marty and his 16-year-old son, Alex. A day they won’t ever forget.
Wintertime fishing is a blast here in the Florida Keys because we encounter offshore fish surprisingly close to land some days; you never know what you may end up catching. If you are interested in fishing with the Main Attraction team call us at 305-289-0071 or visit our contact page for more information.