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Yellowfin Tuna; Florida Style!

tunaCertain times of the year Yellowfin Tuna come considerably close to both sides of the Gulf Stream of Florida and the Bahamas. They are also found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico accessible by sufficiently equipped smaller boats as well as the bigger multi engine fishing machines. Yellowfin Tuna are the bullies of the ocean and hooking one may actually be much easier than getting one to gaff. They can bring a muscular angler to tears with their long runs and power dives, challenging both angler and tackle to their limits.
If you’ve ever fished for offshore species like King Mackerel or Dolphin then you already have a good understanding of the methods used to target Yellowfin Tuna. If you see the fish breaking on the surface you can toss baits to them or cast appropriate lures, but by far the most widely used method of fishing is trolling for Yellowfin Tuna. However, many of the more seasoned anglers prefer chasing birds and pitching live or chunk bait to already feeding fish.

Rod for Yellowfin Tuna
When discussing the rod needed for Yellowfin Tuna I’m going to assume you are going to fight the fish standing up without the benefit of a fighting chair. Let’s face it, most of us who have smaller boats and want to target Yellowfin Tuna will have to adjust a bit to fit our ability and budgets. A stout Tuna stick or rod between 5and 6 foot in length in the 50lb class should do just fine. I personally prefer a shorter rod for its stoutness and better control, especially if I’m going to be standing up fight a big Tuna for a significant amount of time, and believe me, if you hook into a good sized Yellowfin Tuna the fight can last not minutes but hours.

What reel should I use for Yellowfin Tuna
When considering what reel to use for Yellowfin Tuna three things are of supreme importance, ball bearings and drag in a sturdy one piece frame. Stainless steel ball bearings are not cheap and neither is a top of the line heavy duty drag but you should get the best your budget will allow. There is nothing worse than losing a big fish due to equipment failure. You are fishing for large and incredibly strong fish so match you tackle accordingly. 350 yards of 50lb test should do, but don’t get to economical and use quality line designed for big game fishing.

Yellowfin Tuna

A Nice Yellowfin Tuna taken aboard the “Sea Wolff” out of Boca Raton

Do I need a stand up harness for Tuna
A stand up harness is essential when fishing for big game especially Tuna and Billfish. When choosing a Stand up harness two things should come to mind: How the belt distributes pressure over your body and is it comfortable, after all you may be in it for a considerable amount of time. The harness will allow you to place greater on the fish while distributing the pressure across more of your body. Personally, I am not a fan of using a stand up harness on any tackle over 50lb class as I usually would go with a wider spool reel to hold more line than up the pain and suffering a stand up 80lb class rod and reel would bring me. Bottom line, take pressure off your arms and move more of it to the larger muscle groups in the legs and back. Adjust the harness properly for comfort and pressure distribution and you are good to go. I like to practice by having a friend apply pressure to the line while I simulate fighting a fish. DO NOT use the family pet as your test subject!

How to set Drag for Yellowfin
Most seasoned anglers prefer reels with lever drags as they may be more consistent when preset and easier to control during a fight if needed. Preset the drag according to the lb test line you are using on that reel. If you are using the 50lb test line suggested here try and feel for how many lbs of drag will tire the fish more than you yet not be so tight that an abrupt run will break the line, I personally use about 15 lbs of drag. Lighter line go a bit lighter on the drag and with heavier line a bit tighter. Yellowfin Tuna are brutes and the tighter drag will wear you out quicker and probably cause you to make rookie mistakes such as tightening the drag hope to end the fight quicker, which it frequently does, but in the Tuna’s favor.

Final Thoughts for Fishing for Yellowfin Tuna
We are not going to go over what lures to use for YellowFin Tuna as it is often dependent on where you are fishing. Lures used off the Bahamas may be different than those used trolling around the Oil platforms in the Gulf. Just remember that if trolling multiple rods to set them out in such a fashion to prevent crossed or tangled lines. These are big fish you are trying to catch so be prepared with suitable gaffs and a tail rope. Many of the fish I have caught are in the 70 lb range and could be even bigger so be prepared for an hour or so of pure excitement mixed with a bit of pain if you are not in shape. You really need to be in good physical condition to tackle one of these Bullies.

To catch a Yellowfin Tuna it takes lots of little things working together to be successful, and many of these things should already be second nature to those venturing offshore. Tackle is just one aspect of this quest but teamwork is every bit as important, if these little things are not part of your current abilities or you are not able to take direction from seasoned offshore anglers you may not be ready to tackle a beast like the Yellowfin Tuna.


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