In addition, warm, ever-moving Gulf Stream water, which has wound its way around Florida and up the East Coast, meets local, cooler water in the form of filaments and eddies where bait congregate. Combine bait with currents and upwellings from those canyons, and you can get an aquarium of epic proportions swimming right under your boat. This is the key ingredient for that aforementioned angling greatness.
How Do You Fish It?
Our runs to the deep can be as short as 76 miles or as far as 125 miles and beyond, depending on how far into the canyon we want to fish and where the good water starts. Sometimes we’ll run about 20 miles south to another favorite called Tom’s Canyon. Either way, once we get there it’s all about the fishing.
The season for my crew is broken up into day- and overnight trips. June, July, and early August are day-trip season because this is when the fish we target—primarily yellowfin, longfin, big-eye tuna, and mahi-mahi—put on the feedbag. That means long days of trolling: trips can start at midnight and end at 10 p.m. Weekdays are always better than weekends (fewer boats equals more fish per boat).
And while years ago I saw anglers mainly pulling lures behind their boats here in the Northeast (usually for tuna), more and more anglers have come around to the idea of trolling dead bait such as ballyhoo, mullet, and mackerel. We use both methods for tuna. But when we run the boat to hit some of the canyons off southern New Jersey and Maryland, our attention turns to marlin. And when we target marlin, it’s exclusively baits, except for teasers (hookless lures) here and there.
Trolling the canyons has its advantages. You can fish a lot of ground, cover a variety of depths, and really run the fine lines of those sea-surface-temperature breaks. But sometimes it can be just a long boat ride. I’ve had my fair share of those. One resulted in what worked out to be a $1,500 (maybe six-pound) skipjack tuna. Hey, no risk, no reward.
In late summer and early fall something unusual happens out here: The fish switch to a day and nighttime feed. This means the trips turn into two-day voyages: We run out in the morning and troll all day, then when the sun goes down, we find a place in the flats (300 to 500 feet), usually anchor up (not fun), and use dead and live bait (most often squid) for tuna and swordfish. We can catch serious numbers of fish when the bite is on. For example, we had back-to-back trips the last week of September and first week of October where we averaged three dozen 50- to 75-pound yellowfin tuna per trip and at least one swordfish, too. Of course, we only keep what we can eat. But if you ever want a workout, hook up and fight 36 built-to-swim yellows all night after not sleeping the previous day. I guarantee you’ll be reaching for the Advil bottle even before you get back to the dock!
This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.