Canyon Tuna, More Tuna, Sea Bass and Giant Report, Sept. 5-20, 2010
I apologize for the interruption in the reports program. Look for updates on a much more consistent basis moving forward. Much has changed since the last entry, most notably the duration of trips aboard the Helen H now that the fall tuna season has hit high gear. For those who’ve been out of the loop, the first trip on the schedule, a three-dayer slated Labor Day weekend, fell victim to Media Storm Earl, a hugely overestimated gale that fizzled out and shot right through the area without raising too many eyebrows. Maiden voyage, then, sailed early Tuesday morning, September 7 and returned late on Thursday, September 9. Game plan, per Capt. Joe Huck, was to stab east, way east, taking advantage of the extra time on the clock and hopefully tuning up the yellowfins somewhere between Hydro and Oceanographer Canyons. On arrival, it became clear fairly quickly that what force Earl never delivered to the mainland, he might have unloaded offshore. To put this all in context, the better part of summer 2010 saw an absolutely wide-open yellowfin bite that started in the Atlantises in late June or July and slid slowly and steadily east through Veatch, and lingered through most of August anywhere from Hydrographers and Welkers. Relative canyon neophytes were racking up double-digit days of 40- to 60-pound yellows on the troll.
So as of the Helen’s departure, most recent trips, before the gales, had honed the fish-a mixed bag of sizeable yellows, mahis, swords and other mystery meat-up n the bank between Welkers and Ocean, and the boys had high hopes. To their dismay, it quickly became clear that the blow had taken a toll. Huck explained that the storm had pulled quite a bit of cold, murky, green water down off Georges Bank, souring much of the slug of warm blue water that had hosted much of the late-summer bonanza and given a couple boats out right ahead of the weather some bang-up trips. Looking for some more tuna-friendly water, Joe worked south to the edge then hooked west toward Hydro. Late afternoon, a bit east of Hydro, four nice yellows in the 70- to 80-pound range found the spread. After some further recon, Huck set up for the night a bit south of the water that had produced those four. The water warmed through the night, creeping from 72 degrees up toward 74, but the fishing was very quiet. Huck picked up in the morning, the game plan to push westward toward Veatch in search of more consistent numbers. They picked up one yellow roughly half-way between Hydrographers and Veatch, and continued west. Unfortunately, the moon tide was boiling toward the west, right into a building SW wind gusting past 30 knots, and conditions soon became all but unfishable, and Huck elected to turn down-wind and down-sea, working back eastward toward the numbers where they’d had the morning’s lone tuna. Almost as soon as they reached the area, they hooked another pair and picked a couple more fish on the troll, despite rapidly deteriorating sea conditions. Huck called night two’s weather totally unfishable, with screaming tides and washing machine seas; 40 ounces of lead just about kept baits down in the zone. With all lines leading astern, several fish were lost to tangles, and one was boated. The wind had dropped out by morning. Back on the troll, they managed one more and lost a couple.
All things considered, the final tally of 13 yellows and a bunch of mahi-while not a slammer trip-looked pretty good in light of the conditions.
Next trip out, a Saturday-Sunday shot with Capt. Walt at the helm, returned to the scene of the crime from the previous trip. Unfortunately, the water that had looked pretty promising had receded off the edge between Hydro and Veatch, so Walt decided to work west toward Atlantis in search of some better water and concentrations of fish. They picked one nice yellow on the troll around the east wall of Atlantis, where Walt read a pretty good shot of fish. His plan was to get south of these fish, figuring the 10- to 15-knot NE wind would likely push the slug of warm water back down toward the edge. The night bite-a slow, steady pick straight through-saw plenty of shots at the fish, both on bait and jigs. Less than ideal conditions once again contributed to a pretty tough hook-up-to-landed ratio, and the final score was 8 nice yellows, the largest pushing 75 to 80 pounds, and another 15 fish lost.
A Monday-Tuesday (September 13-14) private charter with long-time customer Bernie from CT began the hunt in Atlantis, where water was warm and clean blue, but pretty much lacking in the life department. Back in search mode, Huck decided to haul eastward again, where the most recent sat picture showed a piece of warm water pushing up on the edge between Hydro and Veatch. The day troll was very slow until just before dark, when the crew went one-for-two on yellows. That was all the confirmation Huck needed; crew readied the anchor and set up for the chunk right around dusk. Customers had a good flurry of fish early in the evening, landing six and losing another six, mostly on hookbaits. The tiger sharks moved in overnight, and the bite died. Another flurry right from false dawn through about 7 a.m. produced a pair of nice yellows and one lonely albacore. Again, all things considered on a fleet-wide scale, the Helen fared about as well as could be expected.
The 17th and 18th, another two-dayer met decent results in spite of somewhat difficult conditions. NE wind was dropping out as Huck steamed south on Saturday morning. Several days of intense cloud cover meant no SST picture was available, leaving little choice but to go back in looking-around mode. Most recent chart showed a bit of water pushing up around Welkers, and Huck spent a good deal of time with the spread in the water. The day-time troll came up pretty light, with one knockdown to show for the Helen’s efforts. Set up for the night in reasonably promising water, they managed to pick 7 yellows, a bit smaller than the recent trend, mostly on the bait, and lost double what they hooked. They also landed and released a pair of short swordies. Day two, with weather coming and no real reason to fly toward the barn, Huck elected to go into overtime, shooting down to the west wall of Hydrographer, where they found 72-degree water sliding up on the bank, and went one-for-two on yellows. Trip hit the dock late.
Asked for some thoughts about the bigger picture this fall-and really the last few seasons-Capt. Joe noted the best of the fishing has been off to the east. Theories abound as to why the yellows, or the conspicuously scarce longfins, have been so scattered. It doesn’t appear to be related to the bait situation: there’s loads of bait all up and down the line. Huckmeyer believes there’s still time for some significant improvement for the fall run-if the weather holds together. Traditionally, he noted, as the waters off to the east cool and the remaining slugs of warmer blue start to gather fish from up and down the line. Incidentally, the Capt. Huck is considering the possibility of adding some tuna dates later on; for details, or to book a spot on one of the upcoming trips, call the office: 508-790-0660.
Closer to home, the Helen H Fleet’s six-pack private charter boats continue to work on the a wide-open sea bass fishery in the Sounds, with the best of the recent action unfolding nearer the Vineyard than Nantucket. All the usual rigs and baits have been working as customers pick through mixed-size sea biscuits to fill a limit of fish with specimens from a pound to nearly 5 pounds. There have been quite a few one-drop/one-spot days, and no one’s been complaining about the sizes or numbers. Per the usual, Huckmeyer noted that the biggest sea bass are in the thick of the nastiest bottom, while the smaller fish get pushed off to the outskirts of the pieces. A few scup remain in the mix, but the bulk of the catch has been clean sea bass. The sea bassing typically holds into mid-October, but Huck believes the relatively warm water temps inside might keep things going through the end of the Tenth Month. Bear in mind that the Helen H Fleet holds special RSA permits that give them the option of continuing to target both porgies and sea bass after the state- and federal-waters fisheries close. The six-packs have limited openings, and the remaining dates are filling up, while the Angler is running Marthas Vineyard sea bass trips on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday schedule; quite a few of these trips are sold-out, but there are still openings on some trips between now and mid-October.
As a side note, there have been at least two great white sightings on the sea bass grounds. Huck, chuckling, noted no one’s had the wherewithal to capture these sightings on video. “I guess when you see one there’s a tendency to get mesmerized for a minute,” said Huck. “No one’s thinking he should be going for his camera.”
One final note: Huck mentioned an unprecedented giant bluefin bite that’s been simmering along for the last few weeks on the Northern Edge of Georges Bank, the fish averaging 700 pounds or better, and the activity centered around the scallop fleet working a good way east of Cultivator Shoal. If scheduling and the weather patterns allow it, Capt. Joe hopes to make that run a couple times. For further information on any of the upcoming trips, including up-to-the-minute scheduling updates, check out the website and give the office a call: 508-790-0660.