Tuna and Sea Bass, September 23-30
Capt. Joe Huck, zig-zagging his way homeward in a sizeable following sea Tuesday afternoon, debriefed me on the results of the Helen H’s two most recent two-day canyon runs. Last Thursday and Friday, September 23-24, the Helen left Hyannis for this fall’s Shimano-sponsored canyon tuna trip carrying a limited load of anglers and several of the company’s gear gurus for what would amount to a two-day on-water seminar. Capt. Huckmeyer has been working closely with Shimano for years as a field tester and technical advisor, and he noted the trip is a culmination of lots of planning and logistics each season. “It’s a great chance for my guys not just to test out all the latest gear, but to learn how to get the most out of some real cutting edge equipment,” said Huck. Naturally, the Shimano crew arrived with a ton of rods and reels, some of them not yet available on the open market-small, powerful two-speeds designed for jigging, rods that look stunningly light but deliver unbelievable wallop.
Customers on the Shimano trip received gift bags worth more than $150 from Shimano and the Helen H, and were automatically entered into a drawing-held on the homeward steam-for a two-speed TLD50 stand-up combo. Huckmeyer, while still a bit disappointed by this fall’s tuna fishery overall, called the event a success.
A success that was-my words, not Huck’s-the product of a significant effort by captain and crew to make the most of a short weather window and a mighty tough pick.
As of the Thursday morning departure, Huckmeyer had his sights on a finger of warm water that had moved within striking distance of the edge just a hair east of Veatch Canyon. They put the spread in outside 100 fathoms, and began to work westward. Unfortunately, the day’s trolling activity was dead, and Huck wound up dropping the hook up on the bank around the SW corner just before sunset. Shortly thereafter, they had a brief flurry of activity that yielded several hook-ups and put on 40-pound yellow in the boat. Through the night, they chipped away at some large mahi mahi that meandered in and out of the slick. Just before false dawn, when most had begun staring into the middle distance, another shot of yellows rushed through, and the anglers with good-looking baits in the water stuck a pair of bigger yellows in the 50- to 60-pound range.
Back on the troll just after first light, Huckmeyer opted to run back outside into the warm side of the major break off the edge, and logged some hours dragging lures through water as warm as 76 degrees with only one mystery-meat knockdown to show for the efforts. Huck noted the effort was a bit of Hail Mary, a shot at finding some exotics-a marlin or a wahoo. With the clock winding down, Huck began trolling northward. The temp gauge in free-fall as they ran up the bank, hopes were dwindling when one of the rods went off, screaming drag. A short while later, the crew put a pair of gaffs in the business end of an impressive 80-pound wahoo. The surface temp? How about 68 degrees? More proof that there are no rules in canyon fishing. A short while later, the spread back in the water, another rod started dumping line at a furious clip. That fish-still in 68 degrees-turned out to be a 70-popund yellowfin, a great way to punctuate a difficult trip.
The weekend trip was scrubbed due to-you guessed it-more horrific weather. Things had dropped out nicely by late Sunday night, and the boys left Hyannis early Monday morning on an ultra-limited two-dayer with high hopes for a return to the previous trip’s scene of the crime-the cold side of a six-degree break right outside Veatch. Huck had, over the weekend, gotten some additional intel to confirm the game plan: the long-liners, bunched up off the edge in roughly the same piece of water, had found most of their fish in the cold. Crew deployed the spread right at the tip of Veatch, and Huckmeyer worked SE, eventually roughing out a six-degree break off the bank. Shortly after lines-in, the stink was cleared out of the fishbox with a fat 70-pound yellow. Next hook-up-presumably more of the same-was dropped. Then another 70-pounder. After a lull, they had another encounter with a big wahoo. This one didn’t end as well; the fish shredded the leader not far from the transom after all hands had gotten a good look at the fish. They set up close to the break for the evening, and had one quick flurry right after sunset that put three more nice yellows in the boxes, then picked away on mahis overnight. Unlike other recent trips, there was no wee-hours/false-dawn bite, and Capt. Joe reasoned the water had receded back off into the deep through the night. Working south on the dawn the dawn troll in search of the break, they found it, and immediately iced another 70-pound YFT, the last fish, it would turn out when they started their run back to the barn just after 11 a.m., for the trip.
Fall 2010 certainly has not seen a bang-up tuna bite along the edge-so far. But if history tells us anything about canyon fishing, it’s that you never know what the future-the immediate future, even-holds. It’s pretty clear, looking at the big picture of the last few seasons, that some autumn patterns are changing offshore. It’s important to remember just how quickly things change in distant waters. Point is, with some time left on the clock, it very well could still happen. The offshore lobstermen find breaks loaded with fish into December some years, when the fleet has shifted focus and tired of the late-season beatings. The best of the bite is October some years and it’s out of nowhere. As it stands, Capt. Joe and crew still have trips on the schedule, and it’s far from unreasonable to think we might just salvage the fall yet. Call the office for scheduling updates.
Looking back a bit, with pretty tough weather last weekend and the Helen available for duty, Capt. Joe carried the sea bass trips the Angler had been scheduled to handle. Huck rated the sea bassing around the Vineyard outstanding, with mixed-sized piles of sea biscuits from minis to 4-pounders crossing the rails. He noted the catch has been pretty clean on the sea bass-a handful of porgies and triggerfish for two days’ fishing. The full-day sea bass trips will continue to run as long as the resource holds together, and based on the cues so far, it doesn’t look like the fish will let up for a good while yet. Call the office to check space on the upcoming trips: 508-776-8435.