Fall not only provides a welcome break from the oppressive heat of late summer, it also provides the ideal time for an offshore trip to haul in one of the most desired fish species in the Gulf of Mexico – the yellowfin tuna.
The yellowfin is a pelagic species that is always swimming, looking for its next meal, which can be any bait species from squid to sardines. Tuna are built for speed and are fast enough to also dine on flying fish.
For folks who live on the Alabama coast, searching for a tuna bite usually involves booking an overnight trip on one of the many charter boats in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
Start rounding up your fishing buddies and book a tuna trip. Sharing the cost makes it affordable, and most of the time you bring back plenty of sushi-grade tuna.
The deep-water petroleum rigs are the tuna destinations for most boats that head out from Perdido Pass. Charter boats allow you to make the long rides in comfort, and you can get some rest before the serious fishing starts. There’s nothing like the hum of the diesel engines to provide the incentive for some ride-time sleeping.
Hardtails (blue runners) caught on the way out, cigar minnows and skipjack herring are commonly used for live bait.
If the charter captain finds clear green or blue water before he reaches the rigs, he’ll probably try some daylight trolling or drop some live bait in deeper water to try to locate the yellowfins.
With the right kind of wind, the crew will put live bait under a kite and wait for a yellowfin tuna to slam it on the surface.
Most of the yellowfins will range from 30 to 60 pounds with an occasional fish that hits the century mark. If you hook a 100-pounder, expect to take a little break after the fight to rehydrate and give your muscles time to recover.
Speaking of yellowfins in the 30- to 60-pound range, I’ll never forget a trip with Capt. Gary Bryant on the Red Eye when we happened onto a school of tuna feasting on baitfish at the surface. We quickly grabbed spinning tackle and topwater plugs to see if we could capitalize on our luck. What we found out was our spinning tackle wasn’t up to the task. The tuna proceeded to steal every topwater plug Bryant had on the boat with only one yellowfin hitting the deck before all the plugs were gone.
At times, the captain may opt to do a little high-speed trolling that could produce a wahoo, king mackerel or dolphin fish (dorado).
The captain will also likely stop for a little bottom fishing on a 24-hour trip. Greater amberjack season is open until Oct. 31, and the catch could include grouper, scamp or tile fish.
If you’ve never been offshore, waking up in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is something you will never forget. Like one charter captain said, “An overnight trip in the Gulf gives you an experience you will never forget, from a brilliant moon to a sunrise that rivals anything I’ve ever seen. We want people to appreciate the experience and realize it’s not just about catching fish.”
The charter captains will provide all the tackle, rigged for the type of fishing you will doing, which could mean everything from spinning tackle to 9/0 reels with heavy braid. The charters will also provide information about what you need to bring to have an enjoyable and productive trip offshore.