Nick Saunders holds a blackfin tune he caught north of Boynton Inlet while fishing with Capt. Chris Lemieux of Boynton Beach. Photo provided by Lemieux Charters.
By Willie Howard
Pound for pound, blackfin tuna are amazingly strong.
When ocean anglers reel in one of the football-sized blackfins typically found in the waters off Palm Beach County in the fall, they’re often amazed that small tunas fight like much larger ocean fish.
The shorter, cloudier and cooler days of fall typically bring good fishing for blackfins, especially in low-light hours of the morning or late afternoon — or whenever clouds blot out the sun and encourage tunas to move toward the surface.
When you fish offshore, keep an eye out for flocks of birds coming down to the surface, ribbons of current and clumps of floating sargassum that are sheltering minnows.
Capt. Chris Lemieux of Lemiuex Charters in Boynton Beach recommends trolling small tuna feathers far behind the boat (meaning well beyond the white, bubbling water created by the propellers).
Lemieux, who runs his charters from Palm Beach Yacht Center in Hypoluxo, trolls feathers in purple and black, blue and white or plain white when targeting fall blackfins.
If he can catch glass minnows in a cast net, Lemieux said he uses live minnows to chum up blackfins — or as small live baits fished on light spinning rods fitted with 10-pound-test line and small hooks.
When you search for blackfins in the waters off Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton, Lemieux advises trolling in about 150 to 300 feet of water. Look for relatively clean water. Troll over areas where the depth changes quickly.
Small, flashy trolling lures can work well for blackfin tuna often found under clusters of birds in the fall. From left are the Boone Feather Jig, the Williamson Flash Feather, a Mylar skirt covered by a small squid skirt, a Red Eye bullet lure and a small Clark spoon.
Lemeiux said it’s important to watch the water because blackfins sometimes break the surface while feeding. Tuna fishing can be a good way to start a morning of fishing in the fall, he said, as the tuna are more likely to be near the surface in low light.
Anglers who plan to keep and eat a blackfin tuna should remove the gills or use a knife to make incisions behind the pectoral fins. Place the fish in a bucket of salt water and let it bleed for a few minutes before placing it on ice — preferably in an icy, saltwater slush.
Blackfin tuna (Thunnus atlanticus) have jet-black backs, bronze lateral stripes and large eyes.
There are no size or bag limits on blackfins. But that will change Jan. 1, when the daily bag limit of two per person or 10 per boat, whichever is greater, takes effect.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the bag limit for blackfin tuna on Oct. 2. When the limit takes effect, it will apply in both state and federal waters (beyond 3 miles off Florida’s east coast).
When you clean a freshly caught blackfin tuna, don’t rinse the meat with fresh water, advises Capt. Chris Walter of Get Bent Charters in the Florida Keys.
Fresh water can be used to rinse the cleaning surface, but the tuna meat should be kept mostly dry.
Remove the skin, the blood line and the remaining dark meat. Cut the tuna into thin strips for sashimi or thicker steaks for grilling or searing.
Blackfin tuna does not freeze well and is best eaten fresh, so release tuna you don’t plan to eat or share with friends within a day or two.
Nov. 2: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Fee $35 ($5 for youths ages 12-19). Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 391-3600. Leave a message.
Nov. 5: Boynton Beach Boating and Fishing Club meets, 7 p.m. at the clubhouse building near the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Call 614-1550 or visit www.bbbfc.org.
Nov. 9: Dust ’Em Off Sailfish Warm-up Tournament with check-in stations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Captains meeting Nov. 7. Three divisions. Entry fee $500. Details at www.dustemoffsailfish.com.
Nov. 9: West Palm Beach Fishing Club’s 85th annual awards barbecue and auction, 5:30 p.m., South Florida Fairgrounds (Gate 8, Building 10). Tickets at the door: $30 adults and $15 for youths under 15. Discount for advance purchase. Call 832-6780 or visit www.westpalmbeachfishingclub.org.
Nov. 23: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Fee $20. Register at the door. Call 331-2429.
Tip of the month
Following a few basic conservation measures can help reduce the loss of corals to disease, says the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. The FWC asks snorkelers and divers to avoid touching corals, to use environmentally friendly sunscreens and to avoid anchoring near coral.
The FWC is asking anyone interested in coral conservation to join the Florida Coral Crew and receive email updates about efforts to prevent the loss of stony corals. Go to www.myfwc.com/conservation/coral.
The Reel Em In II team won the honor for biggest fish in the ChasenTailz KDW Fishing Tournament with the 41.3-pound kingfish held by Nick Frasca (kneeling). The Sept. 28 charity tournament attracted 172 boats. Photo provided by Leonard Bryant Photography
Reel Em In II wins in ChasenTailz event
Frank Frasca and his crew on the Reel Em In II won heaviest-fish honors in the Sept. 28 ChasenTailz KDW Fishing Tournament with a 41.3-pound kingfish caught off Juno Beach.
Frasca, of North Palm Beach, said he and his teammates were slow-trolling a live goggle-eye on the surface in 75 feet of water off Juno Beach when the big kingfish hit around 7 a.m.
His son, Nick Frasca, fought the winning kingfish. Team member Sean Horgan brought the fish into the boat with his new gaff, Frasca said.
The ChasenTailz tournament attracted 172 boats. Proceeds from the event benefit sick children and their families, organizer Summer Warren said.
Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.