The bluefin tuna season off North Carolina is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. Along with numerous 500-plus pounders showing up at the docks and on social media, anglers are reporting smaller tuna mixed in, which is promising for the future of the fishery.
Tuna show up off the North Carolina coast from the Outer Banks down to Wilmington each year following huge schools of menhaden, usually sometime in November. They congregate to spend winter taking advantage of these enormous spawning masses of menhaden before migrating out of the area in early to mid-March.
One of the coolest things about this fishery is giant tuna follow the baitfish, which means they come in close to shore. They are frequently found inside of 10 miles from the beach in less than 100 feet of water. This is important, as waters off the Outer Banks can be rough in winter, and finding a window of decent weather to make a quick run out to the tuna is just a part of the fishery.
Capt. Wally Trayah and Capt. Adam Wilson, with Oak Island Fishing Charters caught one of the biggest tuna we’ve seen so far this season fishing off the southern end of the state out of Southport on Dec. 10. According to a Facebook post by The State Port Pilot, the 747.5-pound bluefin was caught in just 50 feet of water at Frying Pan Shoals. Frying Pan Shoals is about 40 miles southeast of Southport.
Wilson said the fish measured 107 inches and that it’s the largest he and Capt. Trayah have ever landed.
“An absolute unit of a bluefin tuna!” Wilson posted to the Oak Island Charters Facebook page. “…Left the dock in Southport at 5:30 a.m. and had her tied off by 9:30 a.m. Getting this beast in the boat was not easy but blessed to be able to be a part of this catch and bring it back to Southport. We had our hands full to say the least.”
Check out Oak Island Charters at https://www.oakislandfishingcharters.com