The New Normal of Tuna Fishing

By Captain Ralph Wilkins

Well, talk about crying one up! Last month it was my doom and gloom report for most bluefin tuna fisherman on the coast, especial- ly where the Odysea is docked on the south coast, specifically Cape Cod. Maybe we just need to realize things have changed over the years and ac- cept it. It’s almost like the best bluefin tuna fishing now starts in October. For years we filled the quota by October and went on to something else like bow hunting whitetail, but this year the season really just got underway for many of us in October .
In addition to the bite over the sum- mer months up north off the waters of Portland Maine, we now can add a solid couple weeks of some of the best fishing in years at the southwestern tip of Jeffreys Ledge and northeast of that spot on Jeffreys. There were good marks most days and almost every day for three weeks. I’d guess there were multiple hook ups as the sun appeared over the horizon. I got in on some of that action and actually had a bite very early one morning in the dark, but unfortunately lost 2.5 hours later with the fish chaffing me off just pri- or to me throwing the dart. Truly a heartbreaker, but we all know it comes with the territory, you just don’t get to kill ‘em all. The ones meant to live will swim away someway somehow. Anyone in this racket knows the deal, pulled hooks and chaffed leaders are our worst nightmares.
Recently the offshore boats are mak- ing the effort going to Georges Banks and some boats were getting limits, some getting skunked. Realistically it’s fishing there too. Finally a school bluefins showed up on Stellwagen Bank and Peaked Hill Bar and off the backside of the Cape with a few keep- ers (giants) mixed in. At the time I am writing this December column, I’m typically on the way to my tree stand in NY. This year however my boat is still in the water and I’ll be heading out when weather allows in search giant bluefin tuna again! Good luck to all my fellow fall fisherman, I suggest you get the long johns out!
All in all, this was an improved tuna season from over a year ago. Maybe non typical, but probably something we will need to get used to. God Luck to all, see you at the boat shows this winter.
Ralph Wilkins is a contributing editor for Coastal Angler Magazine. Wilkins is captain of the Odysea and popular cast member of National Geographic Channel’s hit television show Wicked Tuna. Email Captain Ralph at, visit his website at, and be sure to like “Captain Ralph Wilkins” on Facebook.
Well, it has happened. That lovely, rubenesque woman has stepped onto the stage and belted out a tune like Ethel Merman. Those last two northeast blows we had sent the majority of the striped ones south to warmer waters and greener bays. So, now what’s a ‘yakker to do? Plenty: the three C’s and a little S.
The “C” is for cod, the fish that “our” bay is named for. No other fish has been more sought after in the North Atlantic than our sweet cod fish. This time of year, they come within range of an experienced kayak angler who picks the day wisely. Anywhere along rocky shore lines, where you can get into 60 feet of water, will usually have a few keeper cod hanging around. Find some humps and bounce a small metal jig above bottom and you’ll soon know if there are fish down there. I like Hogy’s 3.5 oz. heavy minnow in his standard issue tackle line. I can use light tackle rods and reels that make fighting a keeper cod a whole different animal.
The second “C” is for cunner. They will be around ledges, rock piles, and ends of jetties in shallower water and usually closer to shore. Try to set the hook and get ‘em away from the structure asap as they will swim into cracks and caves. Give ‘em a little slack line and they’ll often swim back out. These little cousins of tautog are a tasty fish that sometimes are 15-18 inches and well worth the effort to catch. Tiny flashy jigs, soft plastics or jigheads will put these in your boat. Out and back in a couple of hours is doable. Always dress accordingly and pick your days.
Now for the big “C,” the hardest freshwater fighting fish in the Northeast, the undisputed record holder for most rods pulled in, the Brown Bombers of Greater Boston, Cyrinus Carpio. The common carp is anything but common. They are spectacular fighters on medium tackle, like snagging a runaway locomotive.

All of our rivers and lots of our ponds have this secret army of tanks lurking around and willing to bite and fight if you’re up to it. Some of the most rabid striper anglers I know have gone Carpaholic and may need an intervention. Google is your friend so check out how to fish for these monsters, and tell ‘em Lefty sent you.
Last but not least, “S” is for smelt. They’re back!! After a no-show year or two, there are smelt all over the place. Sitting on a pier under the lights, chewing the fat with a couple of buddies and filling a bucket with smelt is one of my favorite haunts on these crisp evenings. Toe warmers, hot beverage (spiked), folding chair, catching two or three at a time on a sabaki rig, watching all kinds of little critters flash through the shadows— what a great show! Smelt chase silversides and little shrimp and this year, there are whiting in the mix. Then you get to fry ‘em all up. The tails crunch like potato chips. I think I’m salivating right now.
Warm weather fishing may be over, but there’s always something to catch. Catch y’all later!



Captain Ralph took out these Texans to experience the Boston waters! See their Catch of the Month photo for more information on their catch!

FORECAST BY: CaptainRalph_HeadshotGuide Rick Buss, (617) 719-2036, www.belleislekayak Kayak specialist and fishing guide Rick Buss fishes, dives & snorkels off his kayak. He runs his guide service out of Belle Isle in Winthrop but can deliver kayaks to your location.