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Bluefin Tuna November December Ghost Buster

Popping tuna became the late-season craze in New Jersey and about six years ago when a large concentration of bluefin tuna settled into the waters 3 to 15 miles offshore. They showed up somewhat unexpectedly at the end of November, when many offshore fishermen were wrapping it up for the season, leaving captains scrambling to get out to cast lures at them.

Fishermen armed themselves with specialized rods, high-end spinning reels, and realistic stickbaits, bringing West Coast and Cape Cod tactics to our local waters. Still, it was a frustrating fishery, to say the least. Many anglers reported spotting the fish briefly, only to have them totally disappear when their boats approached casting range—before long, disappointed captains began calling the pursuit, “chasing ghosts.”

Tuna Spinning Reels

Before you cast a spinning reel at a bluefin, make sure it has enough capacity for 400-plus yards of 80- to 100-pound-test braided line, and a drag capable of producing 25-plus pounds of pressure.

Van Staal VSB250 | Shimano Stella 18000 | Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight 8000

Jersey Tuna

The tuna passing through New Jersey in late November and December are migrating south from New England to their spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. Bluefin tuna can tolerate cold water by transferring heat from their arterial to venous blood vessels, which prevents the heat from escaping into its surroundings. If bait is present close to shore at the end of November into December and ocean temperatures are holding between 50-54 degrees, the stage is set for inshore topwater tuna action.

Bluefin were going by the New Jersey coast long before fishermen began targeting them – commercial draggers and offshore party boat captains fishing the winter wrecks can attest to that. Some seasons, the bluefin migrate within 15 miles of the beach, and other seasons they stay much farther offshore, out of range of the recreational boater not interested in venturing far offshore in freezing cold temperatures.

Whether the bluefin show close to the coast depends entirely on the bait. There are four species of baitfish that have tuna-holding power—sand eels, Atlantic sea herring, Atlantic saury, and squid.

Tuna Lures

Sinking stickbait-style lures used to be the most popular for late-season bluefin, but in recent seasons, fishermen have been finding success with soft plastics and topwaters as well.

Jigging World Magic Tail Sinking | Tailwalk Gunz | Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbait |   | M. Fischer Popper | Siren Lures Sorry Charlie | Souls Hibiki | Madd Mantis Atasi Popper

Most years, by late November, sand eels move in from offshore and take up residence on the 3- to 6-mile inshore lumps and ridges. Sea herring and squid can draw in tuna, but in my opinion, the Atlantic saury is the bait that lights this fishery on fire. If sauries appear inshore in numbers, the tuna will stick around to feed on them.

Line And Leader

So that you have enough to handle the first big run of a large tuna, 80- or 100-pound-test braided line is a must to achieve maximum line capacity on your reel spool. Another advantage of braided line is that its thinner diameter allows for long casts—an absolute necessity in this game.

For a leader, use a length of 100- or 130-pound-test fluorocarbon casting leader attached to the doubled braided line with a splice, an FG Knot, or loop-to-loop connection. BHP Tackle sells pre-made 12-foot leaders that are perfect for this application. For easier casting, cut them down to 8 feet so the loop-to-loop connection is just above the reel and below the first guide when you are casting.

Tuna Rods

Rods must be limber enough to cast lures a long distance and stout enough to break the spirit of a big bluefin. Most captains prefer lengths of 71Ž2 to 8 feet. Here’s a few suggested rods for chasing ghosts:

• Shimano Terez TZS78HA

• Shimano Ocean Plugger OPFLSLTD83MH

If your looking to charter for this spectacular Fishery November and December then check One More Cast Charter ,John Mcmurray is the Top Captain when it come to Jigging and Popping ,We try and focus almost entirely on topwater stuff. And if that ain’t work’n we drop down jigs. But generally we find’em, because we are pretty much the ONLY operation that’s out there every day the weather allows us to be.

Check out John MccMurray @ https://nyctuna.com 

P.s Tell him Lucky Liam Sent You 

Chunking For Tuna in 2022

Tips on how to adapt to the chunk throughout the day. 

With the onset of warm blue water flooding into our inshore and midshore grounds, yellowfin tuna begin to settle in along many of our inshore and midshore lumps. The bait that inhabits these areas provide an abundant food source that will allow these fish to stay put. Once this occurs, these fish can now be caught more ways than just trolling, and chunking can be one of the most exciting ways to do it.

There’s a science to this fishery, and a lot of varied components, but the first visual set of yellow sickles or runoff right out of your hands will make all the prep worth it.

First off, bait and chunks. Chunks are going to be the reason the tuna are drawn to your boat, and their quality and quantity are going to completely dictate how your day goes. Most tackle shops are fully stocked at the beginning of the season with the baits that offshore fisherman like to use, namely butterfish and sardines. These are purchased in flats, usually 45 pounds. If you see a weather window coming, especially on a weekend, buy them a few days early. Midsummer tuna bites can wipe a tackle shop out days before the weather window is here, so buy a few of each. Many days the fish will only eat both chunked up, but prefer one or the other as a hook bait. At a minimum, you should have one flat for every 90 minutes you plan on fishing.

Once you have these flats, start to thaw one flat of butterfish (butters) and one flat of sardines the day before. It pays off in dividends to have at least two flats precut into 1- to 1-1/2-inch chunks before you get on the grounds. The last thing you want to be doing is rushing to cut more chunks when you have the fish at the boat and rods going off.  Once you’ve started to cut chunks, save about 15 to 20 pieces from each flat. Be very selective, as these will be your hook baits. Clear eyes, body fully intact with no skin missing; the body should be straight, not bent, and no freezer burn – these are all qualities of a good hook bait. Bag these and place them on ice. Keep in mind that if you try to let out a completely frozen bait and a tuna hits it, they will immediately drop it as it is rock solid.Once you are on the grounds and fishing, keep changing baits out for fresh ones. There is no such thing as too fresh of a bait. If you are marking fish and noticing others hooking up, try fishing a chunk or cutting the bait in half to make it smaller. If you can’t get the fish to stay with the boat, try throwing more chunks, starting with three or four and going up from there.

My ideal chunking set up is a 20 or 30 class conventional filled with 65-pound Cortland Masterbraid followed by a top shot of 60-pound clear or camo mono, at least 100 feet in length. I follow this up with a small ball-bearing swivel, 100-pound size, and then 8 feet of 50-pound fluoro and a 3/0 ‘j’ or 4/0 circle hook. Hook size is totally dependent on the bait and should be sized up so that it can be hidden in the bait but the point is still exposed.

I fish at least four rods, two with no weight, one of which is constantly being let out, reeled in, and let out again.  On the other two, one will have a 1- or 2-ounce weight, and the other with lightest weight I can get to the bottom. This is all to start. If I am marking fish or seeing others catch around me, my first move is dropping my leader size. Expect to do this. Most days, I start at 50 and quickly begin to drop to 30 or even 25 once the sun gets high in the sky. If I am still not getting bit, in addition to changing up baits I will also try different size weights, moving the weight farther from the bait by rubber banding it onto the line. I may also start trying smaller hooks.

Chunking yellowfin can be exhilarating, and I have been very lucky to pick up these tricks both aboard the Lucky Liam Captain Ray and John Mccmuray One More Cast Charter . Capt. John ,and the all-star lineup of captains put together by Capt. John Mccmurray , always have another trick up their sleeve to get the bite.  But these are some of the basics I have learned from working under all of them.Good Luck to everyone and get out and start chunking

Author Ray Phelan of the Lucky Liam Tackle Store

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