What will the trends be for 2016?
A good fisherman knows that in order to predict the future you must look at the past; they are always watching trends and trying to figure out patterns in order to catch more fish. The 2014 season East of Chatham and Stellwagen bank was one of the slowest tuna bites I have seen in my career; while the area south of Martha’s Vineyard / Nantucket had solid fishing well into August with lots of school bluefin, mahi, white marlin, and a few yellowfins. It was a tough season for the average recreational fisherman. But many seasons ago I was told by an “Old Salt” that a cold and snowy winter will bring a good tuna fishing season, so I was filled with anticipation following the brutal winter of 2014/2015. I was not disappointed: 2015 was a great year with good fishing for Bluefin to the East, North, the canyons and even south of the islands.
East of Chatham had a school Bluefin bite that was substantially better than the previous season. There was a steady pick of fish from July all the way through the Fall (I caught my last Chatham Bluefin November 10th!), from the BC buoy area1 and down to the Sword2. We had more mid-day, off slack bites than I we have had in any season that I can remember. The troll bite with splash bars stayed effective throughout the season, and if you put your time in and paid attention you were nearly guaranteed to catch a fish.
The Bank held fish all Summer, and the Golf Ball area in Truro was hot for August and September--both on the troll and live bait, with a fair amount of surface activity which made for good casting season. Mackerel were on the bank all year and there was a good mid-Summer school bite on the troll. I caught more fish up at the Golf Ball area this season than all of my other seasons combined. The best news was that there were a lot of giants around, both inshore and offshore. That bite turned on in June and stayed strong well into December, with the highest commercial Bluefin landings since 2002. This is proof that the Bluefin stocks are on the rise and the numbers are up. Goose Hummock owner Phil Howarth and Team Goose caught three giants on back to back trips off the SW corner using live Macks, with the first one coming on Thanksgiving Day and the last one on December 5th.
South of the Islands was on fire, with large numbers of school Bluefin in the 42 inch range everywhere from the Dump3 back towards Rhode Island starting in early June. We caught 28 bluefins in two days enroute to winning the Hyannis Tuna Fest Tournament for the second year in a row. That’s two solid days of fishing! We continued to have double digit days until the middle of July when the small bluefins took off. Small Mahi’s were on the fliers by the middle of the Summer, and there were days when the White Marlin were around the Dump and North of the Lanes4. The sharking was consistent, with a lot of pup Makos, Threshers, and the ever present Blue sharks.
The Offshore canyons were hot in July, with most of the fish holding more in the Eastern Canyons like Hydrographer and Oceanographer. Lots of Yellowfins and Mahis as well as White and Blue Marlin, Bigeyes, and Wahoo’s. Deep drop swordfishing both at night and daytime produced a lot of bites. We even managed to catch a Sailfish, which is extremely rare in the Northeast Canyons. I had White Marlin bites on every trip out to the edge this year, which is always exciting. The Canyon season was very strong and there were some huge days around some of the Offshore Buoys with big days of tuna bites in the double digits. As the season progressed the warm eddies were back to the West, and the Western Canyons had some great weeks. The water stayed warm well into the Fall and the fishing was still strong in late November in the Hudson.
Trends and Predictions
The first Bluefins will arrive in Chatham in early June as usual. You can always tell what will happen by the first full moon, if we see good numbers of fish in June than we will have another big year. I have watched this trend for years and June is the barometer for the Chatham season, and by July 1st we will know what the season will hold.
South of Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket will have the school bluefins back again in big numbers by early June. The fish this year will likely be in the 48”-50” range, marking their third year returning, and likely their last. The area South of the Island tend not to hold the fish once they get over 50” or 4 years old, and so I hope to see a significant new class behind them in the 30” range.
The Canyons will see good numbers of fish if they get the warm core eddies and warm temperatures. You need to pay attention to what is happening off of the Jersey\NY coast to see the breaks curl up to our Canyons, this is where a good Surface Sea Temperature chart comes in handy. I used SST-Online (sstol.com) in 2015 was able to win two offshore tournaments, and place third in two more. It’s always about the temps and bait in the canyons.
Stellwagen is all about the bait. The Macks have been so thick for the past several seasons and they have been holding well into December. 2015 was the best Bluefin season in over six years for both small fish and giants. This trend should continue as long as the bait shows back up, though El Nino will be a bit of a wildcard.
Whatever happens there is only one constant: “You can’t catch ’em tied the dock!”. If you have the weather, go fishing. That is what I will be doing!
Tight lines and good luck,
Capt. Eric Stewart
(PHOTOS: Top: Scott Almeida, center, landed this White marlin with the help of Capt. Eric, left, and Jim Donovan. Middle: A few Goose Hummock pro staffers (left to right: Dana Grimm, Chris Nashville, owner Phil Howarth, Nick Gallagher, Sam Brown and Austin Proudfoot) snuck out on Thanksgiving morning for a trip to Stellwagen Bank, catching the first of three monsters they would pull in that week. The tuna pictured came in at 105 inches (685 pounds), while Team Goose (joined by manager Danny Jones and staffer Ben Hull) caught a second at 97 inches (488 pounds) a few days later, before wrapping up the week with a 102 inch (556 pound) giant. It was Fall fishing at its finest!
1 The BC buoy area is a former shipping lane buoy due east of Chatham, MA.
2 “The Sword” is a nickname for The Regal Sword, a wreck located aprox. 27 mile SE of Monomoy.
3 “The Dump” refers to the old dumping grounds for New York City, located approximately 45 miles SW of Martha’s Vineyard.
4 “The Lanes” refers to the NY shipping lanes located south of Nantucket.