Before there was Jigging and Popping on Cape Cod there was just Plain Old Catching

Discussion in 'Jigging and Popping' started by Riptide, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. Riptide

    Riptide Banned

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    Once upon a time, long ago in a land not so far away, a group of local anglers began a quest to land huge fish in a way that many, if not most other people thought to be foolish. These fish had likely been around long before the Pilgrims settled the land, but this method of catching them on light gear was new. Surf reels were converted over to “Big Game” use and rods used for heavy bass and blues were put into service in a way they were never intended.

    A small group of anglers and charter captains including myself started targeting and chasing these Cape Cod Bay Bluefin with spinning gear in the late 1990’s. Forgive me if there were a few doing it before that, but if they were they were truly flying under the radar. Late 1990 seemed to be when “the word” quietly got out locally that these fish were around in numbers that could be targeted and caught with some regularity. The tuna had been caught readily by charter boats, recs and comms for years, but mostly with conventional reels, trolling bars and bait. This “new” idea of chasing them on spinning gear seemed to be prompted more by the evolution in gear as opposed to the availability of fish.

    Others will have their story of how they got started, this is mine. Around ten years ago I was talking with a new friend who was commercially fishing giants with live bait. He complained that “rats” kept eating his hard earned live baits. When I asked him what “rat” tuna were he replied “ya know, 40-60#ers, tons of them all over the surface” Being an avid top-water angler I offered my extermination services in exchange for some numbers to the “rat” population. The next day, armed with gear I would have used to chase 40# stripers I headed out with two friends to hunt down the “rats”. My Penn 5500ss was spooled to the brim with fresh 20# mono. The reel was mated to a 7-foot 10-20# class med action-spinning rod. There was no doubt we meant business, as there was a 4” chrome gaff we got at Wal Mart stowed away on the bay boat !!!

    Once on site we found the aforementioned “rats”. My friend was right, there were tons of them slashing and spraying bait all over the place. They moved with a speed that we had never seen before. It took all of the 225hp the carbureted Johnson on my bay boat could muster to run to the tuna as they popped up and down all over the place. After the better part of the day and a half dozen humbling rounds with these “rats” we headed home empty handed to lick our wounds. It seemed that hooking them was easy even for novices like us. Getting them close to the boat let alone landing one was the problem. These fish would circle deep and the gear we thought was heavy had no chance to lift these fish. It seemed like you could pull for hours and never move the fish an inch.

    Once at home the wheels went into motion. Calls were made to everyone I knew to tell them about the incredible “rats” and to ask if I could “borrow” the heaviest spinning gear they had. Nobody had anything close to whats available today. The best we could muster at the time was a Penn 7500ss surf reel and a used Penn 15-30# Power Stick with a gimbaled butt. A trip to the local tackle shop set us up with a very expensive spool full of Berkley Whiplash 12/50 braided line, a real first for us at the time. With the new setup we readied the gear for the following day.

    Back on site the next morning the new gear was put to the test. It was the heaviest spinning gear we had ever used. After several more humbling failed attempts we finally landed one of the rats after a near two-hour fight. The “rat” we landed was a 60-70# class tuna. That moment is when the tuna fever really took hold! For the rest of the season a small group of us broke lines, broke rods, destroyed reels, bent hooks, modified lures, hunted far away tackle shops for anything to give us the edge on these marvelous “rats”. The look on people’s faces at tackle shops was priceless when we would ask for something odd or new and explain that it was for casting plugs to 50-100# tuna.

    By the end of that season we had refined our gear and tactics to a point where going 5 for 7 or 3 for 5 was the norm. Fight times on these 50-100# class fish was whittled down to under an hour. Gear failures became an exception not the rule. By seasons end we had even managed to take some “rats” on the fly rod!!!! The largest fish we landed that season on my boat was a whopping 92#er!

    That winter was the longest one I can ever remember. The whole off-season was spent searching high and low for gear to land the SBFT as they were now called. We were no longer chasing “rats” we were tuna fishing with light tackle. By the end of the 2002 we had learned allot and others were rapidly trying to get on board with this “new” style of fishing. A regional magazine “On The Water” asked me to write an article over the winter explaining what it was that we were doing. The following fall, “Albie and Bluefin Medicine – The Prescription for Success” was published. This is the original article: http://riptidecharters.com/AMP.pdf Looking back at the gear and the techniques we used kind of makes me laugh, we have come so far since then. At the time the $3.89 Storm Rattlin Chug Bug was THE popper of choice along with Maria jigs and Yo Zuri Hydro Metal. Those lures were the standard and now they seem to have fallen by the wayside.

    In the years that have followed, we have expanded our fishing areas. What was once truly “Cape Cod Bay Tuna Fishing” has now moved far outside the Bay proper and into deep and distant waters. We have seen good seasons and we have seen very slow seasons. The fish have followed some very predictable patterns, but have also thrown us some curves along the way. The last few seasons have been some of the better ones we have seen. The fish have shown early and stayed late. They have been fairly consistent throughout the summer and fall. This has not always been the case. There were some years when the fishing really only kicked off in early September inshore and the fish were gone by mid October. So it would be wise not to use the last 2-3 seasons as a benchmark for “the way it always is” If you dig a little deeper into the past you may find that you missed the mark.

    Over the years the crazed group of light tackle tuna anglers have helped each other out in many ways at one time or another. I’d like to thank all of them for sharing what they had learned back when there was no reference material to go on, only the hard work, and time on the water of others. The early triumphs and failures of others were passed around the group and all of us learned from that. Forgive me if I miss a few names, but these are the people that I was involved with early on, I’m sure there were others. Bob Pink, Jimi Grasso, Capt. Jeff Smith, Capt. Steve Moore (Steve set up one of the first group light tackle/fly tuna charters in Cape Cod Bay), Capt. Jamie Boyle (MV), Mark Budreski, Capt. Joe LeClair, Capt Nat Moody, Capt Derek Spingler.

    Here are some pictures of the "Good Ole' Days" Enjoy....(and try not to laugh too much ;))

    Bob Pink with a tuna on my 22' bay boat (released) Note the high $$$ gaff.
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    Bob "Mr. Clean" Pink with a tuna on his 20' Hydra Skiff
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    Jimi Grasso with a pair of tuna for dinner (Limits were different then and we didn't undrestand or practice C&R like we do today)
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    Jimi grasso with one of the largest tuna we had landed at the time on my bay boat
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    Me with one of my largest tuna at the time (note the bow mounted trolling motor)
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    Jimi & I after a banner day on "BIG" fish (Again, Limits were different then and we didn't undrestand or practice C&R like we do today)
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    Jimi's veneralble Penn 8500ss being spooled of its 30# mono (Note the WIRE guides and nearly empty spool)
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    Me high sticking the bejeasus out of my 15-30# Powerstick and Penn 7500ss (Note the LEATHER codfishing belt)
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    Tuna on the Fly Author Tom Gilmore pulling on a nice tuna on a Sage RPLXi 14wt while "researching" his book. (Photo by Capt Steve Moore)
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    My 92# tuna, the fish that nearly killed me! My first solo hour plus fight. Note the fighting belt and gaff still in the fish. (Photo by Bob Pink)
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    The 92#er that nearly killed me (It fought hard enough to deserve 2 pics)

    http://riptidecharters.com/12.JPG
     
  2. word-doctor

    word-doctor Senior Member

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    Great read and pics--thanks.
     

  3. DoubleA

    DoubleA Senior Member

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    awesome article - always cool to be in that initial group of people.
     
  4. Fin Addiction

    Fin Addiction Site Sponsor

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    Thanks for posting that Terry....Back then *jigging* consisted on crippled herrings, deadly dicks, and the super high tech maria jig!!...Oh don't forget those Yozuri L Jacks which were DEADLY....Funny we never throw that stuff anymore. A high tech reel was a Penn 9500 and you were somebody if you had one on your boat..My how times have changed!

    Capt. Jeff Smith
    Finaddiction Charters
     
  5. Riptide

    Riptide Banned

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    Thanks for posting that Terry....Back then *jigging* consisted on crippled herrings, deadly dicks, and the super high tech maria jig!!...Oh don't forget those Yozuri L Jacks which were DEADLY....Funny we never throw that stuff anymore. A high tech reel was a Penn 9500 and you were somebody if you had one on your boat..My how times have changed!

    Capt. Jeff Smith
    Finaddiction Charters

    Don't forget the Yo Zuri Hydro Metal. The ultimate castable jig!!!! I can't even find them anymore??????:confused: The HAJ was a KILLER!!!! I still have a few hiding in the basement ;) Whats even more amazing is they caught fish WITHOUT assist hooks!!!! The Pre-butterfly jig ;)
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  6. jays52

    jays52 Junior member

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    Don't forget the Yo Zuri Hydro Metal. The ultimate castable jig!!!! I can't even find them anymore??????:confused: The HAJ was a KILLER!!!! I still have a few hiding in the basement ;) Whats even more amazing is they caught fish WITHOUT assist hooks!!!! The Pre-butterfly jig ;)
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    Don't forget about the original Shibuki

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    And before Bigfoot Poppers there were these ineffective cheap little things

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  7. Ruge13

    Ruge13 Junior member

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    You guys are forgetting the venerable 3oz Kastmaster
     
  8. jays52

    jays52 Junior member

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    You guys are forgetting the venerable 3oz Kastmaster

    I think you are forgetting Jessica.
     
  9. ksong

    ksong SPONSOR

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    Thanks Terry for posting of bluefin popping histroy in Cape Cod.
    I was aware it was happening, but I couldn't do it myself for various reasons.
    When Randy of Anglers Proshop asked me good places to fish tuna on poppers, I suggested him to try Cape Cod areas and everybody know what has happend since. Randy brought new blood to Cape Cod bluefin popping with tackles which most local fishermen there were not familiar with.
    I was skeptical when Randy said he would try with normal big GT poppers for bluefin in Cape Cod and told him to use tiny popping lures as I read bluefin up there only interested in small lures as they feed on small bait.
    Randy's groups proved I was wrong. They caught bluefin with normal big popping lures regularly. It opened up new era and you can use normal popping rods for them. In the past as Terry posted, they used light 20 - 40 lbs class popping rods to use very small lures. Once hooked, it was common they fought a small tuna over an hour. by using right tackles with heavy popping lures, the fighting time shortened tremendously. And many new famous Japanese popping lures have been introduced since.
    We must thanks Randy and his groups to open up new era of bluefin popping in Cape Cod.
    Coincidently the sizes of tuna got bigger each year and we see many bluefin in 150 - 200 lbs range this year. Some think it would happen forevere, but I doubt it because I've seen so many times fish changed their migrating patterns and don't come back again in the same areas.
    Once those bluefin we catch now become giants, the popping fishery in Cape Cod might start with 'rat' again.
    Enjoy great popping opportuniy to catch big buefin on poopers in Cape Cod this year as much as you can as you never know what will happen next year.
    That is why I fished bluefin on jigs/poppers 18 times by driving 300 miles from June this year and I intend to visit there at least once a week until they start to migrate.

    my first bluefin on popper in Cape Cod. I started with small lures as recommended by local guides. The fish was caught on Yozuri Hydro popper.

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  10. Fin Addiction

    Fin Addiction Site Sponsor

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    Nice choice of morning protein you got going on there Kil...;)
     
  11. Ruge13

    Ruge13 Junior member

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    17 years later the first travel agent stepped on the scene.
     
  12. Enoch

    Enoch Senior Member

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    fantastic sight!
    also fantastic story too.
    Kil, I hope you are wrong about them leaving the cape next year for another migratory route.
     
  13. DoubleA

    DoubleA Senior Member

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    fantastic sight!
    also fantastic story too.
    Kil, I hope you are wrong about them leaving the cape next year for another migratory route.

    Im praying for one more year since i am planning a trip there in one year. I will have the gear and a little experience then so i cant wait. But to be honest, i would be happy with 50-100# tuna. I would die happy with 200# :)
     
  14. MrBill

    MrBill Senior Member

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    Very interesting read. It's like a who's who from the good old days of Cape Cod popping history. If you think about it, the late 90's wasn't that long ago. I like to see the "old" guys come out and tell their stories and give credit where credit is due.

    Spinning tackle was very thin in my arsenal until about four years ago. I had a couple of Penn 8500's which did happen to catch a couple of yellowfiins accidentally on my boat. It took forever to get those 85# tuna to the boat with 20# mono. (no poppers, just bait).

    I thank Shimano for introducing "Butterfly" fishing to the US market. Otherwise, I'd still be a bait fisherman with a few diamond jigs in my box. This new jigging and popping tackle is amazing and can help you land large fish that was unheard of just ten years ago. It can be an expensive hobby, but the rewards are worth it.

    To anyone just taking on this sport, I'd suggest to buy the highest grade rod and reel you can afford. A big tuna will still require some effort on your part. Having good quality tackle will make the task of landing a nice size tuna less painful.

    Thanks for the post Riptide.
     
  15. gman

    gman Senior Member

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    17 years later the first travel agent stepped on the scene.

    huh?
     
  16. Fin Addiction

    Fin Addiction Site Sponsor

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    Can't remember the year I hooked my first rat but remember it was on Bob Pinks *Double Happiness* 20' Hyda east of Chatham.....I think it was in 98 but could be wrong....Back then flats boats routinely chased these fish east of the BC buoy!....Most of the hardcore rat guys used flyrods vs spin rods on the Chatham side. Jeff Walther was the first Chatham guy to get one on a fly I believe...When I saw the pic I knew I had to try it....Bob and I loaded up and we chased the buggers all day long...The feeds back then were INTENSE with the smaller fish. I finally hooked up on my 12 wt. Fished grabbed a long clouser minnow right at the boat and took off for china...I lost him at the end of the first run but it was enough to ADDICT me to the fishery....The next year while giant fishing in CC Bay I couldnt stand it anymore watching these fish crash the surface all around me while my live lined bluefish went untouched so I dropped off the ball and caught my first rat in 38' of water off the backside....I have giant fished very little since!
    The following year the feeds in the bay and north of the bay were just insane and most days you wouldnt have to contend with other boats. 30lb Fireline was my line of choice and nothing could break that line or make it part. Lures of choice were the metals discussed as well as any through wired popper....My first tuna on a popper was on a gibbs wooden pencil. Uni knots and triple surgeons were the rule and you could get away with a 3' leader....After we started snapping a few off we went to 6' and now we use Pamet Fishers awesome windons...
    3 years ago I started butterflying and the first year had incredible numbers of fish landed on the flat side jigs with Spheros 1200 reels and the Trevalla rods....I've bumped up considerably now but still have those outfits if the true rats make a return...
    While all this was happening the east of chatham rec troll fishery was just taking shape and guys like Terry, Pink and myself used to have 30+ fish days at the Sword....the fish were in the 25-30lb range and I believe are the bulk of the class we are now catching....So remember when you catch a 65"bluefin it has probably been released by one of the old timers...*hah*...kidding of course....
    We have seen more rats this year than in the past two so I am hopeful there is another class that will move in once this class decides to make a one way vacation over to the mediterrainean for a little r and r...
    What I love more than anything is big bluefin on the flyrod....I get little time in the bow since I am a captain but when I do yo will generally see me with the whippy stick.......
     
  17. semipro

    semipro Senior Member

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    Thank you for excelent story and late history of tuna fishing
    I still have 2 9500 penn reels which they are broken and need some parts
     
  18. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    Awesome write up Riptide. Very enjoyable reading. Thanks.
     
  19. ksong

    ksong SPONSOR

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    What I love more than anything is big bluefin on the flyrod....I get little time in the bow since I am a captain but when I do yo will generally see me with the whippy stick.......
    Jeff, in retrospect, I should have done more flyfishing. It would be a blast to fight a 150 - 200 lbs tuna on a flyrod.
    I caught some cutthrout on a fly rod in Yellowstone and tried striped bass on Mononmoy Island, Cape Cod, I enjoyed tremendousely. But I don't know why I didn't pursuit fly fishing since.
     
  20. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    I have been cleaning up to move and ran across this photo today. It reminded me of this thread. Jig caught striper from an era when I had hair :)

    2oz hopkins, 17lb stren, ugly stick and 5500 ambassaduer.

    Check out the HIGH END electronics package.



    Enjoy and let the comments about my head roll :)
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  21. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    I was racking my brain trying to remember what the stringer was all about and finally remembered. We would catch them and cleat them off on a stringer on the side of the boat and keep them alive (or in the water at least) until we ran back in. Ice was for only for drinks I guess :*