Yarn One: Sweet Taste of Vic­tory

THE THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM AT ‘DUTCH BARS’ IN THE BA­HAMAS

Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT -

My ad­mi­ra­tion for yel­lowfin tuna started when I was young and fished with my fa­ther. It’s rel­a­tively rare to catch yel­lowfin off Florida, at least con­sis­tently, but we caught one quite by ac­ci­dent, and Dad was elated. He liked noth­ing more than eat­ing fish he’d caught him­self, and this small tuna was a treat.

When I bought my own boat as an adult, I be­gan fish­ing in the Ba­hamas, and I prized yel­lowfin more than any other fish, ex­cept maybe mar­lin. The yel­lowfin in the Ba­hamas don’t usu­ally run large, as they do in the Pa­cific and off Venice, Louisiana. Hun­dred-pounders are rare, and I’ve never seen one more than 200 in the Ba­hamas, although I’ve heard of them. The av­er­age school fish prob­a­bly runs 40 to 60 pounds, a nice eat­ing size and great sport on light tackle, if you can keep them away from the sharks.

The big­gest yel­lowfin caught in the Ba­hamas on my boat came in 2005. My wife, Poppy, and son, Ben, were with me at Har­bour Is­land, on the north­east cor­ner of Eleuthera. This well-known area holds lots of yel­lowfin in spring and sum­mer, and most peo­ple catch them on live bait.

With some friends aboard and a live well full of Ba­hamian pilchards, we headed north­west to an area of reef known as “Dutch bars.” A strong east­erly breeze whipped the sea into steep 4- to 6-foot­ers, but the tuna bite had been rel­a­tively good, so we slogged along un­til we found the tuna birds.

No one had seen a big fish in weeks, so we scaled down to 20-pound-test spin­ning gear with a 30-pound fluoro­car­bon leader to make the day more sport­ing. Poppy pinned a lively bait to a cir­cle hook and cast it out as I tossed a net full of live bait as chum.

She hooked up al­most im­me­di­ately with a black­fin tuna that maybe weighed 2 pounds. We re­peated the process, and the sec­ond time, she landed a lit­tle tunny (what we call bonito) about half the size of the first fish. The third bait had no sooner hit the wa­ter than

a huge splash erupted, and some­thing large en­gulfed it. We were se­ri­ously out­matched. Line screamed from the spin­ning reel.

I backed down, chas­ing the fish, which of course swam up-sea, and waves crashed into the cock­pit and over the fly­bridge of my 37 Ber­tram. The fish spooled the reel twice, tak­ing her to the knot, but mirac­u­lously, the line never broke. My friend Scott Sa­ly­ers joined me on the bridge, and we agreed that we had lit­tle chance of land­ing this fish. Surely sharks would take it.

Then the fish made a fa­tal mis­take. It came to the sur­face and stayed there, prob­a­bly chased up by sharks. I re­lent­lessly backed down af­ter the fish and soon had it within a few feet of the tran­som, where it stayed for about 45 min­utes. Ben tried to sink a large wa­hoo gaff into it, but we didn’t dare grab the light leader. He fi­nally got a smaller gaff into the fish’s tail, and some­one sunk the large gaff into its shoul­der. In a surge of adrenalin, they hauled the fish over the rail, and it landed with a mighty thud in the cock­pit. Af­ter an hour and 15 min­utes, game over.

That yel­lowfin weighed 136 pounds and fed us, along with sev­eral Ba­hami­ans, that night and many more to come. I’ve never tasted a bet­ter fish.

Shaped for speed, yel­lowfin ap­pear to be haul­ing ass even when they’re sit­ting still.

Yel­lowfin on top­wa­ter plugs are a great com­bi­na­tion.

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