• Published:May 29, 2018
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Take a shot at yellowfin and bluefin tuna, or both, at the inshore lumps.

When tuna move up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast, local anglers hope and pray that the fish decide to set up shop at the inshore lumps. With these fish feeding just 20 to 40 miles from the inlet, usually in water as shallow as 100 feet or less, fishing for tuna becomes a whole lot easier.
Short runs mean half the running time and half the fuel costs associated with cruising to the canyons and as an added bonus, you can use lighter than normal tackle because of the shallower water. When it all comes together, these tactics will put them in the box.




CHUNKING

Chunking is usually the favored method for pounding on these tuna. Chunking allows you to fish deeper baits that you can when trolling, and it’s a relatively easy tactic to master. That said, there are a few tricks that separate the sharpies from the wannabes.
The basic concept is easy as pie. Toss handfuls of cut fish or squid (butterfish is the most common bait) over the side of the boat to attract hungry fish, while tossing out hooks baited with the same chunks. It’s important, however, to make sure that your offerings cover the water column yet at the same time, are positioned amongst the falling chunks. This is easier said than done, since you’ll have to let lines out to different distances. A bait set under a float at 15 feet, for example, will be dangling near your chunks just 20 or 30 yards behind the boat. But a bait set at 50 feet will need to be significantly farther back to fall in the strike zone. And just how far that is will vary depending on factors like current and wind.

Rigs consist of a straight line to leader to baited hook, with no additional weight or tackle. Most anglers will use 50- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leaders tied off with an 8/0 to 10/0 circle hook, though the tuna do get line-shy and leader size may need to drop all the way back to 30-pound test. Drop hook baits next to the boat as a handful of chunks go over the side. Place the rod in a holder and the reel in free spool with the clicker on. As the bait sinks naturally with the chunks, grab the line above the rod tip and consistently strip it out, so there’s never any tension on the line. This allows the bait to sink as naturally as possible, right amongst the chunks. With yellowfin, this line probably accounts for more strikes than any other single rig or static bait.

Chunkers should also set a bait on bottom. While it occasionally accounts for a yellowfin, more commonly, this is the line that gets attacked by any larger bluefin that may be in the area. Standard operating procedure is to weight this line with 10 to 16 ounces of lead attached to a break away on the strike via a rubber-band. Set it 10 or 12 feet off the bottom and allow it to rock with the motion of the boat.

One big question you’ll commonly hear when discussing chunking on the inshore lumps: how do you know whether to anchor, or drift? This is most commonly dictated by the combination of wind and tide. If the boat sits at anchor in such a way that the lines trail behind it, anchoring will allow you to sit right over an edge or contour of the lump and pound on the fish. But if the wind and current conspire to draw your lines under the boat or into constant tangles, it’s best to try repeated drifts across the spot.

TROLLING

Trolling the inshore lumps is usually best early in the season, before large numbers of boats set up shop. Once a fleet begins chunking, it’s extremely tough to distract the fish from the free food and try to get them to chase your trolled baits.

Spreads for trolling inshore lumps are commonly 100-percent tuna focused. Skirted medium ‘hoo, Green Machines run behind birds, spreader bars, and Tuna Clones should all be on the list.
One important addition: when bluefin are around in good numbers, a blue/white Ilander rigged with a ballyhoo is a must. This lure can be particularly effective when the bluefin are constantly sighted on the sounder but seem unwilling to come to the surface. Place the rig in a way, way, way back position, as much as several hundred yards behind the boat, and it may just be the day-saver. When the fish are spotted down near bottom, some captains will even shift out of gear for a moment or two and allow the Ilander rig to sink a bit.

JIGGING

The inshore lumps present an awesome opportunity for anglers who want to hook tuna on jigs. There are two basic methods: the first is to jig while chunking, and the second is to scout for fish on the sounder then drop jigs directly onto the fish.

Drop the jig down to the bottom, vertically jig it a time or three, then speed-jig it back to the boat. Five- to 7-inch jigs are usually best, since they have enough weight to get down deep relatively fast, but are still small enough for a decent-sized tuna to inhale. The tuna will often miss larger jigs. And if you see plenty of sand eels which regularly attract tunas to the lumps you may want to opt for a small jig that resembles this small bait and flutters accordingly.

When there are schools of tuna shadowing sand eels down close to the bottom stay on the move and scout for fish. Motor around, looking for the large but light-colored marks on your sounder that signify schools of sand eels. Find these, and you know it’s time to work the area a little more thoroughly. If you start seeing big red arches hovering close by those lighter marks, shift into neutral and send the jigs down to the fish’s depth. Again, it’s usually best to stick with jigs small enough that the tuna can simply inhale them. Pink, blue, and green metallic color patterns tend to be the best.

The main question is whether or not the tuna will set up along the inshore lumps this season. That’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure, sooner or later those fish will stage on the underwater humps and bumps 20 to 40 miles from the inlet. And when they do, anglers up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast will be ready to roll. If you haven’t towed this classic producer in the past, give it a shot.

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