Blackfin Tuna Invade South Florida Waters in May


The months of May through July are prime times for blackfin tuna in the waters off South Florida.
Jim Hendricks

Although not the largest member of the tuna tribe, blackfin tuna are a big problem for South Florida anglers this month. In May, blackfins flood the waters off the Keys along the Atlantic coast to Palm Beach. This tough, tasteful fish can be caught with live bait, dead bait and lures while drifting, trolling, kite fishing or anchored over a wreck or reef .

The biggest key to success is to fish, preferably with live bait such as sardines, although pieces of dead bait work very well. Blackfin fanatics don’t hesitate to head out to sea with 500 to 1,000 live sardines to bait and bait.

In the Keys, anglers head for the bumps, where the bottom rises less than 300 feet from the surface, creating upwellings that attract bait and fish. Anglers cast bait nets full of sardines until the fish begin to burst to the surface as they feed on the living buddy behind the boat.

The key to successful blackfin tuna fishing is having lots of buddies, like a livewell full of sardines.
Steve Waters

heavy chum

Captain Scott Stanczyk, who fishes on catch 22 out of Islamorada, only goes offshore if he has 1,000 sardines in the tank. His mate chums with the liveys after fitting anglers with coiled spinning rods with 30-pound straight monofilament attached to tiny No. 1 hooks, which are pinned through the sardines’ noses. Small hooks allow bait to swim naturally when cast and back to the action.

On a day when the tuna sting explodes, some Stanczyk anglers turn to 10-weight fly rods and tied flies to look like sardines. They cast the fly and let it drift in the current, then bring it back to the boat.

From Miami to Palm Beach, blackfin tuna bite best from May through July. Most anglers looking for tuna anchor or drift in clean blue water near wrecks or reefs at depths of 100 to 200 feet, and dump several live sardines every five minutes.

If the tuna turns up, the fishermen toss in even more sardines to whip the blackfins into a feeding frenzy. “Sometimes it takes 50 to 100 chummers to bring up all the fish,” says Captain Trey Claus of charter boat Coral Gables. Qualifier.

several lines
Fishing multiple lines at different depths often results in multiple hookups when blackfin tuna arrive.
Steve Waters

Staggered lines

Claus likes to cast live bait on the surface, flying two fishing kites with three lines each, as well as flat line bait. That way, when the tuna appears, the hooked bait blends in with the free-swimming buddy. This methodology often results in multiple connections.

Heavy, live chumming is best, but sometimes live sardines are rare. In these cases, try stretching your bait supply by casting only a few live sardines every 15 or 20 minutes, instead of every five minutes.

Captain Dennis Forgione of Pembroke Pines, who fishes in Haulover Inlet on Free reel, says that using this method, most anglers can get by with just 50 sardines in the livewell. “The average guy can catch enough sardines with gold hooks. You don’t always need a thousand sardines. You just have to throw in a few every half hour,” says Forgione, whose method also produces sailfish, trevally and wahoo.

Anglers can also play with a variety of frozen baits. When it’s hard to catch sardines, Forgione thaws a can of glass minnows in a bucket of water and throws a handful of small fish into the water every 20 minutes. He also puts a box of ground menhaden in a backpack.

Captain Mario Coté of Hollywood, who fishes in Port Everglades Inlet on No Vacansea, reveals that using a can or two of frozen sardines for chum works almost as well as live kumming. He cuts the sardines into pieces and periodically throws a few pieces into the water. Other captains eat pieces of frozen herring and even pieces of squid.

black tuna fishing
Reducing hook and rig size can pay off when blackfin tuna get finicky.
Jim Hendricks


Coté begins a tuna journey by having his fishermen catch pilchards on sabiki rigs. A few dozen baits are enough. “I love sardines,” says Coté. “I think these are the best baits there are. Everything likes a sardine.

It drifts with the sardines on two flat lines and on two weighted lines, one descending to about 50 feet and the other near the bottom. If there is little or no current, it slows the bait to 1-2 knots.

For tackle, Coté uses conventional 20-pound outfits with 15-foot 40-pound test fluorocarbon leaders. Low-visibility fluorocarbon is essential because tuna can see exceptionally well, he thinks.

But even when the chunk attracts the tuna, they don’t always eat a bait brought in on a hook. When this happens, anglers have to switch to lighter gear. If you usually fish with 30 pound test groundbaits and 5/0 size circle hooks, try reducing the size to 20 pound test fluorocarbon groundbaits with 2/0 or 1/0 hooks.

black tuna
Blackfin tuna often bite best in low light conditions, including early morning and late afternoon.
Steve Waters

Low light conditions

Côté says the tuna bite best in low light conditions, including early morning, late afternoon, and on overcast or rainy days. “If you were in the water on a sunny day and had to look up to see something, it wouldn’t be easy,” says Coté.

Regardless of what time he fishes, Coté slowly drags offshore until he finds the tuna, then he drifts to that depth.

Wherever you find blackfin, chances are you’ll also find bonito (small tuna), which fight as hard as their cousins, but don’t taste as good. Some days you may have to catch a bunch of skipjack before you catch a blackfin, which can be both physically and emotionally draining. There is another downside. Schools of tuna attract sharks. If you take your time reeling a tuna, you risk a shark attack.

Trey Christmas
The fresh red meat of black tuna is excellent when served in sashimi, sushi, poke or sear.
Steve Waters

grab and serve

When he brings a whole black tuna back to the boat, Coté’s favorite recipe is to cut the tuna into pieces, remove the blood lines, then marinate the fish overnight in a container with olive oil. sesame and sesame seeds. The next day, he sears the tuna in a very hot pan and serves it rare or medium-rare.

Read next: Blackfin tuna blowout in the Florida Keys

Forgione bleeds out a black fin by slitting its throat immediately after catching it, then puts the fish on ice. Back at the wharf, he cuts the tuna into fillets, removes all the bones and cuts it into triangular pieces. When he gets home, he marinates the pieces in teriyaki sauce for about an hour.

Then he puts the tuna directly on a grill, closes the lid, and cooks the pieces for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness, serving them while they’re still pink in the middle. For Forgione, it’s the perfect way to end a busy day on the water.


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