Spring is here and things are heating up offshore. Kingfish have arrived from Tarpon Springs to Anna Maria. Spanish mackerel are around many of the bridges and piers, and cobia have appeared on the wrecks. Our most interesting discovery last week was blackfin tuna. On the way in from offshore we spotted birds working over a pod of bait. As we approached we saw big splashes blowing up the water. This usually turns out to be bonito, but these splashes were much bigger. A dense pod of tiny Spanish sardines was being circled by a dozen sharks and around the perimeter were the telltale black backs of blackfin tuna. Periodically the tunas would rise and attack the bait pod, with many of them sailing completely out of the water. The hapless minnows eventually moved in under the boat for cover, so we shut the motors off and became part of the feeding frenzy. Nearly every cast with a topwater plug produced a strike from a tuna in the 20- to 25-pound class. If the fish went deep and stopped feeding, we would move the boat ahead, leaving the bait pod exposed and open to attack. This went on for 15 minutes until the sharks switched from gulping mouthfuls of minnows to destroying the tuna we hooked. With several 25-pound tuna prepped and on ice, we called it a day. Generally speaking, tuna feed best early in the day and a few hours before dark. If you go looking for them, get out at first light or in the evening.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.