Up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast this spring, offshore anglers will be watching with their fingers crossed for an early run of migratory yellowfin. This is a boom-or-bust bite, with lucky fishermen who encounter a wave of fish heading north catching them by the dozens — and anglers who miss the window of opportunity coming home with empty fishboxes. Just when during the spring this run may occur is impossible to predict, as it depends in no small part on the weather and on how the currents send warmer water towards the canyons — or not. The only way to get in on the bite is to be ready for it as soon as the weather breaks, and watch the Coastal fishing reports to see when the fish arrive.
Remember that these fish will usually be moving from south to north and they can be moving fast; one week the action could be hot in the waters off the Virginia coast and the next those fish could show up in Baltimore Canyon. And this is not commonly a chunking bite, but is a troller's game. If you get the timing right, make sure you also get the tactics correct and use these early season yellowfin tuna tips to fill the fishbox:
SPREADER BARS are a key component to your trolling spread; be sure to pull one on either side (psycho, green, and pink are good choices) and run them from elevated positions (the first rigger clip is common) so the bar itself is out of the water but the plastics are not. You're not sure about the spreader bars currently on your boat? Learn how to make them just like the pro's do, in How to Build a Spreader Bar for Tuna Fishing.
BIRD/TRIPLE GREEN MACHINE rigs are another big producer at this time of year. Don’t leave home without one, and run it way back in the shotgun position. These rigs aren't commonly available in stores but the pieces-parts are. If you haven't built one in the past, be sure to read Spring Offshore Tackle Preparation. In it, our Coastal Correspondent (and retired professional offshore charter boat mate) John Unkart details how to make one.
SKIRTED BALLYHOO is the third must-have you need to include in the spread. Remember that dinks or mediums are usually best for yellowfin of the size you’re likely to encounter during the spring migration (30 to 60 pounders, with larger fish occasionally popping up), and if you get a couple of hits on the same or similar-colored skirts, swap out the others. If you're new to rigging ballyhoo, reading up on ballyhoo rigging will help you up your game.