Posts Tagged ‘Bluefin Tuna’

Aug 28, 2012

John Lo Gioco Proves One Angler Can Make a Difference

Most every saltwater fisherman knows of the positive impact that Guy Harvey has made on behalf of the marine resource and the ocean angler. But not everybody can be Guy Harvey. In this increasingly complex world, we often wonder if one individual angler can make a meaningful difference. The answer is yes, and for proof we need look no further than John Lo Gioco. John is a New Jersey angler who loves to fish for tuna. He became concerned that more information is needed about this awesome fish, so he decided to do something about it. In 2012 he created the Atlantic Tuna Tagging Project that provides tools and information for captains and anglers who tag tuna.

John’s passion was obvious and his plan solid, so early on, AFTCO and Guy Harvey, were more than happy to support John with is effort. We provided his Atlantic Tuna Project, Guy Harvey Tuna Collage T-shirts to be given out to anglers joining his effort. I talked with John about some of the issues we dealt with in past programs, including Tag A Tuna For Tomorrow and the AFTCO TAG FLAG Program, and we gladly supported him in other ways. In 2011, the Atlantic Tuna Project was responsible for tagging 144 Bluefin, 35 Yellowfin, and 4 swordfish in the Atlantic, and 56 Yellowfin in the Pacific. Tagging results are expected to be even better in 2012, and I know the recapture below put a big smile on John’s face. Congratulations and thank you John for making a difference. More information can found at .



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Feb 17, 2012

Boat-Shy Bluefin Off Southern California

The past few years in Southern California, we have been plagued with the “La Nina” condition, which keeps our offshore waters cooler than normal in the summer months.  Our typical warm-water run of striped marlin, dorado and yellowfin tuna never makes it far enough north for us to reach them during “La Nina” years from ports in So Cal.  Fortunately for us large, schools of bluefin tuna do sometimes make it above the US-Mexico border on cold water years, as they have a better tolerance for the cool and nutrient rich California current. The bluefin take advantage of the tremendous amounts of bait which congregate along well-defined current lines during cold water years. Our local bluefin are tough to catch, but worth the effort and are the best eating of any of our local offshore species.

When the bluefin show in the Gulf of Catalina they can usually be located over the offshore banks and ridges, such as the 43, 182, 289 and San Clemente Island ridge in purple-blue 62 to 68 degree water.  One of the keys to locating bluefin is to look for fast moving spots of terns or petrels fluttering over the surface and crashing on bait.  Bluefin spend a great amount of time at the surface feeding and “breezing”.  Their surface roaming, tight schooling behavior makes them particularly vulnerable to the fleets of purse seine boats from Mexico and San Pedro.  By the time these fish reach local waters they have usually been harassed several times by the relentless seiners.  This makes them even more boat shy and sensitive to engine noise, generators and sonar pings.

Bluefin tuna are one of the most highly prized and best eating in the world

Bluefin are notoriously boat shy and difficult to hook from small private boats with smaller live bait capacities than the bigger party boats.  Party boats can chum tremendous amounts of live baits and attract the bluefin to the boat, but smaller private boats have to take the baits to the bluefin and use stealth tactics to get their share.  This requires some modified techniques to get them to bite consistently.

After locating an area with schools of bluefin showing on top and bird schools working around them, we immediately start glassing with gyro-stabilized binoculars to find the larger spots of fish and birds.  This past season you could even watch for “jumpers” (free jumping tuna) in the working bluefin schools and then target the spots with the bigger fish.  Our secret to getting the Bluefin to bite was to turn off all the sonar units, both up-and-down and side scanning, and then position the boat above the direction the fish were working.  We would then shut down the motor and wait for the bluefin to get into casting range of our fly-lined sardines and small mackerel.  Many times the bluefin would shy away or go down for no apparent reason, but every once in a while the whole school would be crashing bait all around the boat in a virtual frenzy!  Even when actively feeding, the super-shy bluefin would only hit a perfectly presented bait that swam as soon as it hit the surface.  Bluefin tuna can be the most frustrating fish in the world, but there is nothing like the thrill of the first run of a fat bluefin hooked on light tackle on your own boat after a stealthy approach!

Our favored bluefin tackle is a light 7 ½’ to 9’ live bait rod with the best casting reel available, spooled with 300 yards of 30-50lb spectra backing, with a long 20-30lb fluorocarbon top shot.  Many of the schools of tuna run 15-25lbs, but then there are the occasional schools of 40-80lb fish.  You won’t land many of the 70-80lb bruiser-bluefin on the light gear, but then you’ll never get the bite if you don’t use tackle that can fly-line a small live sardine or mackerel bait.  We had several tragedies on big tuna this past season, but we also landed a fair amount on the light gear.  We tried using 30-40lb fluorocarbon leaders, but found we got bit the best using 25lb pink-tinted 100% fluorocarbon with a 1-2/0 light wire, ringed circle hook to suit the bait.  The circle hooks reduce the bite-offs from the larger sharp-toothed Bluefin, but we still lost some of the bigger models to chewed leader after long fights on the light gear.

Due to their superior quality on the table, we handle the bluefin we catch in a special way.  Ideally, we head gaff the fish to avoid any gaff holes in the precious loins or bellies.  We then immediately cut a couple of the gill arches with a pair of poultry shears, then make a small cut at the base of each side of the caudle peduncle (tail) just down to the backbone.  Once the gills and tails are cut, we place the tuna head down in a bleed tank of circulating sea water and let the tuna bleed out completely before slipping them into an insulated fish bag full of ice and saltwater slush.  This process insures all your efforts to catch the elusive and boat-shy bluefin tuna are rewarded with prime sushi loins and bellies at the end of the day!  

Greg Stotesbury

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Nov 16, 2011

We Still Need MORE Tagging

I recently found an old story I wrote while looking up some information about tagging and its benefits. When “Migratory Movements, Depth Preferences, and Thermal Biology of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna” was published in the 17 August 2001 issue of Science there were some great stories to tell. Stories that had to be kept as secrets until the paper was published in Science.

The data presented, and conclusions drawn from them by a team headed by Dr. Barbara Block from Stanford University (and including scientists, anglers and crew making up a who’s who of tuna angling , research and management) created shocks waves across the Atlantic.

National Public Radio, National Geographic News as well local, regional and national newspapers, had already discussed the ramifications of having tuna tagged off Hatteras, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and even enter the Mediterranean Sea in larger numbers than any previous estimates could imagine. This threw a monkey wrench into all management plans and conservation attempts, based on earlier theories, that eastern and western populations of bluefin tuna were separate and need to be managed separately.

Giant Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, each weighing over a quarter-ton — Photo by Guy Harvey

Two types of tags were used in the study, surgically applied internal “archival” tags and pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT tags in the article’s jargon). Both showed that fish from the west cross over into the eastern Atlantic. These tags, plus captured fish with conventional spaghetti tags, raised the thorny issue of North American fishermen (commercial and recreational) accepting low catch quotas in order to allow the overfished tuna populations to recover, only to have the fish massacred in huge numbers in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic. (East of longitude 45 degrees West twenty metric tonnes of bluefin tuna were being caught for every tonne caught in the west!)

The Science paper is fascinating but takes some serious reading! It is not something you can glance at and retain. Some highlights, with some input from me from information gleaned during the tagging process, include:

There were 377 electronic tags in this study. Electronic tags were recovered from a few days to 3.6 years later, AND the TAG program continues to produce amazing results. Internal archival tags totaled 279 with 49 tuna being recaptured. This 18% return rate is extremely high and by itself suggests overfishing.

The 90% data acquisition rate from pop-up tags is a marvel of both technology and tuna survival rates. The return rate is higher since the fish does not have to be recaptured and the data is downloaded through the Argos satellite system. Although, the percentage of recovery is higher less information per tag can be retrieved, because of the high energy needed to send a radio signal, not just burn data onto a chip.

There were 7065 conventional spaghetti tags applied by Carolina tuna fishermen between the years 1994 and 2000. There were 292 recoveries (4.1%). This is a high rate in itself and valuable information was added, but it is obvious that trained scientific teams with top anglers and crews are more successful than the general public in properly applying tags. (One reason for non-return is probably mortality where a dead fish sinks or is eaten by sharks and the tag cannot be recovered.)

Some tags could record depth (through pressure) and location (by measuring the levels of light). Sunrise and sunset were the “most significant light events” and with an accurate electronic clock allow extremely precise east/west location and reasonable north/south estimates. It became apparent that Western tuna breed later in their lives than originally thought- another huge consideration in conservation and management.

Deep dives to over 500 fathoms (1000 meters) sometimes resulted in lowered internal body temperatures that experiments at the tuna lab showed to probably be the result of feeding on cold squid or fish living at those depths (Block fed captive yellowfins cold bait and measured cold internal temperatures.)

My question is “HOW DO THEY KNOW?” You can dive half a mile in most parts of the ocean and NOT find a meal!

In the field, the emotional highs and lows were enormous! The successful signal reception of the first pop-up tag started a major round of toasts and celebrations. Shortly after, on a rough and stormy night when the second pop-up tag failed to report in on its scheduled time, long faces abounded- until the weather eased and in calm water the tag sang like a bird to the overhead satellite. This alone allowed an adjustment, low tech but important, in additional buoyancy for subsequent tags.

Dr. Block was reduced to tears on the flying bridge one rough day when a large sea lifted the boat and one rudder hit and killed a tuna we were trying to tag. “I’m trying to save them- not kill them!” she sobbed.

The cooperation of anglers and crews, and their donations of time and money were an extremely important factor in the amazing success of this study and along with dozens of scientists and technicians all involved are to be highly congratulated! For more information get a copy of Science (17 August 2001). .

Recently, Paxson Offield was initiated into the IGFA Hall of Fame and a high light of his career and work in conservation was an ongoing program of PSAT tags in marlin. Currently, the internationally noted artist Dr. Guy Harvey is also a leader in not only tagging but other conservation initiatives.

We need people like Dr. Block, Dr. Harvey and Mr. Offield to help conserve our precious stocks of “Marine Megafauna”. AND we all need to do our part to help out.

See my next column in Marlin Magazine for a story of a Sportfishing CLUB gone BAD and becoming a detrimental group of swordfish killing amateur professionals.

Peter B Wright

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Oct 17, 2011

Canadian Bluefin Tuna

Giant Bluefin tuna are the largest tuna species in the oceans and can attain weights over 1500lbs. Photo by Bill Boyce

The cold clear green water got my heart started as I turned to face the oncoming fish. I saw the first one rise out of the green abyss, gliding, silent and purposeful, eyes wide, mouth slightly agape, the dorsal fin suddenly raised, pelvics lowered and the gills flared as the fish inhaled a slowing sinking herring. It turned sharply and the afternoon sun caught its bronze flanks and the water around the fish was momentarily lit in a golden glow. The fins and tail cut the surface and the bubble stream followed the fish down into the green depths. Then another one rose up and another and then several came in a rush to suck down the drifting herring… came so close I could see the scale detail on its cheek and it popped its gills the size of trash can lid.  Then a blur of bright yellow finlets as the huge fish passes. The average size of these giant bluefin tuna is 800 pounds. Giants… is the correct terminology. These fish are up to 12 feet long with a 7 foot girth and several that swept by me were in the 1,200 pound range. I panned my video camera on them as they swam past me gobbling up the chum that kept them close to the boat.

In the late summer and fall these remnants of a once larger population of bluefin tuna take advantage of large schools of herring spawning in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and around Nova Scotia, Canada. They put on weight prior to undertaking lengthy migrations south to the Gulf of Mexico or swim across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

 I was on board the “Fin Seeker”, a 50 foot lobster boat from Wedgeport, owned by Eric Jaquard and crewed by sons Joel and Camille who had a permit to take 5,000 pounds of bluefin this season. Eric was very selective about what tunas were taken (only five in six days of fishing) and the rest were all tagged and released for science. Those fish that were harvested were meticulously cleaned and iced down before being shipped by air to waiting markets in Japan.

There are two research efforts currently under way in Nova Scotia, one being conducted by Dr. Barbara Block of the Tuna Research and Conservation Centre, based at the Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, please visit: The GHOF gives this research organization a small grant to assist with this effort which is based at Port Hood in the northern district of Cape Breton.

 The other research effort is being conducted by Dr. Molly Lutcavage of the Large Pelagics Research Centre based at the Natural Resources Conservation Dept , University of Massachusetts Amherst, please visit:  Dr. Lutcavage’s team were based in Wedgeport in the southwest. The plan was to visit both operations and conduct interviews with respective scientists and crew. Both teams have spent the last decade in the field tagging and tracking the migrations of the bluefin tuna along the eastern seaboard of North America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

Their results have indicated main feeding areas, spawning areas, trans-Atlantic migrations and have assisted in the sometimes controversial management of this species by ICCAT, the international organization that allocates quotas and attempts to regulate commercial fishing for this  valuable nomad of the ocean.

This is not my first brush with giants. In January 2003, I did a shoot with Barbara Block off Cape Lookout, North Carolina while she was tagging medium sized and giant bluefin tuna, for my TV series “Portraits from the Deep”.  “Giants” are individual tuna that are over 315 pounds and this species grows to at least 1,500 pounds.  The previous year I had visited the tuna traps or “almadraba” in Tarifa and in Barbate on the southern coast of Spain. Here I dived with the captive tunas caught in land based traps and witnessed the harvest of 300 giants in a 2000 year old ritual that began with the Phoenecians and then the Romans.

Guy Harvey is working on a Bluefin Tuna Documentary

Long before the species became desirable food, the bluefin tuna was fished by recreational anglers out of Wedgeport, Nova Scotia from 1935 until 1975 in a famous tournament called the Sharp Cup which attracted international teams from many countries. Of these large, powerful animals Charles F. Holder said “Weight for weight, they have double the fighting power of a tarpon. They are living meteors that strike like whirlwind and play like a storm”. Some say the recreational fishery, catch and release only, should be revived in Nova Scotia.

In the early years this species was fished sparingly by harpoon, some were caught on line for canning as they were more of a “nuisance fish” damaging gear set for herring and mackerel. In the mid 1970s demand in Japan for the fresh tuna grew exponentially and so fishing effort for bluefin tuna was greatly increased. Industrial scale long lining and purse seining were added to the traps and harpoon fishery so the populations of bluefin tuna declined to the present  day levels where some authorities consider the species close to commercial extinction. However, the researchers are of the opinion that if the quota system is properly regulated (as it certainly appears to be in Canada) then this fishery has the potential to be sustainable in spite of the huge worldwide demand for bluefin tuna sushi.

Along with my documentary producer and camera man, George Schellenger, I spent three days with the crew of the “Fin Seeker” as willing anglers using ultra heavy tackle caught, tagged and released some two dozen giants. Pop-up archival tags were deployed on many fish following capture. The hook was removed using a de-hooking device and the tunas swam free. The PATs record the migration of the tunas as well as depth and temperature data along their routes. A special physiological adaptation called a counter current heat exchanger allows metabolic heat to be kept in the body and not lost through the gills thus maintaining the body temperature well above ambient temperatures, allowing faster swimming speeds in areas rich in prey species.  Being “warm blooded” these giant tuna, often called “super fish”, can penetrate the cold northern latitudes and dive to great depths in search of fish and squid.

The winter is coming soon and bad weather arrived so I was unable to visit the Tag–a-Giant research team in Cape Breton. They will be back next year and I will complete the documentary shoot with them at that time. Meanwhile, I will be completing the story of the life cycle of the bluefin tuna including interviews with other research efforts to study aspects of the early life history of this long lived super fish.

What a thrill to spend an hour in the water with these magnificent creatures and to capture their brilliant colours and movement for my next work. These are big fish and I will need to prepare a big canvas. The adventure continues….

It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of the planet.

Guy Harvey

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Jan 15, 2010

To Hire A Good Mate

Mark O’Brien and I were talking about the skills we looked for when hiring a new deckhand after a young man had walked down the dock and asked us if we knew any captains who might be looking for help.

“If I could only ask one question of a prospective mate on my boat it would be, ‘Can you throw a cast net?’ “ O’Brien said.   Any young man who could throw a net probably also knew how to rig baits, tie knots, gaff fish, handle dock lines, check engines etc.  On top of all the other necessary skills he would be able to supply bait, especially live bait and live chum.  It was unlikely a good net man lacked the other skills and the net skills alone were a major addition if all else were equal.

When I hire a new mate I have several criteria that must be met.  First and foremost are social skills.  It is not necessary that a candidate meet Emily Post or Martha Stewart standards. An occasional swear word is not grounds for termination.  There are, however, a number of excellent fishermen and boat men who I simply can not hire because their  language is not acceptable to my clients, or the client’s wives.  (I have to struggle with this after a long season in the company of rough, tough  fishermen but try not to use foul language around ladies.)

Of equal importance is cleanliness, which is definitely “next to godliness” on boats.  Fine finish work and fancy bright work are not essential on a hard working charter boat but a clean looking and smelling boat, especially  the head, is paramount.  No negotiation!  I will clean a head if necessary, but a deckhand who leaves it to me soon leaves!

Intelligence is a must.  Formal education can be minimal but innate intelligence is a needed to learn and understand the many tasks a mate has to perform under extreme pressure and ever changing conditions.  I can honestly say I do not remember ever having a mate for any length of time who was not above average intelligence and capable of quickly learning complicated tasks.

If a mate is to become a seaman, not just a bait rigger, reading skills are essential along with enough mathematics to learn to navigate and handle basic business and engineering problems.

So far we have described a smart, clean, personable man (or woman) who can get along with a diverse range of clientele but have not considered any fishing experience or physical traits.

The right crew member will help insure that this Blue Marlin will be tagged and released quickly and easily

The right crew member will help insure that this Blue Marlin will be tagged and released quickly and easily

Fishing skills tend to transfer readily.  It really does not matter what kind of fishing a new employee may have done in the past.  From snook  to trout, and albacore to tarpon most of the rudiments of finding and attracting fish have strong similarities.  The prey  and predator relationships of the target species and the bait (natural or artificial) used to entice them have enough similarities to enable a good fisherman for any species to rapidly learn how and where to catch another.

Even with no fishing experience, athleticism is more important than sheer brute strength.  I would prefer a gymnast to a weight lifter, and quick reflexes are perhaps the greatest gift of all.  (I have had clumsy deck hands who overcame their lack of agility through concentration, practice, and dedication but it was never easy for them.)

Many of my best wire men have not been exceptionally strong but have been able to competently and confidently take the leader on marlin and tuna running up to 1,000 pounds.  They were able to release the leader cleanly when needed and instantly grab it again with only a small loss of distance if I was able to maneuver the boat toward the fish quickly enough. (A muscle bound lummox breaks leaders and/or gets himself in danger!)

An average sized man who can do a series of chin ups has enough strength to pull up even a large bluefin or black marlin. A small man or average woman would need to build up their upper body strength to become a world class leader person.  The ability to react with quick, agile movements is a universal trait in all top deck hands.

Vision is a highly prized attribute for most fisherman but concentration and dedication are even more important.  Polarized glasses are a must and corrective lenses can make many persons with poor vision  well above average. What is often (incorrectly) taken as visual acuity is  more often the ability to comprehend, through experience, the visual stimulus available to anyone bothering to look for it .

A cut off bait, the color of a fish under a bait, or the glint of a tail or fin at a distance, are only seen by the knowledgeable fisherman who has been trained to recognize them. (Doctors instantly recognize things in an X-Ray that we miss not because they can see better, but because they are trained to see and recognize things not recognized by the rest us.)

A good captain can train a novice to become a great mate.

Dec 23, 2009

Introducing Guest Blogger Peter B. Wright

Peter B. Wright

Peter B. Wright

We are happy to include Peter B. Wright as a contributing editor to the Guy Harvey Sportswear blog. Peter is one of the world’s best known and respected big game fishing captains and will be writing here on various aspects of catching the largest fish in the ocean.

Peter is an inductee to the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame, has caught more marlin over 1,000 pounds than any captain or angler in history, has won dozens of tournaments, and guided his clients to numerous records. He holds the Bahamas Bluefin Tuna record of 972 pounds and guided angler Stewart Campbell to an amazing single day’s record of 73 Giant Bluefin Tuna tagged and released off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Peter B at Work (Play)

Peter B at Work (Play)

Captain Wright has fished every season in Cairns, Australia since 1968 and has also fished the waters of New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Mauritius, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, The Ivory Coast, Bom Bom Island, Cape Verde Islands, Canary Islands, Madeira, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, US Gulf and East Coast, Canada’s Maritime Provinces, East and West Coasts of Mexico, Guatamala, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, French Polynesia, Fiji, Hawaii and the Galapagos.

Peter is a highly sought after writer and speaker. He has recently been hired as Editor at Large by World Publications to write a big game fishing column for “Marlin” Magazine as well as hosting television shows and conducting seminars and “Marlin University” programs.