For the past month, the bluefin bite has been outstanding off the cost of Hatteras Island. According to Ric Burnley, writer and frequent Hatteras Island fishermen, boats running to the edge of the Gulf Stream have been catching 100- to 200-pound bluefin by chunking, jigging, trolling – even throwing top water poppers.Ric, an expert kayak fishermen who was one of the fist people to catch a fish (specifically a mahi mahi ) out of a kayak in the Gulf Stream, decided to try his luck again and commandeered The Big Tahuna charter boat to head out to the Gulf Stream, launch a kayak, and try to reel in one of the giant bluefins.
This was the first time anyone fishing out of Hatteras would try to catch one of these gigantic fish in a kayak.
Before the kayaks hit the water, the charter boat crew had set out some bait and landed three 50 pound bluefin. It was a good sign of things to come. Ric and his crew launched and within minutes, were fishing in the Gulf Stream.
Ric hooked up first, but it was only a 5-pound albacore. A few minutes later, another crew member, Lee Williams hooked up with a much larger critter. According to Ric, “one second, Lee was bobbing next to me wildly jerking on his jigging rod, the next second he was being dragged through the 3-foot chop and 5-foot swells while screaming and hooting,” according to Burnley. “A minute later his line broke and the fight was over, but we were all amped about the action.”
They continued to drift in the 3-knot current and wind. The crew hooked about a half dozen fish each, but each battle would only last a few minutes before the powerful fish would break the line or pull the hook.
“Even though we were all experienced anglers, nothing could prepare us for the explosive speed and mind-bending power of these tuna,” says Burnley. “Each encounter unfolded the same way: a bluefin would hit like a freight train, whipping the kayak around into the wind and seas, then take off dragging us at up to 7 knots while emptying the spool of line in seconds. When we would increase the drag – to the point of being yanked out of the ‘yak – the line would break or the hooks would pull. But each time we lost a fish, we learned a valuable lesson.”
After several hours in the water, and dozens of fish hooked, fought and lost, they finally figured it out.
As the conditions worsened and the crew contemplated calling it a day, Matt Shepard hooked into a big fish that pulled him from the warmer water into the cooler water. He held on while the tuna dragged him and emptied his reel. After a half mile the fish slowed and took the fight deep. Matt let the tuna tow him around, gaining line when he could, loosing line when he couldn’t, and waiting for the fish to tire out.
An hour and a half and 2 and a half miles later, the fish gave up and came to the surface. The tuna turned towards the boat, and the first mate reached out with his gaff and ended the battle.
The crew celebrated like champions. Matt’s fish weighed 166 pounds – the first bluefin caught off Hatteras by a kayaker. Ric is doubtful it will be the last.
Click here to read Ric’s entire story and see photos of the catch. You can also visit Surf or Sound Realty’s website for more Gulf Stream fishing information, or if you’re coming to Hatteras Island, check out the fishing article in Hatteras Style magazine, which you’ll receive when you check into your vacation rental home.