|Story by David Dodsworth
If you love to fish, like I do,
winter can be a long, hard season. Sure, there is always some
sort of fishing available. Where I live, you have one option;
chop a hole in the ice and bundle up! Granted, that is fishing,
but somehow it just doesn’t compare to the thrill of doing
battle with a truly large fish, 20 miles offshore.
Recently I had the good fortune to become involved in the
fishing lure business. Not just any lures, mind you, but
specialized, custom, big game trolling lures. Naturally, I
wouldn’t put the Offshore Pursuits label on any product that I
didn’t test. So, as much as it pained me to do so, I had to head
offshore (strictly business, mind you)!
For big fish, in late December, there is only one option (in
my opinion), North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Specifically (again,
in my opinion), Hatteras Village.
Hatteras Village is nothing short of a fisherman’s paradise.
Surrounded by water on three sides, you are literally a cast
away from water, no matter where you are. In late December, the
"season" is over, the crowds are gone, and the fishing is
Back to business! As I said, the purpose of this trip was to
test a new, deepwater trolling lure. If you want to truly test a
lure’s effectiveness, then you better seek out the best in the
business to be your guide. In Hatteras Village, that means Capt.
Dan Rooks of the "Tuna Duck". I had called Dan and told him that
I had a strange request; I wanted to stray from the normal
fishing methods and troll artificials for giant bluefin. He was,
in my opinion, a little skeptical, but being the true
professional that he is, agreed to give it his best shot.
We planned on a two-day test. The first day we would
concentrate on yellowfin and other Gulf Stream predators. The
second day would be strictly bluefin!
I awoke in the predawn darkness to the sound of wind howling
through the outriggers of the fleet docked below our room. At
this point it was blowing at 15 knots, with no chance of any
improvement. A check by Dan of the marine forecast confirmed my
worst fears. Of the three days that we had allowed, this was
going to be the best chance to get offshore. Most normal people
would probably have turned around and went back to bed. I am not
one, where fishing is concerned, to be accused of being normal!
With daylight breaking, we slipped out of Hatteras Harbor and
The plan was to steam to the Gulf Stream and troll the inside
edges of the warm water. The trip out was, lets say,
interesting. The air temperature was right at 40 degrees, the
wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots, and the seas were building.
But, this is all part of the game. The temperature break at the
Gulf Stream was 61 degrees / 68 degrees, and the stream was
moving at 3.5 knots. While still in the cold water, we slowed to
6.5 knots and set the baits.
Our plan was to troll 5 rigged ballyhoo, and one Offshore
Pursuits’ Bluefin Series lure. The thinking here was that if
there were fish around, they would hit the ballyhoo. Once we
found the fish, we could begin experimenting with the lures.
After a whole lot of inaction, we picked up 2 tiny blackfin tuna
on the ballyhoo. This was not a good sign. We decided to depart
the Gulf Stream and head back into the cold water. This is when
things started to get interesting. Still trolling 5 ballyhoo and
1 lure, the lure went off (red/black). It produced a small king
mackerel. With the pounding that we had taken so far, this was
fantastic! At this point we decided to troll 2 lures and 3
ballyhoo. Again the lure went off (red/black), and produced a
40" king mackerel. After 2 missed strikes, we hooked up on a
small mako (again, on the red/black). At this point the weather
was taking a turn for the worse. The wind had switched to the
southwest and was forecast to blow 35 knots. We saw 30 of that
before we made it in. Considering the conditions, in my opinion,
it was a very good day of fishing. The big test would come in
the morning, bluefin tuna on the troll! I couldn’t wait!
Day 2 proved unfishable, with winds gusting at over 40 knots.
This left us one more chance to tackle the bluefin.
Day 3 started out to be a mirror of day 1. The wind was
blowing at 17 knots out of the west, but wasn’t forecast to get
much above 20 knots. There weren’t a whole lot of options at
this point. We could either hope for the best and fish it, or
call it quits and fly home. I guess you can figure out what we
Today’s plan was to fish a spread of 3 lures at different
lengths, trolling around the numerous wrecks in the area, in
search of bluefin tuna. We would troll at 6.5/7.5 knots, and
fast troll between wrecks at 10 knots. Our gear consisted of (2)
130 lb class rigs, fished 1 each side, and (1) 80 lb, fished
from the bridge. Our lures were Offshore Pursuits’ Bluefin
Series deepwater trolling lures. These lures weigh an incredible
24 ounces, and fish a full 30 feet deep. It is impossible for me
to accurately describe the action of these lures. I can tell you
two things; you have never seen action like this before, and it
drives fish insane!
The first 2 wrecks produced no action. On the third wreck, we
came upon schools of small albacore feeding on the surface. We
circled the wreck twice before the first strike came. The fish
hammered a Fire Tiger, on wire, fished 75 yards back. The rod
was handed down from the bridge, and the fight began. After 40
minutes of expert teamwork between Capt. Dan Rooks and mate
Kenny Koci, we got our first glimpse of the fish. It was a
bluefin tuna, and it was a giant! We estimated the fish to be
approximately 80", and 300 pounds. After lots of give and take,
we lost the fish 15 feet from the boat. Although somewhat
disappointed, we were happy that we got a close up look at the
fish. We proved that the Offshore Pursuits’ Bluefin series could
catch bluefin on the troll! Excited now, we reset all the lines
and continued the hunt. This wreck didn’t produce another
strike, so we fast trolled to the next wreck. Before long, the
130, trolling a Blue Mackerel on mono, went off. Again, expert
teamwork between Captain and Mate brought the fish close. This
fish wasn’t as large as the previous fish, but it was a good
fish never the less. After a 20-minute fight, the fish was along
side. It was determined that this fish was a keeper (under 73"),
so it was gaffed and brought aboard. The fish proved to be 68",
and approximately 190 pounds. Not too shabby! We bled and iced
the fish, and set out once again. To our delight, it turned out
to be one of those days when the weather forecast was wrong. The
wind had died, the temperature was nearing 60 degrees, and other
than a moderate swell, the sea was calm.
At this point we decided to investigate the shallow water
close to the beach. There had been reports of fish close to the
beach, about 50 miles north of there. Maybe those same fish had
moved down the coast. It was worth a try, so we trolled to
within a mile of the beach. This was shallow water, only 35 feet
deep, and I had my doubts. But, once again, the expertise of
Capt. Dan Rooks proved unquestionable. The acres of birds told
us that something was happening. A vicious strike on a Steelhead
pattern showed us that we were into a large school of hungry
bluefin! After a short fight with a big fish, we lost this one.
Another strike 5 minutes later also lost. We were into a
situation that offshore anglers dream about. Acres of big,
hungry fish! Unfortunately, we had to run in order to make the
inlet before dark. I can only dream of what might have been had
we been able to work those fish for another hour or two.
Thanks to Capt. Dan Rooks, and mate Kenny Koci, day 3 proved
to be a huge success. We had proved what we had set out to, and
had a fantastic time doing it. The "Tuna Duck" proved to be the
ultimate fishing machine, and Captain and crew proved why they
are considered the very best.
If you would like to fish North Carolina’s Outer Banks, I
highly recommend Capt. Dan Rooks and the "Tuna Duck". The "Tuna
Duck" fishes year round for Marlin, Bluefin tuna, Yellowfin
tuna, Sailfish, Wahoo, King Mackerel, and dolphin (Dorado). For
more information, you can reach Captain Dan Rooks at (252)
995-3076, or visit the
"Tuna Duck" website.
If you go to Hatteras Village, I recommend the Village Marina
Motel. It is right at the marina, it’s clean, comfortable, the
rates are great, and the owners are nothing short of fantastic.
The hospitality of this area is unlike anything I have ever
seen. I have been to a lot of places, none of which compare to
Hatteras Village. For more information, you can contact the
Hatteras Village Marina Motel at (252) 986-2522.