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September 27, 2006

Small Tuna for Big Marlin

There's No Better Marlin Bait than a Small Tuna

Live tuna are well known as one of the best marlin baits. In the October 2006 issue of Marlin, Captain Peter B. Wright reveals the best techniques you can use to catch a variety of bait-sized tunas. Here, we examine a few of the different tuna species popular with marlin fishermen around the world.

All Tuna Species Are Not Equal

While all tuna make good live baits, they have a hierarchy of desirability. In Hawaii, the favorite live bait is the aku, or skipjack tuna as it's known around the world. Old Florida anglers may know them as oceanic or arctic bonito. They're the best of all the tuna species when used as live bait because they possess an amazing reflectivity in their skin. The flash of light that reflects off their sides when they're hit by direct sunlight probably causes them to be visible from farther away than any of the other tuna species. Small aku are also great bait for larger tuna of other species.

Hawaii's kawakawa are the Atlantic's false albacore or little tunny, known simply - and incorrectly - as bonito in Florida. It makes very good bait, but not quite as good as a skipjack. In Australia they're known as mackerel tuna and are considered excellent bait, dead or alive, for black marlin. Small bonito, called silver bullets, are considered by many Florida crews to be the
ultimate live bait for sailfish.

The little oi oi, which is called Watson's leaping tuna by some Australians, is the smallest of the tuna used for bait and looks a lot like a baby kawakawa. Their size makes them great live bait for spearfish or striped marlin, as well as prime bait for large or medium yellowfin. Big marlin will also eat an oi oi, proving the old adage, "Elephants eat peanuts."

Small yellowfin tuna are amazingly hardy and unless you clip their tails severely with a pair of shears, may well outrun a marlin long enough to get the big predator tangled in the leader. A small yellowfin looks like a little black football following the boat, and when a blue or black marlin spots one, it usually results in a ferocious strike.

Dogtooth tuna are found only in Pacific and Indian Ocean waters and are not really tuna at all, but rather a unique species and genus. However, with their tunalike body shape, dragging one, dead or alive, is just as effective as using a true tuna of equal size.

For more on catching tuna for bait, pick up the October 2006 issue of  Marlin.

Photos:  Doug Olander - Homepage Image: Charlie Levine