Cape Cod’s bluefin fishery is world class, and with the advent of super lines and jig-and-pop fishing, it offers exciting opportunities for big game anglers.
Capt. Jack Sprengel, of East Coast Charters, and his crew headed out this past week aboard his brand-new 30-foot North Rip center console in search of the boat’s first tuna. The trip was booked as a jig-and-pop charter, targeting medium-size bluefin tuna on spinning gear.
After making short work of a lumpy ride, Sprengel and a buddy boat searched a promising spot for signs of life. Capt. Brandon Lake, on the buddy boat, soon hailed Sprengel on the radio to say they found tuna about 2 miles north. Sprengel steamed in his direction and together the two boats boxed in a solid mass of birds, bait and feeding tuna.
At the spot, angler Kyle Paparelli fired a 10-inch RonZ jig into the action and was pulled off his feet by a devastating strike. His tackle setup included a Shimano Stella 18000SW and Crafty One Customs rod, spooled with 80-pound BullBuster braid. An FG knot connected the main line to 100-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader.
“What followed next was hands down the most legendary dump of 350 yards of line off a spinning reel that I have ever seen,” said Sprengel. “In a desperate effort to get some line on the spool, I had to put the boat up on plane in the direction the fish was headed. Eventually the fish stopped its run and swam near the surface. Once there, it began a series of wild changes in direction, random dives to the bottom, and eventually turned directly at the boat and charged us.”
Sprengel’s entire boat of anglers fought this fish in intervals, rotating the crew through quickly to keep the right amount of heat on the tuna. Then, the fish made a huge mistake — it came within throwing distance of the harpoon.
“As it streaked across the bow, I made a now-or-never Hail Mary shot and hit pay dirt,” said Sprengel. “The fish immediately dumped all 300 feet of harpoon line and the poly ball shot by me like a cannon ball. I could barely breath at the thought of losing the fish.”
The fish pulled the ball across the surface hard for about another hundred feet when it finally ran out of gas. “A harpoon in your back will have that effect, I suppose,” said Sprengel.
Angler Kyle Oneppo was on the rod and made a series of hard pumps and quick cranks, managing to plane the tuna toward the surface where it was finally gaffed. Back at the dock, the fish measured 92 inches and weighed 400 pounds gutted — a true giant on spinning gear.
“Funny to think that only eight years ago we were chasing fish in the 45- to 55-inch class on the strongest musky rods we could find and massive surf reels,” said Sprengel. “Hooking up with 10 fish and maybe landing one was considered a good day. Now landing fish in the 55- to 75-inch-range is a daily occurrence, and fish loss due to rigging or hardware failures are very rare.”
Sometimes you even get that 400-pounder.