The huge bluefin tuna of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Canada’s Maritimes provide a once-in-a-lifetime fishing experience. Any serious offshore angler looking to catch a torpedo-sized tuna has to make the trip to Canada’s eastern waters. Here, the largest tuna in the world congregate and feed heavily on herring and mackerel in the summer and early fall months.
The up and down Canadian bluefin tuna fishery is riding high today in a big way.
The 1930s are when recreational anglers first started exploring Nova Scotia’s bountiful waters, drawing anglers from all across the globe. The community of Wedgeport held tournaments in the south of the peninsula, taking advantage of nearby waters full of tuna off the Tusket River. In 1949 — a banner year — 72 bluefins were caught during the International Tuna Cup Match, totaling 30,161 pounds.
Recreational sport fishing for giant bluefin tuna was ramping up farther north during the 1960s and ‘70s, in areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence or St. George’s Bay. Record catches occurred in rapid succession in the 1970s. First, a 1,064.5-pounder, caught in 1970. Then, 1,129-pound and 1,191-pound bluefins in 1976. In 1979, angler Ken Fraser landed the all-tackle record, a 1,496-pounder, not far from the strait that intersects Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. The 1980s continued a time when hardcore anglers caught bluefin tuna in high numbers.
But there were also some desolate times. From 1987 to 1995, for reasons not really understood, the tuna just stopped coming to nearshore areas in and around Nova Scotia. Many anglers have their own explanations, with some hypothesizing the tuna moved farther offshore during these periods.
The numbers of giant bluefin returned to Nova Scotia in the 2010s at historic levels. Shallow waters of the Northumberland Strait, between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, attracted massive schools of giants once again. Plus, recreational anglers were able to target the bluefins. Throughout Canada’s bluefin tuna fishing history, there were periods when recreational anglers were shut out of the fishery, leaving limited numbers of catches available to only commercial fishing.
“Thanks to exceptionally well-developed and implemented management frameworks internationally and nationally, giant bluefin populations across the Atlantic have rebounded significantly,” says Capt. Josh Temple, who has guided anglers to giant bluefins for 14 seasons. “Ninety percent of the giant tuna caught by rod-and-reel in Nova Scotia are released is a statistic that has surely contributed to the health and sustainability of their numbers in these waters.”
Long and short, the giant bluefins are back. And have been for well over a decade now.
Nova Scotia Tuna Fishing Expeditions
Sport Fishing Expeditions, a new fishing travel option, allows anglers to target them without having to navigate the confusing — but often necessary — regulations that Canada imposes on the region to keep the bluefin tuna population healthy. The Nova Scotia Sport Fishing Expedition offers an adventurous fishing experience that covers everything other than the plane flights.
Planned for September 13 – 17 in 2023, the five-day dream trip offers fishing with some of the best captains in the area. But it’s limited to 16 anglers. Anglers will fish off seaworthy downeast-style vessels built to fish the waters off Nova Scotia comfortably. Each boat is fully outfitted with the latest electronics and heavy-duty tackle. The expedition includes all charter fees and tips, plus accommodations at cozy seaside cottages near the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Meals and beverages, a one-year subscription to Salt Water Sportsman, and a memento video of your fishing trip are also included.
Fly in and out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport on the 13 and 18, with transportation provided to and from expedition headquarters at Ballantyne’s Cove. Days two to five are all about fishing, while getting coached by expert instructors. The final evening ends with a group dinner at the famous Brownstone in Antigonish.
This trip to beautiful Nova Scotia is meant for anglers that want to test their fishing skills against the biggest bluefins on the planet. Captains employ a variety of methods for area giants, but chunking or trolling are common tactics. Sport Fishing Expedition’s knowledgeable captains provide on-the-water instruction in a variety of techniques. As part of your preparation and instruction, anglers will learn about the various options for rods, reels, line, and hooks, as well as the fighting chair and harness. You’ll also learn knot-tying, baiting the hook, proper drag settings and deck management. To sign up for the trip, visit the Sport Fishing Expeditions website.