Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing

Cape Cod Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing with Guide Ryan Collins

I am blessed to have grown up just a few miles from where giant bluefin tuna fishing is prime. There are plenty weighing in upwards of 1,000 pounds roaming the sea. As a young kid I would walk the beach in pursuit of striped bass, while simultaneously watching tuna boats just a few miles offshore. Sometimes I would even see these giant fish go airborne while chasing bait, which just added to the allure of someday hooking into one.

During my early twenties I finally acquired the boat and the gear necessary to wrestle with a giant tuna. The only ingredient missing was the expertise. Successfully catching a giant bluefin tuna is all in the details and the rigging. Needless to say I had a lot to learn about giant bluefin tuna fishing.

Compared to the top tuna captains in my region I am still a novice.

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However over the past several years I’ve hooked and landed several giant bluefin of up to 780 pounds.

The rest of this article will outline the gear, tips and advice I feel is important for anyone looking to catch one of these massive fish.

Cape Cod Areas to go Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing

There are many places off Cape Cod where you will have a chance of catching a giant bluefin tuna. Honestly, the only places that don’t hold bluefin are Buzzard’s Bay, Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound. The rest of the water surrounding the Cape can contain tunas at one point or another.

Popular hot spots for giant bluefins include Stellwagen Bank, Cape Cod Bay, Wood End, Peaked Hill Bar, the Shipping Lanes, Crab Ledge, the Regal Sword and George’s Bank. The fish move around extensively so it’s imperative to have a good network of captains and friends whom you can call upon to help locate the fish.

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Giant bluefin tuna typically arrive during June and remain in Cape waters sometimes until Christmas.

The best months for giant tuna are probably September, October and November but the weather on Cape Cod during the fall can be extremely windy and unpredictable.

The Best Baits And Techniques For Giant Bluefin Tuna

The vast majority of giant tunas off Cape Cod are caught using some sort of live bait. Tunas will eat a wide variety of different live baits including cod, bluefish, mackerel, herring and whiting to name but a few.

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These baits are typically fished beneath a balloon, from a kite, or rigged on a down line and fished directly beneath the boat.

Trolling for giants is not as popular as live bait fishing but it does work when conditions are right. Spreader bars are probably the most popular lures to troll, but trolling rigged ballyhoo can also be very effective, especially when tunas are feeding on halfbeaks.

Over the past decade, with the advancement in spinning reel technology, there have been many giant bluefin tunas caught on spinning gear by anglers casting lures such as the Halfbeak Espada from Strategic Angler. However, I really do not recommend targeting giant bluefin tuna using spinning gear. Tunas of more than 250 pounds are so strong that attempting to catch them using spinning gear is extremely taxing on the body and can take hours to land a fish.

The Best Equipment and Tackle for Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing

As mentioned above the most popular and most effective technique right now for catching giant bluefin tuna on Cape Cod is with live bait and size 80 or 130 class rod and reel setups. Shimano, Alutecnos and Penn all have 80 and 130 class reels that are capable of landing giants. Long tuna rods such as those from Thrasher with bent butts are placed in swivel rod holders in the gunnel of the boat.

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The rod remains in the swivel rod holder for the entire fight.

Here is a typical setup for loading the reels with line. Reels are loaded with at least 500 yards of 200 pound braid. On top of the braid is a 200 yard section of monofilament topshot which is usually 220 pound test. The topshot is then connected to a fluorocarbon leader of typically 200 pound test, however the best poundage and length of leader varies depending on who you ask.

Other must-have items for giant tuna fishing include a harpoon with line and ball, gaff, swivel rod holders, weights, elastic bands, balloons, clothespins, crimps and a crimp tool, chaff gear, black magic markers and 20+ ounce bank sinkers. Circle hooks have become very popular with my favorite being those made by Eagle Claw Trokar. Of course the boat must have the proper general category or charter/headboat permit from NMFS and must abide by all Coast Guard regulations and contain all the appropriate coast guard safety gear.

The Key to Giant Bluefin Tuna Fishing Success

The final and most important ingredient for giant bluefin tuna fishing success is patience. It is not uncommon to go days without catching a fish. However if you are persistent, that rare bite from a 500+ pound monster tuna will eventually happen, and when it does the adrenaline rush and entire experience is nothing like anything else in the fishing world.

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Cape Cod in particular is blessed with a robust and healthy giant bluefin tuna fishery.

Each year thousands of giants migrate into Cape Cod’s waters to feed on its abundant bait sources, and each year dozens upon dozens of anglers get the opportunity to hook and battle a giant tuna – which are what I feel are the strongest and hardest fighting fish in the sea.

Good luck if you decide to give tuna fishing a shot. Pay attention to the weather and make sure to have the proper permit and safety gear onboard at all times. Be safe and as always, tight lines!


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Ryan Collins


I got started fishing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts when I was in kindergarten. Over the years I’ve worked at a bait shop, commercial fished, and ran fishing charters. In 2011 I launched, an online community that teaches people how to fish on Cape Cod. Over the past few years the website has expanded with hundreds of videos, podcasts, forums, articles and reports. We even have a TV show on NBC SportsBOSTON! Fishing has been a blessing. Just being out there is enough for me - catching a fish is just a bonus.

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