For many anglers, summer is the season when warm weather and lots of fishing opportunities are available. But winter should never be forgotten, especially in offshore waters. Jay Sconyers of Ace’s up Fishing Charters loves to head offshore out of his Murrells Inlet, S.C., home base on a winter day.
Sconyers heads offshore every chance he gets between December and April to target after wahoo, dolphin and tuna, and when blackfin tuna are schooled up near the Winyah Scarp, he can’t resist the topwater action these fish offer.
“They are all over the place this time of year — or that is what it seems when we head out to the Scarp,” said Sconyers (843-997-3270). “We see them jumping out of the water chasing flying fish and any other type of bait out there.”
Tuna travel in large schools and will be parked close to the best bait around. During the winter, the bait will be around the warm-water edges of the Gulf Stream.
“We like to fish along the edge of the Gulf Stream where the water is 74 to 75 degrees,” he said.
Tuna are chasing bait wherever they find it. Most will suspend in 120 feet of water and push bait to the surface, create a feeding frenzy. They will follow the bait all winter, so wherever the bait ends up will be where tuna are found.
Tuna can be caught a variety of different ways. Most offshore anglers troll cedar plugs, sea witches and rigged ballyhoo. Sconyers will troll small ballyhoo or cedar plugs in areas holding bait, or he will use high-speed jig butterfly jigs to fish he sees suspended on his bottom machine.
But when the fish are surfacing frequently creating a mad froth of water, Sconyers recommends using surface lures. He will have several rods rigged with topwater poppers when tuna break the surface.
Sconyers prefers large poppers in 5- to 7-inch lengths because he can case them a long distance on spinning reels.
“Tuna get shy around the boat, and you need to use big, heavy plugs so you can chunk them a long way,” he said.
Sconyers recommends using 30-pound braided line with a 2- to 3-foot fluorocarbon leader for the best results.
Wintertime blackfin tuna fishing can be exciting enough, but catching them on topwater options can turn a fun, fishing trip an exhilarating, heart-pounding experience that will bring anglers back asking for more.