Another year is now in the books for giant bluefin tuna fishing with Tony’s Tuna Fishing in North Lake, Prince Edward Island. We added a new vessel to the fleet in 2015, Capt. Bradley (“Buck”) MacDonald purchased a new 45 foot Hustler boat, and rightfully named it “All for a Buck”. We have retired the Princess Nova from tuna fishing for now, and it was used by my father Elmer all summer for commercial mackerel fishing.
2015 was another great year for giant bluefin fishing for Tony’s Tuna Fishing captains and crew. A change made by the federal department of fisheries this year allowed us to partner with another commercial captain who has a tuna license and put the two licenses on one boat. This opportunity was used by some of our boats, including myself, and this automatically gave us two kill tags on my boat. On top of this, there was the traditional lottery for another 25% of the license holders to get an additional tag that could be caught after October 2.
The bonus this year was some quota that was transferred to Canada from Mexico that was available to all commercial boats through a second lottery, which resulted in approximately 25% of the fleet getting one of these kill tags. This meant some license holders ended up with their one kill tag, and some license holders through the luck of the draw ended up with three tags. We had four to catch on my boat between my license and another license holder, all ranging between 800 and 900 pounds.
Like the winter before, we had another horrible winter in 2015 and this resulted in a very late spring. We were delayed from beginning lobster fishing for eleven days (until May 11) due to ice in the harbour and out to sea. We did sea trials on a new engine in my boat on May 6, and there were massive icebergs aground out to 40 feet of water!! When we did start the lobster season was great, we ended another great season the first week of July.
Due to the late spring and the fact that these giants migrate here from the Gulf of Mexico as the water gets warmer, we once again held off until the first of August to start the tuna fishing trips. This gave the tuna ample opportunity to get into our waters and be ready to start feeding heavily. August was very similar to other years at this time, we hooked tuna on most days, and most hookups were “blind strikes” while drifting usually on live mackerel on kites or high swimmers in the water column. I did see more situations this year where we “marked” tuna on the fish finder and managed to hold them under the boat and get them to stick around until finally they would bite. Some of our boats had tuna under the boat for up to an hour but finally got them to bite. We also saw a return of the summer herring run in Souris this year for a week to ten days in August, which held the tuna around the area. We are very optimistic that the herring will continue to return in larger numbers for a longer period in the Souris area in August in 2016.
We hung around Souris to fish longer this year, which is not a surprise since everything was later. We made a few trips to East Point when fishing was slow in Souris and had some luck on most days. East Point, for anyone who has fished there with us, is where the tides meet, and it is always a little miserable. We headed back to North Lake on the first week of September, and the fishing stayed very strong throughout September. We fed them beside the boat on a lot of days, and if they wouldn’t come right up, a kite bait away from the boat or a live mackerel down deep would get a bite in most situations. The fishing was continuing to heat up and was phenomenal on Thursday, October 1, and then a northeaster blew in that afternoon that kept us tied up for Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the fishing was poor, and the large body of fish that was there just four days earlier (as many as I have ever seen in a very, very large area) had moved. We moved back to Fishermens Bank and the Ridge, about twenty miles from Souris to finish off the season, and we had good fishing here. It is traditional that the tuna leave off North Lake and move to these areas before they head back around the tip of Cape Breton in latter October. I think the strong Northeaster probably sped the process up by a week or so.
We caught our last two commercial fish on the Ridge in early October. They both had good fat content and returned good prices for large fish because of their fat content, and good shape and temperature. By the middle of October, as always happens in our waters, the weather turned poor on a lot of days, and it was difficult to stay on top of the tuna movements when we were not there every day fishing them.
Boats are now home, fishing is done for the year 2015, and we are all building lobster traps, doing maintenance to the boats, and repairing and cleaning tuna gear for 2016. I anticipate 2016 to be another great year, if the herring continue to move back into the Souris area in August, I am very optimistic about the kind of year next year will be.
All the Tony’s Tuna Fishing captains and crew wish you a Merry Christmas and hope to see you here in 2016!!
Tight lines to you all!!
Capt. Tony MacDonald
Tony’s Tuna Fishing
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