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DANCING
THE TUNA JIGS

By Capt. Jim Freda

  Of all the types of offshore fishing I do, jigging tuna on light tackle is one of the ultimate angling experiences. This is because you entice the fish to strike with the motion and action you impart to your jig. One minute you feel almost nothing then in an instant your rod is pretzeled over the gunnel from a savage attack that is the tuna’s trademark move. What felt like nothing now feels like a Mack truck running in the other direction. Your reel quickly dumps line with what seems like no end in sight as you hold on for the ride. Your adrenaline surges, your heart pounds and your body shakes. This runaway pelagic feels like you are holding it by the tail. When it finally stops, the ensuing battle requires skill, strength, stamina, and of course some luck.
  Here in New Jersey, jigging opportunities for tuna present themselves for our entire season, which runs from mid-May through December. Our first jig targets are bluefin that show up in May on the inshore and midshore grounds when they are migrating north to Cape Cod. At this time our waters are still on the cool side but since bluefin can thermoregulate their body temperature, they can tolerate the mid-50-degree ocean temperatures. As summer approaches and our waters warm into the low 70s, yellowfin show up on these same grounds. The yellowfin will remain into October until ocean temperatures drop below 64 degrees. The bluefin will remain in our area into December.
  The origin of tuna jigging dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, and Phoenicians were proficient tuna hunters. “Jigs were first employed to catch fish by ancient civilizations including the Egyptians and Greeks, who utilized jigs constructed of metal or bone,” an article in SeaCultureMag says. “The Vikings took the method to Europe, and later the Japanese started utilizing wooden jigs called ‘Heddon’. American anglers first began experimenting with metal jigs around the beginning of the 20th century. Lead was used to make the first modern jigs, but later a variety of materials, including silicone, rubber, and plastic, were used to create jigs.”
  I am prepared to jig on every tuna charter, even on my very first trip of the spring season. May is traditionally a troll bite because the bait isn’t set up on the lumps and ridges, so the bluefin will not hold in a particular area like they will do later in the summer. They keep moving north following the bait. Trolling spreading bars, side trackers, daisy chains, and ballyhoo are the norm to get tuna to strike.

The Nomad Streaker jig in pink sardine is one of the author's favorite colors to use.
The Nomad Streaker jig in pink sardine is one of the author's favorite colors to use.
Chatterlures sandeel jigs are highly effective to use when the sandeel bite is on.
Chatterlures sandeel jigs are highly effective to use when the sandeel bite is on.

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