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GHOSTS BUSTED:
Late Season Bluefin

By Capt. Jim Freda

  In central New Jersey where I charter, chasing inshore bluefin tuna in November and December is a highly anticipated event because of the tremendous number of these tuna we have seen year after year as they make their way down to the Carolinas for the winter.
  The ability of the bluefin to thermoregulate their body temperature allows it to be in our 54- to 50-degree water temperature at this time of year. For the last seven years the migration has been getting better and better, and the end of 2023 was no exception.
  In fact, it was so good that the typical moniker of “chasing ghosts” – applied to a frustrating fishery where you would see the bluefin but could not get on them because they would disappear quickly and then reappear – no longer applied. This past season it is safe to say was a season that can be coined “ghosts busted!”
  Jim Kuhl, whose boat is appropriately named Tuna Junkie, is well known as one of the top and best ghost hunters in New Jersey. He religiously fishes with his son James, and Billy and Matt Hayes. This group puts in more days on the water and more tuna in the boat than anyone else.
  “This past season was the best inshore bluefin bite in recent years, hands down,” Kuhl said. “It was the most insane bite maybe of all time.” In recent years, there has been a decent push of fish that migrate south along our coastline. Typically, you will have a large number of smaller fish, 40-inch to 55 inches, with the occasional group of giants.
  Last fall, however, Kuhl said they witnessed a mass of 55- inch to 100-inch fish, “the likes of which we have never seen. Starting in early November, we started catching them along the beach. And when I say along the beach, this is an understatement. Our first few days on the fish, we were inside the 3-mile line.”
  “This crazy bite lasted until mid-December when the temperatures started dropping and the fish finally pushed south,” Kuhl said.
My partner at Shore Catch Charters, Capt. Gene Quigley, also is well-known in New Jersey for being a diehard tuna junkie at the top of his game.
  “This year’s November-December’s bluefin run was nothing short of amazing,” he said. “While I have been chasing these inshore bluefin with casting gear since 1998, I have never seen a run like this season. Back then we did not know much; lots of trial and error and results were less than stellar.

Clipping the pin (top bally) close to the ballyhoo and pushing it down is the final step in rigging your Joe Shutes and TN-Tackle heads before putting them in the spread.
Clipping the pin (top bally) close to the ballyhoo and pushing it down is the final step in rigging your Joe Shutes and TN-Tackle heads before putting them in the spread.
Big bluefin were easy to get on the troll but sometimes required teamwork to get them on the deck. Bob Marsiglia, Chris Dillemuth and Tom Cali show off a nice 60-incher caught on a blue-and-white Joe Shute rigged with ballyhoo.
Big bluefin were easy to get on the troll but sometimes required teamwork to get them on the deck. Bob Marsiglia, Chris Dillemuth and Tom Cali show off a nice 60-incher caught on a blue-and-white Joe Shute rigged with ballyhoo.

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