We are wrapping up our Winter Projects and Maintenance of the Karen Lynn. We will be splashing the boat and bringing it to Gloucester from Perkins Marina in Essex in a week.
We made a lot of progress this week and we Collin and I saw some crucial pieces of the winter projects come together really well.
First with the help of Paul “Woggy” Champagne, who is a great Glass and Gel Repair, fisherman and boat builder from Maine, we complete the Tuna door which came out really well. We ended up with a good and steep ramp that will help with the Karen Lynn’s deck being higher off the water than most boats.
Shot of Closed Door from Outside
Collin through the Open Door.
Additionally, we got the new Livewell/ Ice Storage Box finished and hoisted up on deck thanks to Ed Perkins and his crane, then fastened down and I am finishing up the plumbing and electrical to it this weekend. Also we sanded and re-coated our deck with non-skid. This time, instead of using Awl-grip which is not only very expensive but we found to be slippery without a very aggressive non-skid added, we used PPG’s Epoxy “Ameron”. Time will tell but it looks to be very rugged stuff and was easy to put on. We have a few more things to finish then bottom paint, a lot of cleaning, and then is time to Jig Cod and Haddock! Jim Ansara
Karen Lynn Charters
Collin and I have been hard at work getting the Karen Lynn ready to go back in the water the week of April 13th. We have made a lot of progress the last few weeks. The new Furuno FCV-1150 sounder and two transducers are installed and the picture and controls are unbelievable. We made a custom swivel mount and it will rotate so we can see the screen from the helm, out back on the deck, or from the hauler. Check out the mounting and the screen shot below. Also we have made a lot of progress on the Karen Lynn’s new tuna door. Because the deck is quite high off the water compared to most downeast boats, we were concerned about being able to make a door that worked.Fortunately we were able to make a good ramp and set the door down 8″ below the deck. We are also rigging a snatch block on the winter back so we can use our existing hydraulic winch to pull really big tuna in through the door. In the picture below Collin is coating the fittings on our fuel tanks with rust inhibitor and the tuna door and ramp are behind him.
Last, but the improvement we are most excited about is our super insulated 200 gallon live well and 600# ice chest combo is ready to install. We will be hoisting onto the deck this week and bolting it in place so I can hook up the aerator, 1 1/2″ sea water supply pump, and the 2″ drain. We are really looking forward to having not only an awesome live bait well, but a great rigging station as well. Below are two pictures on the combo unit. The first is the hinged lid of the bait well and the second shows the gasketed ice box.
Our first groundfish trip is schedule for April 18th with another the next day. We still have plenty of open spring dates and we suggest getting out in early spring while the groundfishing is still really good. Only a few more weeks and the 2009 season will be going!
Middle of November and the giant bluefin were on a feeding frenzy. My first time fishing the big Chatham bite. It had not been this good in over 5 plus years. We arrived to the spot, about 30 to 40 boats. We were a little nervous, due to the fact that we had heard so many different fishing methods to employ while here. Big current, you need 50oz. of weight and so forth. We started chumming, had not marked much.
All of a sudden, a large tuna boiled the surface like you see on the youtube. videos. He was eating the frozen baits we were tossing right off the surface! So I reeled my bait back over the boil. I dropped the reel into free spool and fed out the bait. Bam!! The tuna grabs it right out of my hands! I slid the lever up to strike and we were on. What an amazing bite, to say the least.
About an hour later we harpooned and tail roped a monster. The second bite was very similar to the first. We were marking about twenty giants under the boat, in the chum. My buddy Steve fed the bait back into the slick and once again, another tuna grabbed the bait out of his hand. Shorter fight this time… about twenty minutes into it, we realized he had tail wrapped himself. So we backed down and got on him quick. What a sight! An 800lb. tuna coming up! A quick harpoon shot in his tail and we had him.
This is the stuff fisherman dream of, and yes, dreams do come true. What an epic bite.
I am so glad we made the trip. We have hopes of the fish sticking around and a weather window. We should be back down there next week. Man, life on the ocean… you never know what you will see. Just keep on fishing. Thanks!
The Karen Lynn was out this morning at the bank with Rick Wise and his group. It was hard fishing today with NE winds gusting to 25 knots and steep sea’s really building in the earlier afternoon. Only a couple of other boats were out including Captain Tim Brady on the Fulmar who was fishing through the pain!
As soon as we got to the bank we flooded our ballast tanks and the extra 5000 lbs of water settled the boat down so we could troll in relative comfort. Rick and his buddies hung tough and by 9:00 AM we starting getting into fish and ended up hooking 4, including a nice 58″ fish we took, and tagging 2 which wasn’t easy today. Gilad (from the Large Pelagic Lab) somehow was able to take his tissue and blood samples and extract gonads from the fish in a very impressive display of balance and agility. The ride home in confused sea’s with the tide running hard was not fun, but we were just happy we were in the 15 ton Karen Lynn and not with the really wacko guys in the 23′ Grady White!
All of us who chase Bluefin Tuna lose fish. It is inevitable and part of the game. The goal is too simply raise the odds in your favor of not making a mistake or having a gear failure. We have learned some painful lesson’s over the years giant fishing and most would apply to catching 50″-60″ fish on lighter stand-up gear.
1- Set your drags often and right! We set and reset out drags on a fairly regular basis using a basic brass drag scale, but not by hand or feel. We also will pull the drag 10-15 times before setting the drag. Warmed up drags are different than cold.
2- We never “jack” the fish to set the hook, just crank on the reel to set the hook.
3- In general, we will leave our reels set at 75% of strike while trolling, knowing that at strike they are dialed into a drag setting that we have confidence, is appropriate for the gear. When the fish hits. We will crank up the slack quickly, as they are often swimming at the boat, go into neutral, and leaving the drag at 75% either move the rod to the port or starboard corner rod holder, or put it in the harness if fighting stand-up and get the angler into the corner.
4- Our goal now is to get the fish straight up and down off the corner of the boat. See the picture above. Depending on the fish and the gear the fish will take at least one long run. We are still at 75% of drag (unless we are about to get spooled on a Tiagra 30 in which case you have to bump up the drag to whatever you need to and take a chance). We do not back down on the fish, as they rarely run straight back. We will turn the boat and chase at an angle, turning toward the fish.
5- Once we have the fish circling and straight up and down off the corner, we will bump up the drag to strike and start to try to bring him up. We will be bumping the boat in and out of gear and turning to keep the fish off the corner but not passing under the boat if it can be helped.
6- Last thing I would add, is that one of the big lessons we have repeatedly learned from Giant fishing is that you if you want to boat the fish, you need to put a lot of pressure on them early and keep it on them. This is where really knowing your drag settings are accurate come into play and not being hesitant about pushing the drag to strike and beyond if needed. If we have Giant on, we are trying to get it alongside the boat in 25-30 minutes and if we are over 45 minutes the chances of figuring out a way to screw up and lose it or having a gear failure go up exponentially!
Of course when you have a really big fish on for whatever gear you are using, that is all wishful thinking. This is what works for us on a big heavy boat, with an inboard engine and lots of space. This might not be the best way in smaller boats with outboards.
Good luck out there and we are hoping for a reasonable weather window between storms.
Jim and Collin
Karen Lynn Charters
We had continued good luck fishing and tagging for small/medium BFT at the bank this past week. Other than one slow day we had 4-5 bites most days, most in the 55″-60″ range. We are going to be out Monday 9/8 right after the tropical storm passes and we are antcipating really good action with lots of bait and fish pushed inside into Mass Bay and the bank. Here are some pictures from last week.
Jim and Collin
Karen Lynn Charters
We are currently editing some video’s of catching BFT Giants and some tagging and other scientific work on the Karen Lynn by the Large Pelagics Lab at UNH.
Captain Jim Ansara, Karen Lynn Charters
I have seen a number of questions on this site and been asked in person and on the radio by others about how to best kill, care, and handle Blue Fin Tuna. I thought it might be helpful to some of the newer BFT fisherman on this site to post how we try to do it. I think it is great that so many people who are newer to BFT fishing are landing fish. I can tell you that for me, it was a long and at times discouraging learning curve in the Giant fishery. This is by no means the “only” or “correct” way, it is simply one method and the way we were taught in the commercial BFT fishery where the difference in caring for the catch in the first 30 minutes, can be worth thousands of dollars. I have try to modify this for the 50″ to 65″ fish most of us have been catching recreationally. I hope it is helpful. Part 1. Killing and bleeding the fish This sounds simple and obvious but how you kill a BFT greatly affects the quality of the meat. With fish that are in the 47″-73″ size range, we will usually bring them to the boat and leader and gaff them in the head area. I know it can be scary but try to wait and don’t try too gaff them to early and then get them swimming along the boat at 1-2 knot speed. They will often lie on their sides, exhausted and present a very easy target. Immediately after gaffing the fish we will slip a tail rope over the tail using a second gaff to hold or pick up the tail. We will then cut the leader or remove the hook, and sink a head hook through the lower jaw and starting swimming the fish from it’s head behind the boat, slowly 2-3 knots, secured by the head hook and keeping the tail rope on the fish and cleated off, but not so tight that the fish can’t swim somewhat naturally. We will try to swim the fish for 10-20 minutes and until it seems to have really come back to life and gets some of it’s natural vibrant color back. Always Gaff through the head and never in the throat where the heart is located or it will bleed out while you are swiming it. We will then pull it back to the boat by the tail rope and bleed it out. NOTE: We have found that on the 50″-60″ fish that instead of using the rubber coated wire and carbiner tail ropes we use for giants, that a 3/8″ nylon braid dockline with a spliced eye loop gives us a more secure grip on the smaller tail of these fish. First we will pull the fish up high on the transom by it’s tail rope and make a cut approximately 2″ wide and 1″ deep behind one or both pectoral fins which taps into major arteries. We used to also make a bleed cut on the tail but found it wasn’t necessary and cut too deeply, makes real problems. Then towing the fish by it’s tail, we will rake it’s gills with a gaff or more preferably a harpoon iron while towing it. This should fairly quickly bleed out the fish. Once the blood flow slows down and the fish does not appear to have much movement, we haul it onto the deck by the tail rope and take some very quick pictures with the anglers then immediately start to dress it. Leaving the fish on the deck in the sun for even 15-20 minutes can really shorten the refrigerated shelf life of tuna steaks. High Core temperature of the fish is your enemy and you want to get it cooled down as quickly as possible. Part 2. Dressing the fish With the fish on the deck, we use a basic short handsaw (Stanley 15″ FatMax, $16 @ Home Depot) to cut off the head of the fish. I would suggest that if you are new to this you do this in a few cuts versus just lopping the head off which could case you to lose good meat. See the drawing below. Next you want to carefully cut in a circle around the fishes anus so you can pull the main intestine out of the body and carefully cut it free. This allows you to remove from the head cavity, the stomach, organs, etc… in one shot. After you get all these parts out we wash out the cavity with a high volume, salt water wash down. You can also scrub the cavity with a stiff round boat brush with a 2′ handle to get rid of any coagulated blood. Don’t forget to cut open the stomach to see what the fish was feeding on before throwing it overboard. You can also remove fins, except one pectoral fin and the tail for easier handling. Part 3. Icing and Storing the fish We cram the body cavity with as much crushed ice as we, can carefully packing it in. Next we place the carcass in a bed of ice in a 4′ iceytek cooler and pack it as tightly as we can with ice around it and fill the cooler. The heat from the fish will quickly melt out the ice around it, so packing the cooler with lots of ice to the brim helps to not have warm air pockets around the fish. We then put the cooler in our below deck fish hold or in our big, on deck ice box to help keep it cold and to keep the sun off of it. For those of you in smaller boats consider putting it under the T top. Another great alternative is an insulated bag. We recently bought a really good one through the First Light Anglers shop for Giants. I believe the bag is made by “Boone” and is a Monster Double Tuna Bag. If you want to know more, just call the First Light shop. We used the bag this past weekend when a scientist on the Karen Lynn was sampling other boat’s catch for a study for the Large Pelagics lab and the bag was incredible in keeping ice and cooling down multiple fish before we gave them back. This all may seem a bit obsessive and extreme, but try it once and you will be amazed at the quality of the fish you are grilling that night! After you have done this procedure a few times it is easy and goes very quickly; for our crew it is almost automatic. Please let me hear you comments and feedback on this. As I said before, this is just one way to do it and there are always good alternative ways and improvements. If it would be helpful, I could put up a similar post on cutting up and steaking out a tuna.