Tuna fishing in New Jersey is a premier fishing experience. Heading out to the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean will see you fighting some of the most prized Tuna species, like Bluefin, Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Albacore. Strong and feisty, these monsters will put you through the fight of your life, but getting that tasty meat on the boat makes it all worth it.
The Garden State is known for numerous offshore canyons. These make for an incredibly rich habitat for a variety of species. They’re also exactly where most Tuna fishing in New Jersey happens. Let’s dive into how to plan a Tuna fishing excursion here and make it a success!
Which Tuna species should I target?
This is a question you’ll have to answer yourself, but we’ll give you the information you need in order to make that decision. The waters off the coast of New Jersey are abundant, and there are multiple Tuna species basking in them. Keep reading to take your pick!
Probably the most revered out of all Tuna varieties, Bluefin is a force to be reckoned with. One of the largest fish in the sea, it can grow to impressive sizes. Can you imagine battling a 1,000 lb monster Tuna? Well, it is a possibility. Chances are, though, you’ll land one somewhere in the 100–600 lb range.
When it comes to Bluefin Tuna fishing in New Jersey, you’ll start seeing them 40 miles offshore, but heading out even further will be more fruitful. At the 100-mile mark, you’ll run into them in droves, making your trip an adventure you won’t forget. The New York Bight is a great spot to catch some nice Bluefin Tuna in the fall. However, heading towards the continental shelf and Hudson Canyon will prove much more productive.
Another famous member of the Tuna family, Yellowfin is a beautiful treat for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. Smaller in size than their Bluefin cousins, they still reach impressive sizes, with the largest ones reaching over 400 pounds. They’re feisty creatures that tend to dive deep to get off the hook. This, coupled with their weight and strength, is a challenge for even the most experienced anglers.
When it comes to targeting Yellowfin Tuna in New Jersey, some of the most popular spots are the canyons off the coast. Toms Canyon and the Lindenkohl Canyon tend to be very prolific, especially during the fall months. Anglers tend to reel them in by trolling since they’re often found topwater, as well as chumming.
While it might not be as big as Bluefin or Yellowfin, Albacore Tuna are powerful in their own right. Known as one of the best light tackle game fish, they are fast, strong, and voracious predators that will give you a fight to remember. With most specimens coming in at 20–80 pounds of delicious meat, they’re certainly worth your time.
New Jersey anglers tend to go after Albacore Tuna in the fall months, typically between September and November. This is when they come closer to the surface and are easily caught trolling. These fish are highly migratory, so they can be found pretty much anywhere in the ocean, but the canyons off New Jersey’s coast are especially productive.
These pelagic fish are highly sought-after thanks to their delicious meat and incredible fighting abilities. Known as the “fat Tuna,” Bigeye present a bigger challenge than some of their cousins. They tend to swim much deeper down in the water column. They feed closer to the surface at night though, so dawn and dusk is when you have the best chance of catching one.
The Northeast Canyons are one of the best spots in the world if you’re looking for Bigeye Tuna. Any type of underwater structure here will be a great spot to sink a line for Bigeye. Anglers in New Jersey tend to troll for them deep down in the water column where you can run into schools of big Bigeyes reaching up to 300 pounds!
How to Fish for Tuna in New Jersey
With waters so vast, anglers have developed a variety of ways to fish for these prized creatures. Depending on when you want to head out, which variety you want to go after, and even what time of day you venture out, you’ll use a different technique to hook into Tuna. Keep reading for a breakdown of Tuna fishing techniques in New Jersey.
The most productive and the most common way anglers tend to go after Tuna is trolling. If you’re fishing in the daytime, it’s best to use artificials with fluorocarbon leaders. Tuna have excellent eyesight, and this will help you hook them unnoticed. Make sure to also match the lure size to the available bait fish, or you won’t be able to fool them.
As for artificials, you have a wide range to choose from – spoons, plugs, jigs, feathers, flies, and poppers can all lead to great catches. When trolling, make sure to move at around 6–7 knots so that you’re imitating the natural speed of typical bait fish. Speaking of bait, you can successfully use natural bait as well, like herring, mullet, mackerel, whiting, bonito, flying fish, and even squid.
At night, it’s a whole different ball game, and this is when those natural baits come in handy. The best way of reeling in some nice Tuna at night is by attracting them through chumming and presenting natural baits on hooks. This interesting way of fishing that New Jersey anglers like to use is chunking.
In this part of the world, a small gold-colored fish is a favorite Tuna snack – butterfish. So when chunking in New Jersey, you’ll take a bunch of butterfish bits and pieces and throw them in the water in hopes of attracting some big Tuna.
More often than not, this technique will yield some pretty good results. Chunking can be done by drifting, or at anchor, depending on the wind conditions. All you need to do at this point is set your bait, and watch those Tuna beauties bite. Once they do, throw the reel into strike, follow the fish, and smoothly start reeling it in.
While trolling and chunking might be the most popular ways of targeting Tuna in New Jersey, jigging is a really good alternative. While jigging has been around for years, it’s recently become more popular for targeting larger species. In New Jersey, anglers have been going after Bluefin Tuna using techniques such as slow, speed, and butterfly jigging. Conquering these monster fish on lighter tackle is super satisfying, so it’s no wonder it’s been gaining traction.
Since Yellowfin Tuna are mostly found closer to the surface, this is one Tuna species you can target by sight casting or kite fishing as well. If you’re up for a challenge, this is the way to go. Just be ready though, because when that monster bites, the boat becomes a true battlefield!
Where to Fish for Tuna in New Jersey
New Jersey is a true Tuna angling mecca, and when the season starts, it really is a fishing frenzy. Anglers flock to the area to hook one of the most prized saltwater game fish in the offshore canyons. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular spots to hook into big Tuna in the Garden State.
- The Hudson Canyon: An extension of the Hudson River valley, the Hudson Canyon runs from New Jersey harbor to around 300 miles out to sea. It contains the largest underwater canyon in the world at over 10,000 feet. It’s no wonder it’s home to some monster Tuna!
- The Baltimore Canyon: Another national treasure of New Jersey, around 80 miles off the coast lies the Baltimore Canyon. It’s a sanctuary of marine life in this part of the Atlantic, housing an abundance of fish species. The top spot, of course, goes to Tuna!
- The Mud Hole: Looking for something closer to shore? At 15–20 miles out to sea, you’ll find the Mud Hole. This is a famed trench that used to be the Hudson River’s path to the continental shelf. It will have you catching some prized Tuna as close to shore as possible.
- Toms Canyon: If you’re looking for astronomically great fishing, Toms Canyon is the impact crater where an asteroid struck the Atlantic continental shelf. It lies about 100 miles east of Atlantic City, and it’s home to some of the most fruitful Tuna fishing out of New Jersey.
- Lindenkohl Canyon: Named after Adolph Lindenkohl, a 19th-century oceanographer, this stunning underwater canyon is a true hot spot for deep sea fishing. Fishermen tend to gather here for some trolling action, and the Yellowfin bite is especially good.
Tuna Fishing Seasons and Regulations
As one of the most exciting adventures in the Garden State, Tuna fishing season is a highly anticipated time of the year. Generally, Tuna can be caught in these waters from late May all the way through December. This gives you more than enough time to come on down and have your slice of the pie.
The first Tuna to arrive at the party in late May move up from the south in search of food. These specimens tend to weigh around 40–60 pounds, and anglers traditionally start heading out for some trolling action at this time of the year. In the heat of the summer, you might have more luck jigging and chunking, while the fall months are reserved for casting stick baits or poppers at surface-feeding fish.
While fishing regulations for Tuna are generally loose, with no possession limits for Bigeye and Albacore, they are subject to change when it comes to Bluefin Tuna. Yellowfin Tuna has a limit of three fish per person per trip. Note that you don’t need a fishing license to fish in the saltwaters of New Jersey. But, you should register with the Saltwater Registry before heading out.
Why New Jersey? It’s Tuna Paradise!
No, seriously. There’s hardly a place on the east coast that gets more Tuna action than the Garden State. With the continental shelf so close to shore, and with some of the most prolific underwater canyons in the world, it’s no wonder these monsters flock to these waters each year. It’s time to grab your rod and reel, and head out on a trip of a lifetime!
Have you ever been Tuna fishing in Jersey? Was it everything they say it is? Tell us all about your trip in the comments bellow, or ask any questions you may have. We love to hear from you!
Vule is a biologist with a love for the natural world, writing, and technology. As a kid, he used to go camping and fishing with his father, falling in love with the experience of being in the wild. Today, he writes about fishing, and when he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him chilling by a river somewhere.