Hatteras Bluefin Tuna fishing is near the top of most serious sportfishing bucket lists. The Outer Banks are the best place in the country for targeting monster Bluefin, and even rival Nova Scotia in the eyes of many. What makes Hatteras Tuna fishing so special is that dream combination of huge fish and a world-class fleet. Local fishing families have been catching Bluefin commercially for generations, and it is no coincidence that the town shares its name with a famous boat brand.
What can I expect from a Bluefin Tuna trip?
First of all, let’s make one thing very clear: it will not be easy. Bringing a 700-pound alpha-predator to the side of the boat is like fighting a heavyweight boxing champion while doing algebra – every part of your mind and body will be exhausted long before you even catch a glimpse of victory. Battles can last several hours with ease and will push both you and your equipment to the absolute limit.
If reading this just makes you even more excited, then imagine how happy you’ll be once you’re standing over a thousand servings of sashimi. If, on the other hand, you’re put off by the thought of spending four hours locked in battle with a fish the size of a small car, you can always enjoy the many other species of Tuna found out of Hatteras, including Bigeye, Yellowfin, Blackfin, and Albacore. Slightly more manageable, a heck of a lot less exciting.
When should I come?
The Outer Banks Tuna season can start as early as October and may last almost six months on a good year. The colder months bring the biggest fish, though, so if you want the best chance of catching a monster your best bet is to head to town in January or February. This is no big secret, and the best boats get booked out well in advance, so you should get the date in your calendar early to avoid missing out.
Where will I be fishing?
The best Bluefin action happens in around 5,000 feet of water, way out into the Gulf Stream over the outer edge of the continental shelf. If it sounds like you’ll be spending your whole day just getting there, then don’t worry, it’s only about 50 miles from shore. You will still need an absolute minimum of 10 hours for your chance of bagging one.
How will I be fishing?
The best moment to go after big Bluefin is when they are attacking the big bait balls of Bluefish, Sardines, and other schooling species. When this happens, you get huge fish right near the surface and worked into a feeding frenzy. The most common way to target Bluefin Tuna in Hatteras is to troll Ballyhoo dressed with brightly-colored Sea Witches or Ilanders. You will be using tackle in the 80-130-pound range, with wide reels, heavy mono line, and the heftiest leaders you can get your hands on – 300-pound test is the minimum you can get away with against monsters of this size.
How much will it cost?
A 10-hour trip on a quality sportfishing boat will cost you around $1250 if you’re lucky. From there, the prices climb as high as your ambitions will take them. If you want a 50-something-foot cruiser with all latest and greatest in tackle and tech you will be looking at more like $1750 for a 10-hour trip.
If money’s no object, your best bet for catching a monster Bluefin is to play for maximum fishing time. Do this by booking an overnight trip on one of the many top-of-the-line sportfishers operating out of (and quite possible built in) Hatteras. This will cost you well over $3000, but if you’re going for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of bagging a huge Bluefin, you can’t be blamed for pulling out all the stops.