TUNA TUBE PHOTOS

 

 

 

 



A set of triples plumbed with shut off valves to each tank.  This set was going to be used with a 110 volt high output spa pump so only one 1" inlet was provided.  We can plumb this so there is an inlet from both sides for use with a lower pressure 12 volt DC pump.

 



Bridle hooking tuna for slow trolling

 

 

 

 

 

Live baiting for Pacific Blue Marlin, when done correctly, can be one of the most thrilling ways to fish for these worthy opponents. When the sea conditions are right, the bait is plentiful, and the fish are in more of a feeding mood, a true professional can make a determination to switch to live bait and make the most of an opportunity. Left to chance in the hands of amateurs, however, it can be boring, and even dangerous. 
Hawaiian skippers have been credited for developing many of the techniques associated with resin lure design over the years, but not much credit seems to be given to them for their techniques in presenting live baits. Most of the skippers in Hawaii spend about 60-70% of their Marlin days trolling lures, with the balance devoted to live baiting. The great skippers, however, are the ones that seem to instinctively know when it’s time to make the switch. It’s a skill developed over years of reading the sea and understanding the conditions that make the time right. 
The favorite food of Marlin is the skipjack Tuna, known in Hawaii as Aku. It is easily recognized by its football shape and a series of blue and silver blended stripes on the belly that resemble a watermelon. The Aku is sometimes confused with the Kawakawa, which is generally around the same size, but among other things the Kawakawa has three or four distinct black spots on the belly behind the pectoral fin instead of the watermelon striping. Kawakawa is nowhere near as effective as a live bait for Marlin as the Aku is a pelagic species while the Kawakawa is thought to not be pelagic and is often found much closer to shoreline features.  Kona skippers also will use the Oi’oi (Mackerel) for live bait when Aku are scarce, but for purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Aku and rigging it up for presentation to the predators of the blue. 
Skipjack Tuna Aku
Aku
The first step is to find the bait. While it is sometimes difficult for the lay person to understand what the crew is seeing in their decision to make the switch to bait, there are many basic signs even the novice angler can observe while on the water. Surface “boils,” large areas where they come to the surface and seem to gulp a little bit of air, like a school of aquarium fish feeding on a pinch of freshly dropped flake food, is usually the best indicator. When your skipper makes a sudden detour in one direction or another while trolling, there’s a good chance he or the deckhand saw a school of bait. 
The size of these schools can range from a few fish in a 10 x 10 square to several acres, and the size of the Aku can range from 4 or 5 pounds to around 20 pounds or so. In Hawaii, many local subsistence anglers actually fish for the larger Aku, and change the name to Otaru to Otado when they exceed 20 pounds. Known for making excellent Poke, the larger Aku are tremendous fighters on light tackle and when the schools are thick, multiple hookups are the norm.
Most skippers seem to have their own favorites for the right size of the Aku to use as bait. Almost everyone would agree that an eight pounder is a pretty good size for rigging up to send out live, but for some skippers this is the top end of the range while for others it’s the bottom size of the range. The arguments range from “gotta have big baits to catch big fish” to “big baits tend to get stuck in the gullet thereby reducing the chance of a solid hookup.” If you get a school of bait that’s in the 8-15 pound range, chances are you’re in the ballpark, but the bottom line is if the situation calls for live bait, you’re best to send out what you have.
Catching the Aku can be fun in and of itself. Kids love it especially. The tackle is lighter, the rods bend more, and these little fish rip out line like they’re hooked up to a passing car. They are extremely hearty and swim hard, and it takes constant, steady pressure to land them. 

Tuna Tubes
Aku will bite darn near anything when they are boiling at the surface, sometimes even a bare hook. Most of the crews will run a fuzzy lure, like a small rubber skoochy ball, in red or white, or a combination of both, to attract them. Many skippers like to use barbless hooks so there is less damage to the mouth in removing it when preparing it for bait rigging. 
When the area to secure bait is located, the crews break out the Aku rods. Some crews will leave a larger lure out in case there’s a lurking Marlin around, others will bring all other rods and concentrate on catching as many quality baits as possible. Most boats use tuna tubes, little tubular contraptions that have a high-pressure water pump on the bottom that the fish will be held motionless in position. Two tubes is the norm, and the ideal situation is catching four excellent baits, two into the tube and two out swimming. 
You’ll always know when you’ve hooked an Aku. The skipper already knows the fish are there, the drags are set right, and the clicker is on. A high zinging noise on the reel will commence when the bait strikes. The skipper will slow the boat down as the deckhand heads for the cockpit. Most of these fish can be managed standing up unless its rough or the angler has any difficulty balancing. The deckhand will either hand the rod to the angler or if he has confidence in the angler that the rod will stay on the boat, the angler can head directly to the rod and begin to battle the fish. 
Most people who fish in Hawaii for the first time and fight one of these Aku for bait land the fish and proclaim the fish is larger than anything they’ve caught before and stand amazed that this hearty pelagic swimmer could possibly be used for bait. But make no mistake about it….Marlin love them and they have huge, perfectly shaped mouths for ingesting the hearty swimmers whole.
When landing the Aku, pressure needs to be applied evenly and firmly, without jerking motions. The idea is to keep the mouth in good condition and to stop it from bleeding. Though some believe the blood draws Marlin near, there is no supporting evidence that Marlin find fish like sharks do. Marlin seek out food by movement, so the best way to put out a bait is to have it as healthy and strong as possible.
Once the Aku is near the boat, the deckhand will do the rigging. Anglers should simply step back and raise the rod tip while the deckhand nets the fish.  Since the purpose of this article is to help the first time angler with some of the basics, my best advise on learning to actually rig up the bait in preparation for the Marlin is to watch the deckhand do his thing. 
Assuming the bait is healthy, it will be pulled out of the net, flipped upside down (stops him from wiggling), and the bait needle will be threaded through the eyes, back around the hook, and twisted into position on the top of the forehead. In the blink of an eye, the bait will be sent back over the side or placed into a tube while a second bait is readied. Sometime skippers find the bait on shallower water so you’ll have to hang on while you hit the throttles and head to deeper water. This trick will help get the boat away from the Ono or sharks that may be feeding in the area, or even might get eaten by ol’ “Bent Fin.”

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Rigging the Aku
Bent Fin is a legendary Pacific Bottlenose dolphin known to all skippers in Kona waters. Easily identified by his distinctive dorsal fin resembling an Orca in captivity, he is generally found up on the “Grounds” when the bait is right. He is a wiley character that steals bait from hooks more than the crews can shake a stick at him. Many have threatened to take some drastic action when Bent Fin shows up, but since effecting bodily harm on a dolphin is a federal offense punishable by fines and jail time, most end up keeping their threats at the bar. 
Many have surmised that Bent Fin was once a trained animal that was eventually released back into the wild, because his uncanny ability to ruin a skipper’s day is truly legendary. When fishing in Kona, ask your skipper about ol’ Bent Fin and prepare to spend an hour or two amazed at the stories you’ll hear. 
Once the bait is in the water, the captain will generally troll with one engine in neutral and one in forward. This slows the boat to about 2 or 3 knots and allows the fish to swim naturally. The line will be set up into a large clothespin on the outrigger with the exact amount of tension required to keep the bait swimming normally yet allow a strike without tipping off the Marlin that there’s something strange about things. Too tight a clothespin and the Marlin will feel the tension. Too light and you’ll get false strikes every couple of minutes. 
Once the bait is swimming and the boat is slow trolling, if it’s a nice day out, conversation is enjoyable. The boat is quiet, the view is peaceful, and all you’re doing is finding ways to prepare for when you get lucky. Enjoy it, because once the bite is on, things aren’t so tame.
Continue watching the water and what the crew looks for. Birds may or may not help with positioning, but watching the line in the clothespin is a surefire indicator. When the bait senses a predator, it gets nervous and begins to swim erratically, which causes the Marlin to sense it even faster and trigger the attack instinct. 
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Fighting the Marlin
Snap! You’ll remember the sound of the clothespin forever if you land your first Marlin. 
With the drag set very lightly, after the snap, you’ll need to key in on the deckhand and the captain. They get very quiet, like hunters on the scent. The art of hooking the fish now is beautiful. You need to count to 10 or 20, depending on how fast you go. The adrenaline is high, the Marlin is taking line, and it doesn’t know it’s hooked yet. Let the line continue to come out slowly as the Marlin digests his prey. 
Wait a little more so the hook can set nicely, then wait for the call……Wham. Take the drag up to the strike position and hang on while the captain guns the boat to set the hook. That Marlin knows she is hooked now, and will begin the performance almost immediately. The feeling is powerful, overwhelming at times, but immensely exciting. 
Once the fish is hooked and doing its thing, jump in the chair and begin your fight as though you’d hooked in on lures. 
Remember, live baiting is an art and a science. The crews who do this for a living make it look easy but there are a lot of steps to make it happen. The best advice is to listen ot the crew and do your part as instructed. It is definitely better to watch and learn on the first one and catch it than try to push too hard and lose it from a silly blunder. Marlin are powerful and handling the reels can be dangerous with the drags “light to tight.” 
So next time you’re in Hawaii, pick a skipper who has had success in live baiting situations and see if there’s a chance to do it that day. If so, that snapping clothespin might become a sound you’ll remember forever. 
 

 

 

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