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Giant bluefin tuna made an apparent pit stop off Long Island’s South Shore en route to their northern summering grounds.
By Fred Golofaro  |  May 18, 2020
Joe and Erick Faust with the 94-inch giant bluefin they fought for 3-1/2 hours on a 50W standup outfit.

It has been a wacky spring in more ways than one. April was colder than March and the first half of May was nothing like what the fifth month should be. One cold front after another, wet, overcast, winds out of the north and east, and water temperatures well below normal. So how do you explain what happened this past week along Long Island’s South Shore?

The first rumblings were heard during the latter part of the week as the weather finally broke enough for some boats to get outside. Giant bluefin tuna were found cruising near shore waters, often within sight of the beach. It didn’t take long for a handful of blue water anglers to capitalize on this unique opportunity. Having giant bluefin cruise through our waters during the latter part of May is not unusual, but they are typically making a beeline for northern waters and very difficult to target in this part of the ocean. Last season, large numbers of bluefin cut their migration short and camped out around the Coimbra for months, providing one of the better blue water seasons in some time.

Not surprising, intel on the fish was mixed. We were hearing of fish east of Jones, south of Jones, south of the Rockaways, feeding on bunker, feeding on mackerel, caught jigging and caught trolling. By the end of the weekend, the picture was much clearer and by then, it was estimated that 100 or so boats were on the chase.

We did hear from several sources that there was a jig bite south of the Rockaways in 70 feet of water on fish up to 70 inches, with most of the fish in the 50 to 60-pound class. The big news concerned giant bluefins, several of which fell to trolled ballyhoo rigs in anywhere from 40 to 70 feet of water. Two of the fish were weighed at Bergen Bay Docks in West Babylon where owner Scott Motto filled us in on details of the catches.

Capt. Anthony Palmer and his crew of the Vigilant based out of Amity Harbor checked in with a 392-pound bluefin on Sunday that was caught west of Jones Inlet on a trolled ballyhoo. The same day, Capt. Frank Manfredo and crew members Justin Manfredo and Mark Spero on Fish Bones were trolling Joe Shutes and ballyhoo in 75 feet of water southwest of Jones Inlet near the Rockaways. They hooked up at 7:20 a.m. and landed the fish at 8:52 a.m. The big bluefin measured 99 inches and tipped the scale at Bergen Bay Docks to 581 pounds.

Also on Sunday, Capt. Joey Leggio reported that Joe and Erick Faust, 18 and 20 years old, borrowed their dad’s boat to try their hand at tuna fishing. Trolling a rigged ballyhoo behind a Joe Shute in just 45 feet of water near the Rockaway Reef, the brothers connected with a 94-inch giant bluefin. They fought the fish on a 50W standup outfit for 3-1/2 hours before getting it boatside. Needless to say, a great job by the two young anglers.

Scott added that a bunch of boats headed out Monday morning on the tuna hunt and as you might expect, said he was having a tough time keeping ballyhoo in stock. Monday could very well be the last opportunity to score one of these early season giants for a while as strong easterly winds and rough seas from the passage of tropical storm Arthur will likely keep the ocean stirred up for the next few days.