May 24, 2024

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60-inch Bluefin Tuna Caught on 18-foot Bay Boat

Tyler Clazey (left) and Taylor Bakke (right) pose with their mid-December ghost bluefin off of Ocean City, Maryland.

The morning of December 12 started like any other day for Ocean City anglers Taylor Bakke and Tyler Clazey. However, the normalcy of an average weekday dissipated when they hooked a 60-inch bluefin tuna shortly after leaving the launch at Commercial Harbor in West Ocean City, Maryland.

Bakke, who had to drop his son at school that morning, unfortunately missed the departure window for the early charter he had planned with friends, so he texted Clazey to gauge his plans for the day. Clazey, who had been keeping a close eye on the wind all morning, noticed that the grim wind forecast was not playing out as predicted. He described the water in the local harbor as glass calm, so he trailered his boat—an 18-foot Nitro Bay boat—to the ramp and told Bakke to meet him down there.

The two-man team do not consider themselves tuna fishermen to the core, but with the influx of bluefin tuna feeding within 10 miles of Ocean City inlet, they wanted in on the action. Although they had both been out tuna fishing before, this would be their first time targeting bluefin together.

According to Bakke, in years past, bluefin tuna seemed to bypass the Maryland area on their southern migration, spending their winters off the coast of the Carolinas. But this year is different. Both Bakke and Clazey had seen and heard of bluefin feeding around the bass fishing boats since early November; Clazey even hooked one on a 6K spinning reel a week prior to their outing, but it pulled the hooks. So, with the wind and weather conditions now on their side, along with Clazey’s new 14K Shimano Saragosa, the duo felt that they were set up for success.

Like any good fishing story, their morning began with adversity before they even reached the launch. The tires on Clazey’s trailer were totally deflated, and upon getting the boat in, they struggled to start up the sputtering 75 HP Mercury Tracker. Finally, they got it up and running around 8:45 a.m. and they were out of Ocean City Inlet by 9. It was a late start, but not late enough to miss out on the action.

It didn’t take long to find some activity. Around 6 or 7 miles off of Ocean City, Bakke and Clazey noticed a whale breach beneath birds that were flying high in anticipation; they were not diving or feeding, but searching. “Take a few casts and throw the big stuff,” Bakke said to Clazey. With nothing showing on their electronics and few signs of life on the surface, Clazey hesitantly picked up the 8-foot, extra-heavy Tsunami Carbon Shield paired with his new Saragosa. The 14000-size reel was spooled with 50-pound-test PowerPro Super Slick which was tied to a lengthy 80-pound-test leader of Sufix fluorocarbon via an FG knot. “I made three blind casts with an 8-inch No Live Bait Needed split tail that was rigged on a 1.5-ounce NLBN long shank jighead, and at the end of the third retrieve, my lure got smoked about 10 feet from the boat,” said Clazey. The drag started ripping, and the two were ecstatic to have found what they were looking for already. The clock read only 9:50 a.m.

It was a team effort in their little bay boat to keep this fish pinned. Bakke manned the helm and Clazey fought the fish, but both of them insisted that the fish was the one steering the boat. Clazey, who is newer to tuna fishing, began to de-layer halfway through the fight. “It was the most powerful fish I have ever experienced,” Clazey said. Even so, he managed to bring the fish to the boat in a matter of 20 minutes, although he claims it felt like an hour.

The lure that got the job done—a white, 8-inch No Live Bait Needed split tail on a 1.5-ounce jighead with a long shank.

Bakke wasted no time gaffing the fish, and once the gaff was secure right beside the gill, Clazey dropped his rod and grabbed a second smaller gaff to help Bakke hoist the fish into the boat. “At that point,” Clazey says, “I was dry heaving from exhaustion.”

Tyler Clazey smiles over their ghost bluefin after a quick, but exhausting 20-minute battle. (@clazeabeam)

Clazey believes that the low gunnels on his vessel made it easier for them to swing the fish—which they estimated to be 130 to 140 pounds—into the boat. Once on board, they measured it 60 inches long from nose to fork, with a 43-inch girth. After only 90 minutes on the water, the two headed for port to harvest the fish.

For two anglers who consider themselves mostly shore and kayak-based striped bass fishermen, to catch a bluefin tuna on a whim from a small bay boat in mid-December is quite a feat. When asked how he felt about his first bluefin, Clazey said “I see why they call them ghosts. We had no marks or signs of tuna around us, and this fish just appeared 10 feet from the boat on a blind cast.”

In the days that followed, the two enjoyed platters of fresh, homemade sushi. And, as if the homemade sushi wasn’t good enough, Bakke and Clazey can bask in the victory of their catch knowing they are likely the smallest boat out of Ocean City to land a bluefin this year.

For more from Taylor Bakke and Tyler Clazey, follow their fishing adventures on Instagram @alwaysbentfishingoc and @clazeabeam.

The post 60-inch Bluefin Tuna Caught on 18-foot Bay Boat first appeared on On The Water.

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