The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 46 - September 14, 2016

reel time

Word's out on little tunny

Reel time

captain rUSTY CHINNIS | SUn

Captain Rick Grassett poses for a photo before releasing
his little tunny.


The water was flat and there was no sign of life as we neared the Tampa Bay Ship's Channel. Word was out that little tunny and Spanish mackerel were attacking baitfish in and along the edges of the waterway, but as far as we could see the water was flat and mirror smooth without a hint of action. After 10 minutes of surveying the waters in an easterly direction towards the Skyway Bridge we were starting to wonder if the run from Longboat Key was a mistake. Then I remembered a day a few years back when Captain Rick Grassett, who was accompanying me today, and I had a similar experience off Longboat Pass. Just as we were beginning to consider fishing in the bay instead of the Gulf, a striking fish exploded on the surface. After that we were surrounded by action that lasted the whole morning.

No sooner had we uttered those words when baitfish started to show on the surface followed by diving birds and striking fish. Running to the nearest feeding frenzy we cut the motor twenty yards away and launched small clousers into the melee. Almost immediately Grassett's line came tight as a little tunny inhaled the fly. The fish bolted in a burst of speed that makes little tunny such a sought after target. Grassett's rod bent deeply as he applied pressure in an attempt to slow the fish's run as backing disappeared from his spool. The gamey fish would have nothing of it and ran another twenty yards of backing into the depths of the channel. After several more runs and a battle near the boat I was able to grab the little tunny's tail and swing it into the boat for a quick picture. As quickly as we could we launched the fast swimming fish into the bay to give it a head start.

After the first fish we found them challenging to intercept. Fish were exploding everywhere, but more often than not they would sound before we could get flies into the carnage. This is a common experience but we knew to run up to a school as fast as possible and make casts before they sounded. Employing that technique we were able to catch four little tunny each and several mackerel before we decided to try the beaches on our return south.

We didn't find any action on the return to Longboat, but we had a great day of action and were content to enjoy a smooth ride home in the Gulf. Little tunny should be in local waters until cold spells send them south. That's a lot of time to enjoy some spectacular action. If you go, look for birds and breaking fish along the Gulf Coast. Small flies and spoons that mimic the baitfish work best. Now is the time to enjoy some of the hottest rod bending action of the year!

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper