Mid-Atlantic Triple Play
by Ric Burnley (published June 2015 InTheBite Magazine)
It’s Monday. The weather is hot and calm. We’re trolling 50 miles off Virginia Beach when a marlin appears in the spread. “Right long rigger!” the captain yells from the bridge.
It’s Tuesday. The weather is hot and calm. We’re slow trolling live bait along the edge of Norfolk Canyon. A hole opens in the ocean and one of the baits disappears in a violent strike. “Right long rigger!” the captain hollers.
It’s Wednesday. The weather is hot and calm. We’re pulling teasers and dredges east of the 100-fathom drop. A single angler stands in the cockpit holding a long, thin fly rod. “Right teaser!” the captain screams.
Mid-Atlantic marlin fishing is so hot that anglers are catching fish every way possible. And it only takes a simple spread for small-boaters to get in the game. From trolling plugs to pitching flies, if you like marlin fishing, just head to Maryland, Virginia or North Carolina this summer.
Marlin show up off North Carolina’s Outer Banks as early as April. Big blue marlin are the first sentries to pull into the warm Gulf Stream water rushing along the 100-fathom curve off Hatteras. Anglers leaving Hatteras Inlet can hit the hot spots like the Rock Pile, Big Rock and peaks and canyons along the 100 fathom drop. May and June are the best times to score big blues.
A hungry blue marlin cannot turn down a blue and white Ilander skirt and horse ballyhoo but tournament rules prohibiting J-hooks in natural baits have had anglers experimenting with large plugs and circle-hook rigged pitch baits. A typical plug spread would include small plugs on the long riggers with larger models on the short riggers, flat line and shotgun positions. Teasers draw blue ones into the spread. Most crews run a squid chain with an Ilander trailer on one side of the boat and a huge plug on the other. Keep a circle-hook rigged Spanish mackerel ready to pitch at a window-shopping blue marlin.
One advantage of using plugs is they allow the crew to troll faster than they can with a spread of natural baits. The skipper can cover a lot of water at nine knots looking for a hungry blue one. All it takes is four to six 50- and 80-pound rod and reel combos and a couple teasers, perfect for small boats and enthusiastic anglers. As the season progresses, white marlin and sailfish join blue marlin off Hatteras by late May. These fish will fall for plugs, but most crews switch over to a spread dominated by small ballyhoo on a circle hook, along with squid teasers and dredges.
By early summer, white marlin and blues will mix with dolphin and tuna patrolling the edge of Continental Shelf from Oregon Inlet, North Carolina up to Ocean City, Maryland. Captains look for marlin wherever warmer water crosses structure carrying bait and billfish. By late summer and early fall, gangs of white marlin follow schools of bait south on eddies swirling along the Shelf. This is when the fun begins.
Trolling small ballyhoo on circle hooks in between teasers and dredges is the go-to tactic for white marlin. Tournament pros have honed the spread and the tactics down to its most effective and efficient form, which is an easy fit for a small crew in a small boat. While the big-boys push million-dollar rigs packed with every advancement in bait and tackle, their tournament spread still consists of four small ballyhoo, two teasers and two dredges.
The philosophy revolves around a circle hook. Circle hooks save lives. Scientific research has prove………………………………(To continue reading this article click here) You can also subscribe to InTheBite The Magazine to enjoy more industry leading editorial.