By Capt. Adam Peeples
The ability to keep several large live baits swimming is a must for anyone serious about live bait fishing for marlin, big tunas, and a host of other species that require baits that will not survive in a typical live well. Tuna tubes are the most effective way to accomplish this feat. There are a wide variety of options for tuna tube installation and plumbing on center consoles.
From glassed-in, permanent installs that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to homemade PVC tubes sourced from the local home improvement store, the options are endless. No matter which setup you choose, ensuring the tubes work properly and keep the baits alive is the most important aspect of it all. The correct installation and plumbing of your tuna tubes is paramount for having a live bait system that works as intended.
According to Steve Katz with Steve’s Marine Service Inc., tuna tube water flow should be straight, non-turbulent, and spread across the entire fish’s face. The tuna opens his mouth when he wants to breathe, and the water flow shouldn’t power wash him in the face with unnecessary force. The unique issue with high-performance center consoles, especially stepped hull vessels, is finding the correct place to install the pick-up to draw enough water needed to supply the tubes while underway at high speeds.
Katz has installed a myriad of tuna tubes on everything from large sportfish vessels to high-performance center consoles. He states that finding a location for a high-speed pickup on a stepped hull vessel can be the most difficult part of the process. If the pick-up is not in a location where it can draw constant water at high speeds, the entire system could fail to supply enough clean water to keep the baits alive while underway.
Water Supply Options
From the through-hull pick-up, there are a couple of different options to push the water into the lines that will supply the tubes. Sea chests and pump boxes are the two most effective ways to deliver the water to the tubes, though some captains have had success running the pick-up straight to an inline pump to supply the tubes directly. A simple two tuna tube system would likely be fine running on a single inline pump, but the chance for turbulent water to enter the system or for the pump to get airlocked is much greater than running from a sea chest or pump box.
A sea chest is a sealed box that is connected to the thru-hull and vented above the water line. It is typically designed with multiple outputs that can be connected to pumps to supply tuna tubes, live wells, and even raw water washdowns. The chest ensures that all the pumps have a supply of clean non-turbulent water to satisfy the needs of the system.
A pump box is similar in design but contains the pumps inside the box and submerged in water. The box is typically rigged with the however many 1500/2000 GPH bilge pumps it takes to get the job done. Since the pumps are contained inside of the box, a pump box can save significant room on a center console install where bilge space is at a premium.
Delivering the water from the pumps to the tubes should be straight forward and direct. Avoid 90-degree joints, as these contribute to loss of flow and increase the amount of turbulence and bubbles in the water supply. Katz emphasized the need for flow control devices to moderate the amount of water supplied to the bait. Valves, variable speed pumps, and multiple pumps are all potential solutions to control the flow and keep a variety of baits alive.
Keep in mind that different bait species have varying water flow requirements. Your tuna tube system should have variable flow options to optimize the ability to keep different species and sizes of baits alive. Katz recommends a manifold system so that outgoing seawater can be routed to the necessary live well or tuna tube or combined when additional flow is needed.
It is also worth noting that the shape of the actual tuna tube can affect the longevity of your baits. While a circular tube can keep baits alive, the baits may tend to spin while immersed in a round tube with a high volume of water flow hitting them. Many tuna tube systems now use oval shaped tubes to prevent the bait from spinning, creating a system that can keep baits alive and frisky for extended periods of time.
Ultimately, there is no one size fits all solution for tuna tube systems. Every boat will have unique rigging problems to solve with various solutions to solve them. At the end of the day, the goal is keeping those baits alive and at the ready, and every tuna tube system should be able to accomplish that mission when properly rigged.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
By Capt. Adam Peeples
Selecting an electronics package for a center console is no simple task. Multi-Function Displays (MFDs), sounders, transducers, autopilots, radar, forward-looking infrared (FLIR), and boat handling technology such as Yamaha HelmMaster give the boat owner a seemingly endless list of options to choose from.
Settling on the package of products that works for your situation, involves wading through the sea of choices and ultimately selecting the manufacturer and components that suits your needs.
Garmin, Simrad, Furuno, and Raymarine are the primary manufacturers of complete electronic packages for center consoles. I personally prefer Garmin electronics, as their user interface is extremely intuitive, and I have the most experience operating Garmin systems. All of the top marine electronics manufacturers make a solid product that can get the job done.
The electronic systems on your boat should aid in navigation and increase your ability to find and stay on your target species. Electronics should make your boat a safer and more effective fishing platform. When outfitting a boat, it is wise to ask the question, “How will this system help me?” If there isn’t an easy answer to this question, you could bypass the addition of the product or system.
While brand preference is a personal choice, the basics of a center console electronics package comes down to two things: navigation and fishing capabilities. The electronics you install on your boat will either help you navigate or catch fish. Any systems that do not accomplish one of these things aren’t necessarily not needed, but are excluded from this article.
The Multi-Function Display is the piece of equipment that ties all the electronic system together. After installation, the multifunction display is the part of the system that most users will interact with most often. While it is possible to get by with only one MFD, the ideal setup will have two or even three. This will allow you to monitor multiple systems such as the chart plotter, radar, and sonar easily, while giving the crew the added safety of redundancy. Being 50 miles offshore and having your boat’s only MFD go south is not a good scenario.
Garmin’s GPSMAP 8612xsv is a 12” touchscreen monitor that is NMEA 2000 network capable. Packing a wide array of features, this MFD networks sonar, radar, cameras, and media such as Sirius satellite weather services and is available from 10” to 24”. It offers wifi capabilities to pair with a smartphone app through which users can monitor and control all the systems on the boat. Other manufacturers offer similar, equally capable MFDs.
In my opinion, it really boils down to which user interface one prefers. Once you have decided on an MFD, the rest of the process is a bit easier. For many boaters, the rest of the electronic systems on the vessel will be from the same manufacturer that produces your MFD. At this point, where you fish and how you fish will dictate the requirements for the rest of the electronics package.
Radar is a must have for navigating at night and during periods of limited visibility. A high-performance open-array radar such as Garmin’s GMR 606 xHD provides not only
the safety of navigational and weather reading capability but is also powerful enough to find birds working tuna schools. A smaller and more compact dome radar, such as the Garmin GMR 18 xHD, has ample power for close range navigational use and weather reading out to 48 miles.
A good sounder and transducer are vital to just about all types of offshore fishing. While products like Garmin’s XSV line of MFDs contain processing capability for your bottom machine, a sounder such as the GSD-26 will allow you to get the most out of your transducer.
Compressed High-intensity Radar Pulse (CHIRP) technology transmits across a range of frequencies—traditional sonar relies on a single frequency. CHIRP provides better target distinction at depth. Rather than seeing a single mass of tuna 300’ under the boat, CHIRP allows you to see the individual fish while distinguishing between the target species and bait returns.
The advantages of CHIRP over traditional sonar make it a must have on any offshore boat. The transducer is the key to bringing the entire fish finding capabilities of the system together. With bilge space being tight on most center consoles, a compact CHIRPready transducer is ideal for most systems.
Craig Cushman, the Director of Marketing for the AIRMAR Technology Corporation, says that the most popular AIRMAR transducer for center consoles is the B175 series of thru-hull transducers. Requiring a hole of only 3 7/8” hole and taking up minimal space in the bilge, the 1kW B175 supplies powerful CHIRP capabilities in a small package. I have a B175H and a B175L on my Cape Horn.
They perform well for bottom fishing, deep dropping, and daytime sword fishing. For larger center consoles such as Captain Shane Toole’s 42LR Freeman Necessity, the option for larger and more powerful transducers exists. Fishing out of Orange Beach, Captain Toole describes AIRMAR’S R599 3kW CHIRP-ready in-hull transducer as his “secret weapon” for projecting a high-quality return of structure and bait.
Toole runs a full Garmin electronics package with two GPSMAP 8624s, a GHP-20 Autopilot, GSD-26 sounder paired with an AIRMAR B175H and a R599 CHIRP-ready transducer, GMR 606 xHD open-array radar, and a GXM-52 SiriusXM marine receiver. According to Toole, the capabilities of the system along with Garmin’s user-friendly interface increase his ability to find and stay on the fish.
Captain Adam Peeples runs the One Shot Charters out of the Destin, Florida area. In addition to running a first-class operation, Peeples is a combat veteran with two deployments in Iraq and a stint as an instructor at the US Army Sniper School to his credit.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.