When we saw the soles of Elaine Ahn’s boat shoes, we knew she was headed overboard. The big yellowfin tuna at the end of her line was on a run, threatening to take Ahn, tied to the fish via a fish-fighting harness, along with it. Death by tuna is not a great way to go. Her rod tip was buried three guides deep into the Gulf of Mexico by the time Capt. Devlin Roussel and I grabbed hold of her, pulling her back aboard. No one was laughing.
It might sound a bit bizarre, but the fact that a big tuna can yank most any stand-up fisherman overboard is part of the fish’s appeal. Save for the billfish, nothing makes an angler’s heart beat faster than the mere prospect of catching a tuna. Schoolie black or bluefin are fine, but in the fall, from coastal New England to the Gulf, huge yellowfin and giant bluefin garner much of the attention. But know that whipping a tuna takes equal parts brute force and technique.
▶ Tuna are not largemouth bass. An exaggerated hookset is unnecessary—the fish will hook itself. Get to the reel quickly, allow the fish to run with the bait for 3 to 5 seconds, then shift it into the strike position.