Venice offers more access to good tuna grounds than any other port, according to Wall.
Ten or so good continental shelf rigs are within striking distance of Venice for the average fisherman. Another 20 floaters (platforms without rigid legs) are 20 or less miles farther offshore.
“It can get crowded at the shelf rigs,” Wall noted, “but if you go to a floater, you can often be alone.”
From April into October, Wall recommends concentrating on rigs in water depths of at least 700 feet. This is predominantly a live-bait fishery, and being able to find pogies in shallow water in April, May and June is important.
The primary baits used changes during the June to early October period. Sabiki rigs on rods and reels are used to catch hardtails, tinker mackerel and scad at grass patches and rigs or schooling threadfins (herring) in open water.
Tuna fishermen shift gears in October and on through November, zeroing in on tuna that closely hug shrimp trawl boats’ wakes in waters in water depths of at least 200 feet deep.
Cast net-caught mullet, as well as bycatch from the shrimp boats, themselves is used for bait.
Walls writes off December as a poor tuna month, but the winter fishery kicks in January through March.
This fishery involves heavy chumming at shelf rigs in the 200-foot range or chunking at the Midnight Lump in 200 to 250 feet of water.
Chumming is essentially the same thing as chunking, although typically bigger pieces of cut bait are used in winter chunking. Either practice can be used year-round, although they are most used in the winter, when bigger pieces of bait are used.
Any kind of fish can be used as bait.
“Don’t feel bad about cutting up a big blackfin tuna,” Wall said. “It can turn into three big yellowfins — a good return on your investment.
“You can also catch fish for use as chum with a butterfly jig at the rig you are fishing for tuna.”
Trolling with a naked ballyhoo or a ballyhoo with a duster is the final method of tuna fishing. It may be done year round, and is done near rigs.
One perk that comes with winter trolling is a substantial bycatch of wahoo, a prized fighting and table fish.