Tuna fishing requires a very logical approach for the process to be consistently effective, especially during the winter. 

Sure, you could just go out to the Midnight Lump on a whim and hook up, but it’s not always that simple.

Fishing for tuna calls for a basic approach, but the ability to improvise as well, according to Capt. Chris Nail with Capt. Cook Charters.

“The tuna haven’t come into a pattern yet. The Lump has been on and off,” Nail said. “It should start getting better next week. The Lump season doesn’t really start until late January and goes through March. You got to go to know.”

For someone just getting into the sport, there are some basic tactics that every tuna fisherman should know.

“Knowing the types of hooks, strings and knots to use is important for success,” he said.

Nail uses size 6/0 and 8/0 circle hooks, depending on bait size, with an 80-pound fluorocarbon leader. For crystal clear water, he’ll go down to a 60-pound leader to reduce visibility.

“It's better not have a swivel in the water - if there are any king mackerel in the area they will hit it and fluorocarbon is expensive, ” Nail said. “Use a uni-to-uni knot for the leader.”

Get a good hook set to drift or troll by hooking live mullet through the mouth, and hardtails through the back. If you use a chunk of meat, make sure to bury the hook and the knot in the chunk - nothing at all should be visible, according to Nail.

Your arsenal shouldn't be limited to just a few options, though. The more - the better.

“You want to bring as much stuff as you can. Get a flat of frozen pogies and catch some mullet when you’re messing around with your boat,” Nail said. “If you run into bonito, keep a few. Tuna will even eat king mackerel, so if you get into some kings keep those as well.”

According to Nail, it’s a good idea to chum and try different bait on different lines when you’re drifting so that you can dial in on what the tuna want that particular day. 

You can add a live mullet to the mix and continue to branch out with new tactics from there.

“You also want to make sure that all of your lines are braid, because if you have one mono it will sink differently, and you’ll have a mess under the boat,” Nail said.

Also, make a mental note to set a waypoint on your GPS while drifting so that when you hook up and move you’ll know where you've been. This also helps for when you want to move just 100 feet or so - that way, you’ll know places you've already covered. 

Capt Cook Charters is affiliated with Starving Charters, a non-profit organization that uses a former charter boat for charity purposes. Captains and crew members who donate will be able to go fishing to help feed those in need with fresh seafood.

To learn more and become a member, visit starvingcharters.org.