We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Rob Radlof, of Highland, New Jersey, to discuss casting to top water ghost tuna off the coast of New Jersey with the Hogy Pro Tail Paddle. Here's what we learned...
Capt. Rob Radlof
Targeted Species: Bluefin Tuna
Location: Capt. Rob Radlof and his crew are located out of Highland, New Jersey where they launch out of to target Bluefin Tuna off the coast of New Jersey. Referred to as “ghosts,” these fish are few and far between in these Atlantic waters, with reports of people seeing them one minute and never seeing them again.
Tides: During this time of year, the shipping lanes are not considered tide dependent. The fish are only passing through on their migration. It’s more so the time of day that effects the fishing the most. You can usually catch these fish feeding in the early morning hours and then again in the late afternoon. In the interim, they disappear.
Approach: During the fall run, Capt. Radlof makes the 8 – 15 mile run south east to the 70 – 90-foot line offshore. He works the whole shipping lane, looking for small birds, bait balls and fish busting on the surface. Throughout the entire season, he’ll land anywhere between 4 – 5 fish, which is how a typical fall season goes off of Jersey. The season usually lasts up to 6 weeks depending on weather conditions.
When they’re actively feeding, there’s usually a stretch of 6 – 10 miles with fish sporadically milling on the surface. In previous years, they’d be working off of one small school. The schools are usually very spread out but this year, the further south Capt. Rob went, the more fish he ran into.
“It was one of the best tuna years I’ve ever seen in New Jersey,” said Capt. Radlof.
Why This Bait?: The red hake migration is usually underway during the start of the fall season. This bait is half an inch to a quarter of an inch, making it an unusually small bait in comparison to what BFT are usually feeding on. Due to their smalls size, it’s hard to match the hatch and target these migrating fish.
These fish are ordinarily very hard to catch but Capt. Radlof has found with the Hogy Pro Tail Paddle, fishing has become slightly easier and more predictable.
Colors: Bone and Olive
Retrieve: Capt. Radlof starts his hunt by pulling into a school of fish milling on the surface or boils of feeding fish. The lure needs to be dropped right in their face for them to strike. He begins by watching them, reading them and tracking the direction their moving and then leads the fish with a cast . Once the cast has been made, he’ll burn the lure in quickly, pause, and repeat.
Ideally, Capt. Radolf recommends pausing over a boil and letting the lure sink momentarily. Most strikes happen on the pause or right when the lures starts to move again. The key to catching these fish is making sure to pause between a quick retrieve. This style of fishing is often associated with top water sight casting.
Rod: St. Croix 79MOJO inshore, extra heavy, moderate fast, 7’9
Reel: Stella 8000
Line: 65lb powerpro braid to 80lb seaguar fluoro, FG knot to the leader and 8-feet leader direct tie to the bait
Leader: 80 lb Seaguar Fluoro, 8-foot
Terminal Connection: FG knot to the leader tied direct to the bait