In the last few years, high school bass fishing clubs have grown in popularity. The fishing club at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey, however, is a little more interested in tuna and swordfish. Every fall, the junior and senior club members get to square off against offshore brutes on an overnight fishing trip…or what we like to call the field trip to end all field trips. “Hook Shots” host Joe Cermele got invited to join the club this year and see what kind of damage these high school kids could do on the high seas.
The Deal: As summer draws to a close, inshore waters along the Eastern Seaboard begin to cool, but 60 to 100 miles offshore, the Gulf Stream currents can trap pockets of warm water over deep trenches Northeast fishermen refer to as “the canyons.” Though it may be time to chase cold-water species like striped bass and blackfish near the beach, the canyons still offer shots at tuna, swordfish, dolphin and other deep-ocean denizens.
When To Go: Party boats, such as the Searcher II featured in this episode, typically start offering overnight canyon trips in September and run them as late as early November. Of course, fall sailing schedules rely heavily on ocean and weather conditions. October is arguably the best month for a fall canyon run, but the windows of opportunity can be narrow as fall winds kick up and the seas churn.
What To Bring: The beauty of heading out on a party boat overnighter is that you don’t have to worry about too much gear. You can certainly bring your own outfit (a 30-wide offshore lever drag reel and matching stand-up stick is recommended), but you can also just opt to grab one of the boat’s rods. Most anglers also bring a lighter spinning setup specifically for casting to dolphin in the morning. Otherwise, most party boats don’t supply food so bring plenty of it. A sleeping bag isn’t a bad idea either as many boats provide bunks for napping in- or outbound or between bites.
How To Fish: Standard practice on an overnight trip is drifting chunks of cut sardines or butterfish behind the boat at different depths while the mates keep a constant stream of chum chunks flying over the rails. Though the chunk bite is a pretty good gauge of what kinds of fish ar swimming below, sometimes metal jigs outfish the real stuff. Shimano Butterfly Jigs and hammered diamond jigs are just two examples of lures worth having handy. Simply drop down, work them back while reeling and pumping the rod, and hang on when a tuna grabs hold. Small bucktails, metal lures, and plugs are favorites of the dolphin you’ll often find clustered around lobster pot buoys in the canyons.
Where To Stay: You won’t really need a hotel or motel, as the boat will serve as your home away from home for a night. You’ll want to book your spot on a party boat overnighter at least a few weeks in advance, and expect to pay $200 to $300 for the trip. If you happen to be headed to the Garden State where this episode was shot, we recommend these boats