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Old 08-26-2013, 07:29 AM
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Default My review of tuna fishing in Canada

After going two years in a row, I thought I'd give you guys the lowdown of what to expect if you decide to head to Canada to chase the giant BFT. We went last year at this time to Nova Scotia, and I am currently in Toronto on the tail end of our trip to PEI this year. I can tell any interested party wholeheartedly to visit PEI over Nova Scotia.

First, the accommodations -

Our charter in NS included a stay in their "beachfront cottage" about 2.5 hours from Halifax close to the harbor (Ballantynes Cove). What it ended up being was a hellish house plucked straight from a ghost movie in the middle of nowhere. The charter delivers us there and promptly leaves. We have no groceries (its 4pm) and no way of getting around until they pick us up the next morning for fishing. All we had were glasses and tap water. The closest hotel was roughly 20 minutes further back toward town. Scenery was decent, but obviously not much to do overall. We spent the day before our trip touring Halifax (the closest major city with an airport) and it plainly sucks.

When traveling to PEI the first thing you notice is the beautiful scenery. Vast countryside with waterfront views really looks great. The airport in Charlottetown is tiny but very nice and friendly. We didn't waste any time this year touring the "big" city, but instead rented a car and headed 50 minutes east to Fortune. We stayed at the Inn at Bay Fortune which was a super nice hotel with great staff. Their rooms are clean, have fireplaces, updated bathrooms, and the hotel itself has one of the best restaurants in the area right on site. Needless to say it was a breath of fresh air from last year. This was also the nicest hotel near the fishing grounds, but even then do not expect a four seasons or ritz type experience. All of these areas are what you'd call "quaint." Anyway, we fished from Souris, the harbor about 15 minutes further east. It was actually in a real town with places to get a good breakfast and coffee before the trip. Two thumbs up.

The fishing-

NS - the charter picked us up early and delivered us to the boat in nearby Ballantynes Cove. As a side note, all the boats you charter here are lobster boats with fighting chairs. There is one guy in NS with an old Bertram, but due to Canada's strict fishing regulations these guys have to make a living the rest of the year by lobstering. We were on the lobster style which is a nice setup, but don't expect any luxury. NS has a few boats working out of there that all seem to be working alone. You basically sit about a half mile from the shore (and a mile from the harbor) and wait for a tuna to come by. And wait, and wait, and wait. At about 3pm the guy finally got the inclination to move, but still no joy that day. The charter ended at 5. We packed up and rode the long drive back to Halifax. Lesson learned - spend more than a day fishing. I won't mention the charter we took because maybe he was just having a bad day.

PEI - after arriving at the harbor in Souris, the first thing you notice is a line of charter boats with friendly crews. They all basically work through Tonys Tuna Fishing minus a few stragglers. Tony is the marketing guy up here who also is a capt and fishes his own boat. He lined us up with Capt Terry on the Boo Boo. We steam out to catch bait with everyone else and start fishing a short while later. Obvious is the fact that these guys all work together. They stay on the radios and cell phones all day long talking about the fish they were marking and where to go next. We moved around a few times, and Capt Terry and his mate, Jeff, didn't stop all day checking and rigging lines. No bites by 12, so we motored back to the harbor and had a great lunch at a local place. Headed out again around 1:30, tried a few spots, and finally hooked up at 4pm. We leadered the fish at 4:45 and went back home. You have to get the fish in less than an hour or they are required to cut the line. Day two was no luck, but again our crew tried very hard. You can tell they have a passion for this and were disappointed.

What to expect? Don't come up here thinking you'll catch a giant. On the first day, we were one of about 7 boats fishing. Including us, two had a fish. Day two was much busier with 15 boats out, but again only three hooked up. One of the boats had a group on board for four days and nothing to show for it. Granted, if you do catch a fish, it'll be no less than 500lbs. In PEI you can land a max of two per day if you catch one in the morning, go in, then catch another in the afternoon, so keep the number of people fishing to a minimum per boat. They all do the exact same thing - fish a surface bait on a kite and three others at staggered depths. You will probably do better in PEI since the boats all work together, and you'll certainly have a better experience off the boat with plenty of restaurants and bars close by. When I go again, it'll be with the same group. You have to book early - I did so on New Years Day.

My fish was between 108-110 inches, and the estimated weight is anywhere from 600-800 lbs. They look much smaller in pictures, but are totally worth it. I can't wait to do it again. Oh, and the cost of a day charter in PEI is half of what we paid in NS
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Old 08-26-2013, 07:40 AM
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Another note - we had the choice this year of how we wanted to fish - from the gunwale, from the chair, or on stand up. I wanted to do it how they fish commercially and are most comfortable, so it was from the gunwale. Had I been given another chance to land one, I'd have chosen stand up gear, but my main goal was getting a fish boatside first. These guys know how to handle their boats which is apparent when bringing in huge tuna in less than an hour.

I'll add another picture too
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Old 08-26-2013, 08:54 AM
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awesome report. very informative...you are making me want to give it a try.
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Old 08-26-2013, 08:57 AM
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Wow, let me offer "the other side of the story." There is a tremendous amount of flawed/uninformed information in your post. What time of year did you go to Nova, and who did you charter with, for starters?

While bluefin tuna are seen up in the area as early as July, the best fishing for them is September if you're expecting the whole school under your boat, feeding out of your hand. There are certainly some fish in August, but not nearly the numbers in September. The commercial herring season did not open until this past Monday. When the herring boats are pulling their nets (only Monday-Friday), the fishery is exactly like our shrimp boat fishery out of Venice. The boats cull their catch, a lot of the fish go overboard, and the tuna go absolutely bonkers. The first 30 minutes of each day is usually spent in pure awe at the massive sea monsters crushing baits next to the boat before a hooked bait actually goes into the water. It is truly a sight to see, and you are dying a short man if you don't see this in your life time. Unreal.

When going anywhere international, it is always a good idea to book multiple days. It's a long way to go to only fish one day and run the risk of getting skunked then coming online and bashing the boat/destination. It's also part of fishing.

Between Nova and PEI, the boats are usually fishing the same waters, regardless of what port they hailed from. They go where the fish are, be it North Lake, Souris, the cape, Fisherman's bank, the herring boats, etc. Almost the entire fleet out of Ballantyne's works together, and plenty of intel and information is exchanged. Some of the world's best big-game captains (Andy Moyes, James "Chuouy" Roberts, Josh Temple, Brad Phillips, etc.) helped put this place on the map, and these guys are the ones running the trips on the boats out of Ballantyne's. It may be locals that own the boats, but it is these, dare I say, legendary big-game guys that are running the show each day.

There are no high-rise hotels or anything of the like. It's what makes that area cool, is the rustic feeling and being right there in the wilderness, where it is no problem to see foxes, moose, deer, and bears IN THE YARD of the house you may be staying in.

For future trips, I highly recommend booking with Josh Temple and the Boyd Brothers out of Nova. I know for a fact they batted 1000 last year, scoring at least one bluefin every trip during the season. You can find him on facebook. Here is a link to a video I made last year with footage from my trip to Nova: http://youtu.be/EHJ5EZfgDJc

Last edited by Captain Woody Woods; 08-26-2013 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:06 PM
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Everyone has their own opinion. I'll concede and say if you're going to go in August, this is what to expect. However, September and later offers rougher weather according even to the charter captains. I don't know anyone else that's been to both areas but maybe you do. I can only offer my first hand experience
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:21 PM
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Wow nice fish! I heard you aren't allowed to keep the fish and the charter company sells them. Is that really the case? I hope to give this a try within the next year or two. It would be nice to take some home, but I wouldn't know what to do with 600 lbs.
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Old 08-26-2013, 12:31 PM
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The boat only gets one kill tag per year. From what I can tell, basically you can buy the fish from them if you really want to kill it. That's still even taboo as they're supposed to hail out as commercial or recreational each day. Watching the paperwork really puts their regulations into perspective.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by reeln2it View Post
Wow nice fish! I heard you aren't allowed to keep the fish and the charter company sells them. Is that really the case? I hope to give this a try within the next year or two. It would be nice to take some home, but I wouldn't know what to do with 600 lbs.
Very, VERY few of the boats keep the fish. Most charge extra for that, and even then, you aren't allowed to have any of the fish. Boat keeps it to sell. So you're essentially paying a few extra grand for your picture next to the fish at the dock. It is 100% catch and release up there, with barbless circle hooks. Fish swim off quite well after a short revival. If it's any consolation, the boats are getting screwed hard by the buyers. The buyers are essentially the middle man between the tuna boats and the markets in Japan, and may only offer $5-15 per pound to the boat, but sells it for much, much more than that to the fish markets overseas. Exactly, what are you going to do with 600-1000+ pounds of bluefin tuna? Watch the video I posted earlier. You get a lot of satisfaction watching these big beasts swim off, just as you would watching a healthy blue marlin swim off.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:44 PM
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I agree with you Woody. It would be cool to have the pic but I was just as happy cutting the line and watching it swim off. There was a movie producer there shortly before our trip that paid the boat off to keep a 900 lb'r. He bought it at market price and took the meat home.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Captain Woody Woods View Post
Very, VERY few of the boats keep the fish. Most charge extra for that, and even then, you aren't allowed to have any of the fish. Boat keeps it to sell. So you're essentially paying a few extra grand for your picture next to the fish at the dock. It is 100% catch and release up there, with barbless circle hooks. Fish swim off quite well after a short revival. If it's any consolation, the boats are getting screwed hard by the buyers. The buyers are essentially the middle man between the tuna boats and the markets in Japan, and may only offer $5-15 per pound to the boat, but sells it for much, much more than that to the fish markets overseas. Exactly, what are you going to do with 600-1000+ pounds of bluefin tuna? Watch the video I posted earlier. You get a lot of satisfaction watching these big beasts swim off, just as you would watching a healthy blue marlin swim off.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:53 PM
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It's definitely a trip I had always wanted to do, and will try to make every year for as long as I have the time. Massive, massive fish. I often run out of words to describe my trips up there when telling someone about it for the first time. Since there are so many varying opinions about the overall health of the bluefin populations, I don't think I'll ever kill one, whether there are 100 million of these fish swimming around or just a few. I've eaten it before, it is good. But not so good where I have to kill one each year. They're just so big they get a lot of my respect. That, and after freediving with them, you just get a cool sense of appreciation for such a large animal.
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Old 08-26-2013, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Captain Woody Woods View Post
It's definitely a trip I had always wanted to do, and will try to make every year for as long as I have the time. Massive, massive fish. I often run out of words to describe my trips up there when telling someone about it for the first time. Since there are so many varying opinions about the overall health of the bluefin populations, I don't think I'll ever kill one, whether there are 100 million of these fish swimming around or just a few. I've eaten it before, it is good. But not so good where I have to kill one each year. They're just so big they get a lot of my respect. That, and after freediving with them, you just get a cool sense of appreciation for such a large animal.
I bet that is a cool sight! BTW I thought you would appreciate that we broke the AL state record for big eye a few weeks ago. Don't you guys hold it for La?
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:14 PM
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I bet that is a cool sight! BTW I thought you would appreciate that we broke the AL state record for big eye a few weeks ago. Don't you guys hold it for La?
Yessir we have a few big ones. 197, 194, 173. How big was yall's? Take this convo to PM if you'd like.
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