Bluefin Fishing History on P.E.I
The first bluefin landed on P.E.I. was out of North Lake Harbour in 1967. By 1970’s the catch rates had increased and a charter business began on the island. With the lack of a true commercial market, captains capitalized on a sportfishing community looking to push the limits. It quickly spread that North Lake was a top destination for not only catching tuna but large ones. With fish frequently in excess of 800lbs and the potential to top the coveted 1000lb fish mark the staple for top fishing clubs of the time. Within 10 years of that first catch a full fledged charter industry was born. Followed by world record catches the island became known as the “Tuna Capital of the World".
Herring arrive off the tuna grounds in the late summer and fall from great distances to feed. It is believe that the Tuna are gorging on bait to prepare for their return journey to their spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence now exists to prove there is cross Atlantic migration and a mixing of the stock across the eastern and western fisheries.
When looking at a map you could question why these pelagic monsters are making a beeline off the gulf stream and continental shelf into the Gulf of St Lawrence. A similar turn occurs just north of Georges bank where giant bluefin head into the gulf of Maine. The fish are arriving in time for the Herring spawning season to fatten up for their return migrations. As a result the fish are aggressive and less sensitive then other parts of the Atlantic. PEI has gained fame though videos of hand feeding giant tuna with herring off fishing boats. As with the arrival, once the herring spawn is complete the schools move offshore and the Tuna are not far behind.
The Fleet fishes out of two main ports on the far eastern end of the island. The famed North Lakeis a secluded commercial harbor on the north side of the island. The lake sits only a few nautical miles from the herring grounds to the north. On the south side of the eastern end lie Souris. A larger commercial harbor is within striking distance of fisherman's bank to the south. The versatility of these two ports allows the charter fleet to setup and depart out of either location depending on where the fish are. Captain will typically move day to day if fishing conditions change on each side of the island. The accessibility of these ports to world class tuna grounds make these easy day trips for the charter industry.
North Lake Fishing Grounds
North Lake Harbor on the north east tip is a small commercial port home to the PEI tuna charter fleet. Its location gives boats easy access to the herring spawning grounds only a few miles offshore to the North. Catching bait is a short task as mackerel are caught outside of the harbor's slipway. This makes for ideal day trips to the world class tuna grounds just a few miles from the dock. The location allows for flexibility to fish the south side of the island when the wind comes up hard from the North. Depth in this area range from 100 - 200 ft.
Souris Fishing Grounds
Souris is a commercial port on the south east tip of the island. The advantageous location allows for easy access to the famed fisherman's bank. These grounds lay 20 miles (1-1 and 1/2 hour) steam to the south. Fishermans bank sits between the southern shores of PEI, and western Nova Scotia and fished heavily by captain's from both provinces. Depth range from 100 feet on top of the bank to 150 off the southern edge.
The tuna season in PEI run from July through October. Most charter outfits lobster during the first half of the season and covert their boats over for the Tuna fishery. Tuna will start showing up as early as July and will follow the Herring in to spawn. The largest giant bluefin including world records have come from this region late into October (see Ken Fraser world record).
The bluefin fishery in Canada is highly regulated which is cause for the sustained world class fishery. The charter fishery is completely catch catch and release. Charter captains are allowed one commercial tag per season. As its is part of their livelihood, they will wait to ensure premiere market conditions to harvest a fish.
Catch and release regulations:
- Maximum 4 fishing rod lines per vessel
- Maximum of 1 hook per rod.
- Once hooked up all other lines must be removed from the water.
- Maximum permissible fight time is 60 minutes. Tuna must be cut free once 60 minutes is reached.
- Maximum of two tuna hook-up's per trip.
- Hook-up is defined as a fish that is brought to the boat or a minimum fight time of 45 minutes.
- A maximum of 4 strikes per day - a strike is defined as any hooking of a Tuna with a minimum of 5 minutes of fight time or identification of the species hooked.
Above all the scenic landscape, farmland, and beutiful beaches the warm hospitality of the Islanders make PEI a special and unforgettable place to visit.
Top Charter Captains
There are a number of charter outfits that can get you into world class fishing. The following are some of the top outfits with historic names on the island and provide full packages and most noteworthy lodging.
North Lake Charters http://www.northlakecharters.com
Bruce Brothers http://www.peibluefintunacharters.com
Tony’s Tuna Fishing http://www.tonystunafishing.com/index.html