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The First Bite

Toward the end of spring, my friends and I start getting a little cagey when it comes to making plans. We decline party invitations, give vague explanations to our loved ones as to why we can’t schedule any important events and generally steer clear of hanging with anyone who is not part of our fishing crew.

There is a good reason.

From the beginning of May, we are on a watch for an event that for us is more important than Christmas, the Super Bowl, national elections or even landing a man on the moon.

Several times a day we visit meteorological sites to check the water temperature, winds and tides; hoping to glean some tidbit of info that will give us the heads-up we need, so we can be portside at the right moment. Rumors float around social media, and everyone gets keyed-up to the point where it’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

The tuna are coming. We don’t know exactly when, but we know they will show up soon, and barring the sudden death of a loved one or imprisonment, we want to be there for the first bite and the no-holds-barred action.

In June 2012, five friends and I boated 13 tuna and five skipjack in a single outing, which was at that time unheard of in Sagami Bay. We knew it was a special moment; that we’d probably never see a bite like that again, but in the back of our minds, we are all thinking you just never know.

The tuna, mostly yellowfin, stay around in the bay as late as the end of October, allowing numerous chances to target them, but experienced fishermen know them to be way more ravenous and much less selective about what lures they will take at the very start of the season.

Within a week or two of the kick-off, the tuna seem to realize they are being hunted and gradually become skittish to the point that, by the middle of summer, they will ignore any lure or bait that doesn’t resemble or move like the anchovies or sardines on which they are preying.

They surface to feed in the distance but submerge once a few boats get within casting distance. Sometimes they feed aggressively on juvenile baitfish so small, it’s impossible to match their size with a lure heavy enough cast to them.

For many it is headache after agonizing headache, but a good number of anglers become transfixed and go at it every weekend, regardless of how lousy the reports, until the tuna head back to the Black Current in early autumn. Tuna can mess with your mind that way.

Many anglers who make it out for the first bite and score at the beginning of the season opt to continue marauding the bay in search of the next bite, but also find it easier to take their minds off fishing to enjoy the beach, barbecues, festivals and other nostalgic vestiges of summer.

I say it is better to get the tuna bug out of your system early. 


Readers interested in jumping into Sagami Bay tuna fishing can get outfitted at one of several tackle retailers in the Kanto area.

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