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Bluefin tuna being caught in North Carolina

This giant bluefin tuna was landed off the Carolinas coast on Dec. 16, 2015. The Sun News file photo
For The Sun News

Earlier this week, bluefin tuna moved into the area off Wilmington, N.C., area beaches, specifically off Kure Beach and Carolina Beach southward toward Frying Pan Shoals.

The bluefin tuna season opened on Jan. 1 and anglers began catching them farther north, out of Morehead City, N.C. But late last weekend, the giant tuna moved south and within reach of boats fishing out of Brunswick County.

Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., reports approximately 15 fish were caught in the vicinity and more than 30 hooked up from Sunday through Wednesday.

“There have been some really big ones, up to 106 inches,” said McMullan, who noted some of the fish have been brought in to Southport. “(The bluefin bite) has been super slow for the last three to four years but this is breathing a little bit of life back into it.”

The tuna have been found around right whales that are migrating through the area, and feeding on schools of menhaden.

“If you’re looking for anything to find the fish it would be whales,” said McMullan. “The formula is find the whales, which means bait and birds, gannets, are around.”

The fish have been found very close to the beach, some within a half-mile offshore in only 25-35 feet of water, as anglers trolled horse ballyhoo to catch them. The bite slowed a bit on Thursday, but boats continued to search for the monster tuna on Friday.

“(Thursday) everything disappeared,” said McMullan. “They’re still somewhere, we’ve got to figure out where they went. We all were fishing the same area but now we’ve got to start looking around.”