If you think the YFT were slow this year you should come down and try the bluefin down here in MHC. Some guys have gone 15+ days without a fish and the radio chatter is on the down and depressed side. I've done 4 days now solo on the small boat with nothing but incidental king macks and bonita. Some guys are doing relatively well on the bluefins (5 to 15 fish in 2+ months of dedicated fishing time) but even they have put in a lot of days with no bites. Seems like the bites now are less than 30 minutes long and 10 bites or less in a very small area. There's a lot of bait but hardly any tuna marks, slicks, or busting of bait- not even a tenth of a percent of what we had in the 90's off Hatteras or the early 2000's off MHC. And with 50 to 100 boats on a decent weather day it makes it tough. Even the 10 to 30 boats on the rougher days seem to put the fish down when a bite or 2 happens and everybody moves to that spot. I think it's just a very small number of fish compared to what we used to have, and they have totally figured out that they don't want to be anywhere near the sound of a boat for very long. At least we still catch some YFT most every trip out of OI.
I just got second-hand word today (reliable local fisherman) of a local MHC longliner who said their boat discarded over 200 giant bluefin discarded on their last trip off NC because they aren't allowed to keep them. They reportedly landed over 7,000 lb of swordfish, but I guess the rules don't allow them to keep the bluefin. Seems like this happens every winter. The last 10 years the OI longliners occasionally had this kind of interaction also (again, second-hand reports from local commercial fishermen over the years). It's too bad longling isn't more selective on species and that for whatever reason the giants don't seem to survive on the hook all night to be released alive.
Between this and their massive overfishing in the Med and elsewhere (50,000+ tons per year), plus they're being kept in pens by the thousands over in the Med (which prevents them from migrating our way), I'm getting more and more concerned about the bluefin and our fishing future for them here in the US. But this year's season is open for another couple days so I'm going to try to make it out 1 or 2 more days to try to get one or at least practice up for next year. I feel guilty for wanting to kill some given their apparent depletion, but it's a fishery I've been in for 15 years (thanks TZ) and it's more addictive and challenging than any form of fishing I've done. Hopefully they are not badly depleted and their poor showing here in NC the past 5+ years is due to some kind of change in their environment that we are unaware of. The Canadians have had some of their best giant bluefin fishing the past couple years with reports of Hatteras-like numbers and easy chunking them at the side of the boat, so maybe they are just not coming to inshore NC like they used to and are hanging out somewhere else in the Winter that we haven't figured out yet.