It's a rare thing to go looking for the smallest fish you can find but that's exactly what we did in late August fishing with Capt. Eric Newman of the Louisiana Fisheries and Wildlife. Newman was looking to kill some tuna and send tissue samples back to the lab, and also to tag and release some tuna alive—all part of the ongoing research and monitoring that is the result of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Our group of five was along for the ride to help him accomplish the goal, but since we are armed with fly rods, we needed high numbers of smallish fish that would come up and stay near the surface long enough to get a few casts at them.
Newman heard through the charter captain grapevine that a certain rig was loaded up with higher numbers of sub-20-pound yellowfin, blackfin, and of course false albacore (known locally as "bonito"). And since that rig was also in a zone that required sampling, it all worked out—and our boat did indeed hit a tunny grand slam. If you've never caught a tuna on a fly rod, you will be stunned the first time you experience it. Even a small fish can make you feel like you are attached to a Mack truck and it's often surprising when you lift the fish from the water. You often want to say, "What happened to my fish? I swear I had a huge fish on the line."
Here's a short video showing just exactly how hard small tuna can pull — just as a point of reference, these are 12-weight tarpon rods (Loomis & Sage Xi3) with Tibor Gulfstream reels.