Brian Nelli and Jonathan Hoke show off the day's epic catch.

I have run across a lot of people who are hesitant to set their kayaks in ocean water and trek out a few miles into the deep. Something about fish as big as a kayak and teeth as sharp as a knife may have something to do with it.

Vertical jigging for tuna

I have always wanted to give it a try and catch some different species other than the normal snook, redfish and trout, and hook into something where it will test my skills and balance in the kayak. When going out for the first time it wouldn’t be the best idea to go out on your own, at a minimum take a buddy with you that has had some offshore experience and make sure it’s a nice calm day.

You’ll want to make sure you are well prepared for a few hours on the water. I like to bring a few things more than needed just in case plans change or don’t go as scheduled. You never know what you’ll run into a few miles out in the ocean and several hundred feet deep. Here is a short item list you’ll maybe want to bring out with you on your first trip (besides your normal tackle and electronics), there may be other things but it’s a good place to start. Once you’ve gone out once you will see what you will mostly likely need to bring again and possibly leave home on the next trip to lighten the load.

  • Life jacket/PFD
  • Whistle/blow horn
  • Flair/flair gun
  • Cooler with water and food
  • Gaff or net
  • Cell phone/GPS/handheld VHF radio/walkie talkie
  • Flagpole with light
  • Pliers
  • Bilge pump
  • Knife
  • Safety floats/leashes for rods and other equipment
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof bag


On to the tuna trip!

My first blackfin tuna!


I met Jonathan Hoak and Brian Nelli of Pushin Water Kayak Charters at his house at 4:30am to load up the kayaks and head to Boynton Beach for some offshore action. Paddling off into the ocean dark made me feel like a fugitive, but the glow of Brian’s GPS kept the way lit to our first spot. My first two drops of the 7 oz. vertical jig instantly hooked up to some hungry bonito and gave me a nice fight to warm up the biceps. The day was full of those buggers, one after the other, with a few almaco jacks in between – I was certainly surprised by the almaco’s taste after hitting a hot grill back home. Brian was lucky enough to weed through the plentiful bonito to get the only blackfin tuna of the day. As a northbound storm pushed through after a few hours on the water, it was time to head in and battle the increasingly high waves to the surf. Along my route heading back parallel to the shore, I learned my lesson to keep an eye on the waves, taking a massive wave sideways and surfed it through, keeping balance and escaping upright but getting soaked head to toe. Day 1 complete and safe.

Bonito, bonito, bonito!


Day 2 ended about the same way; a crazy storm that pushed through, making it almost impossible to paddle against the wind and current, however, the catch was much more tasty. Brian said it was his best day yet for blackfin tuna, tallying between three kayaks a record of seventeen tuna, three being skipjacks.

It was a beautiful day and you could see tuna skying out of the water as they pushed through schools of bait satisfying their palate. I had the most luck by trolling a Rapala X-Rap, pulling in roughly six tuna and a few more on the vertical jig, a definite 180 from the previous bonito filled day. They fought very well for their size and I was extremely happy to hold them up and cross them off my bucket list. Brian again stole the show by battling a big blackfin via the vertical jig. We were in about 200 feet of water and a nice weed line had formed, being out this far and seeing it from the kayak for the first time I couldn’t help myself but to throw some lures around floating debris and troll along side of it. Unfortunately the only thing around was a pesky remora.

Brian showing off a beauty blackfin.


As we started to head back in the tuna were relentless, constantly pushing through bait schools and causing a ruckus. Brian was able to hookup to one on a DOA TerrorEyz on a light setup that put up a fun fight. As the bows of the kayaks sunk into the water from the weight of the tuna, the paddle back in would test any kayaker’s endurance, taking at least an hour while pushing through the wind, waves, and current. A well worth battle against the forces of nature.

Pausing for some rest and grins over the days catch, we finally made it back in to shore and snapped some pictures. What a great day!

If you would like to book a trip with Brian, connect with him on his webpage

Enjoy the video!


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