John's Journal...

Fighting Big Tuna with Captain Rimmer Covington of the Isle of Capri Resort

Catching a Big One

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Last week, I was fishing out of the Isle of Capri resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, with Captain Rimmer Covington of Pass Christian, Mississippi, on the charter boat, the “Peace Keeper.” We left the Isle of Capri at 7:00 am, and by 9:00 am, we were fishing for tuna in 1500 feet of water. Covington is one of the new breed of charter-boat captains along the Mississippi Gulf Coast – young, strong and fast. Covington’s the owner of the strike-force fleet of sleek, fast, open-boat-style charter boats that run 60- to 100-miles offshore to the Continental Shelf. His boat has a sound system that will rival any concert auditorium and a Sirius satellite radio with over 200 stations plus weather sonar. This boat and captain are as fast and as modern as you can get when you want to charter a boat for fishing. Covington has two undergraduate degrees in finance and also a master’s degree in accounting. He walked away from a high-paying job in the securities business to live the life of his dreams. He’s used his education to build a modern-day charter-fishing business for today’s anglers and for the anglers well into the future. Having paid his way through college as a deckhand and a charter-boat fisherman, Covington is constantly learning, finding fish and growing his fleet of fast boats and young, strongClick to enlarge captains. When we finally slowed-down, turned down the radio and moved close into a rig, we could see yellowfin tuna chasing bait on the surface.

Question: Rimmer, how do the tuna get their bait?
Covington: The tuna will start circling a pod of baitfish at maybe 600- to 800-feet deep, and then they start pushing that school of baitfish up to the surface. When the tuna gets the baitfish up close to the top of the water, usually near the oil rig, they try and push the baitfish out away from the rig and up to the surface where they can attack and eat the baitfish quicker and easier. The smaller tuna that will weigh 60 to 80 pounds will usually be the tuna that herd the baitfish and push them to the surface. Often, the bigger tuna will wait on the bait to reach the surface before they attack and eat it.
I recommend using a kite to catch the tuna. When we’re going to fish our baits on kites, we use a bridle on the back of our blue runner. We put the hook under the bridle and use a No. 9/0 7691DT Mustad Southern and Tuna hook. Then we slide the bait along the line that secures to the kite flying well out the downwind side of the boat. The advantage of the kite is it gets the bait far out to the Click to enlargeside of the boat and holds the line and the hook just out of the water. Then all the tuna sees is the bait skipping across the water. To get the tuna up to the surface, we allow the bait to skip. The bait will come down and thrash the wire. The kite will lift it a little, come down and thrash again. When we see the tuna strike coming to the bait or at the bait, we lower the blue runner so it’s easier for the tuna to get the bait in its mouth. This type of presentation doesn’t allow the tuna to see the hook or the line. So, we’ve found we can get far more strikes by flying the kite than by dragging the bait behind the boat.

Question: What happens when the tuna takes the bait?
Covington: The line that’s attached to the rod hops off the kite string and allows for about a two-second drop back. This gives the tuna time to completely eat the bait before we set the hook.

What Happened on Our Trip:
We’d only had the kite up for about 15 minutes before we saw tuna diving and attacking the bait. When Covington saw the tuna inhale the bait, he yelled, “It’s at least a grander,” which means the tuna would weigh over 100 pounds. Once the fish took the bait, the drag began to scream and Kevin Carter, one of the anglers fishing with us, was strapped into the stand-up tackle, and the rod was put into the holder. I asked Covington, “How much line’s on the reel?” He said there was 350 yards of 130-pound-test Jerry Brown Holo Core Spectra line, top-shotted with 80-pound Mustad Ultra Line.Click to enlarge

Question: Why do you fish stand-up tackle?
Covington: Stand-up tackle allows the angler to be far-more mobile than he’d be if he was sitting in a chair, so he quickly and easily can move around the boat, depending on which way the fish is running.

Carter caught the first tuna. Once the tuna hit, the battle started. Carter fought the 140-pound fish for about 3 hours with stand-up tackle using his legs and back more than his arms and shoulders to keep pressure on the fish. We were using blue runners for bait when the big tuna came up and hit. Strong arms, back and legs enabled Carter to finally get the big yellowfin tuna alongside, so that Jason Manton and Covington could gaff the big fish and put it in the boat.

Question: How do you gaff a big tuna like this?
Covington: I try and gaff the fish in the head because that gives you the most control you can have over the fish. Gaffing a fish is like swinging a baseball bat. You wait for your pitch, and you don’t take a cheap shot. When the fast pitch comes, you sink the gaff home. Once you hit the fish with the gaff, you try and pull the gaff all the way through the fish, smooth and clean.

Question: Once you have the tuna on the gaff, how do you get it in the boat?
Covington: Once you get the fish under control on the gaff beside the boat, get comfortable and get some help to try and pull the fish over the side and into the boat. You don’t really have to rush or get in a hurry to get the fish in the boat once you have it on the gaff. You don’t want the tuna to flop all over the deck and hurt someone. When you lift the fish, it needs to be a smooth motion to get it up, over and inside the boat.

For more information about offshore fishing in the Biloxi area, contact Captain Rimmer Covington, (601) 951-3981,,

Call Bobby Carter, the manager of the Isle of Capri, at (228) 436-7928, or visit the website at You won’t find better food or nicer, more-spacious accommodations anywhere else than on the Isle of Capri.

Go to, or call 1-866-See-Miss (733-6477) for more information about Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.

Tomorrow: Catching a Big One Right after the Other

Check back each day this week for more about "Fighting Big Tuna with Captain Rimmer Covington of the Isle of Capri Resort"

Day 1: Finding the Tuna
Day 2: The Boat with Everything
Day 3: Catching a Big One
Day 4: Catching a Big One Right after the Other
Day 5: Big Snapper and Grouper



Entry 415, Day 3