Greenstick fishing is an old technique that is one of the more exciting methods of catching big tuna.
In this National Geographic animation we learn that greenstick fishing is a variation of kite fishing, a method developed by New Guinea fishermen to get more lines in the water.
Japanese fishermen picked up on the concept in the 1960s but ditched the kite in favor of a long green bamboo stick, which offered them more control over the vagaries of wind.
These days the long poles are made of fiberglass, though most still carry a green tint.
One blogger described the gear and method this way:
You’ve got a 45 foot high greenstick; a mainline consisting of 800 to 1,000 pound test monofilament running about 1,000 feet aft, so way back; a large bird on the end to provide tension and create “noise”; then off the mainline there are multiple hooks with plastic squid skirts. The hooks dangle from the mainline and swim/dance across the water. In the case of charter boats, when a fish hooks up, the line breaks off the mainline and you fight the fish on a dedicated rod/reel.
Here’s the simple set-up and technique:
The “bird” or weight at the end of the line provides the catalyst for a hoped-for feeding frenzy by tuna or other big game fish. The bird keeps tension on the line and appears to fish as a competitor chasing fleeing baitfish. Like many predators, competition or fleeing prey is often enough to trigger a strike response.
The fact that a game fish must see and attack a lure that is more out of the water than in it, creates some exciting strikes, as the fish must target a lure that is not on the surface of the water but is actually in the air.
Capt. Russ Nitta of Kona, Hawaii, indicates that when yellowfin tuna fishing using the greenstick method, the action is more than intense.
“The yellowfin are competing against porpoises, not just other tuna, so they’re really aggressive,” he says. “They’re moving 35 mph when they blow up on our squid. It’s spectacular!”
Here’s an example of what Capt. Nitta is talking about as a tuna completely clears the water while going after a surface lure.