"That depends," he said. "Schools of bluefin tuna have three typical patterns. One is 'pushing,' when they move from three to eight knots in a dense group with the upper layer of fish very close to the surface. When they do that you can see the upper caudal lobes and second dorsal fins. They all swim in the same direction and push a wave of water in front of them as a motor boat does. Or there's 'milling.' That's when the school is stationary, with a few fish moving in circles or randomly and rippling the water above them. And then there's 'smashing.' That's when they're feeding and they've got a school of bait compressed. They drive the bait all over the ocean and Paul says it looks like somebody dropping refrigerators into the sea."
I stood on my toes and tried to see, but there was only ocean with an easy low swell. We went on for 10 minutes like that and I could feel my hands start to get cold and I realized I was still holding the binoculars. I put them back on the shelf. Mr. Cunningham turned the wheel a little to the left and I looked up and saw Matello pointing to port. '"You can see them now," Mr. Cunningham said. And I could see something out there, a place on the surface that looked different. "They're milling," Mr. Cunningham said. We got closer and the place on the water didn't move away. It looked like a big pot of water before it starts to boil. Then I saw a black fin come up and out of the water, roll, and go back under.
""It's a small school," he said.
"That's too bad," I said.
"No it isn't," he said. "The number of bluefins in a school varies inversely with their size."
You could see the fish now under the surface, a fin or a triangle of tail coming out once in a while. One or two were moving around and rolling so that they reflected the sun up through the dark blue water like silver megaliths. They looked too huge to be so close together, rubbing by each other.
We made a slow pass along the right side of the school, the baits skipping along behind us, but nothing happened. The tuna stayed where they were. Then we took a big wide circle to the right and got down below them, and started the second pass.
Matello came down from the flying bridge and went aft. He took a squid out of the bucket and went over to the side, waited until the fish were just at the bow, and threw the squid toward the school.
The bait went up and out into the air like it could fly, arched over, fell into the water and started to sink. Still, nothing happened. Then something did.
At the edge of the school there was a huge whorl and a sudden shoulder of water as one of the fish breached. I could see it for a second. Then it was gone and the Sarah kept going.