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by John Orchard - Presented from Issue 91

It was barely daylight, just the faintest tinge of light on the horizon heralding the start of a new day as we motored south from Eaglehawk Neck toward the infamous Hippolyte Rocks, home of our day’s target species – the mighty southern bluefin tuna.

The sky was heavy with cloud, not a star insight, and a light south westerly wind rippled the tops of the moderate southerly swell as we ran out our spread of five lines. We had covered all bases when we chose our lures – the deadly Meridian ‘brown dog’ nestled into its favourite short corner, a green and gold ‘Mack Bait’ chugged away a few feet beneath the surface in the long corner, a black and purple Meridian ‘Bonito’ systematically broke through the surface in the short rigger position whilst someone’s home made blue and silver pilchard periodically splashed away back in the long rigger spot and, to finish off this searching pattern, we had a ‘green lumo’ way out the back on it’s own in the shotgun position; we were ready for action.

As we neared the big Hippolyte we could see gannets dropping from up high like bits of molten plastic, one after the other disappearing beneath the surface only to pop back up moments later with some poor unfortunate fish protruding out the side of its beak.

To top it all off there wasn’t a seal in sight, conditions just couldn’t get any better than this - our hearts beat faster in eager anticipation an we neared all the action – oh boy, we were about to kick some serious arse this day!

The next thing there was that dreaded sound ‘beep beep beep’ as the water temperature gauge for the outboard heralded an impending problem - damn!!!
To make matters worse, the wife drove her elbow into my ribs and asked ‘are you going to turn off the alarm clock or not?’ Reality came crashing down like a bucket of cold water—as it always does—right at the good bit; it was Monday morning and time to get ready for another week at work. Oh well, it was good while it lasted!! So, on the serious side what has been happening on the tuna front in the south? Weather conditions have played havoc at times over recent weeks with so much wind out of the north and east making the fishing out of Eaglehawk Neck either ‘hot’ or as we found out recently - ‘not’

We struck a day that was bright, sunny and very unpleasant with a strong north easterly wind making things decidedly hard work for one small “stripey”. On days when the weather has been from the west or south west there has actually been some really good fishing, particularly early in the day or on days when the weather has been overcast. Whilst there have been some good sized school bluefin around the 30 kilo mark there has also been quite a number of very small bluefin caught this year in comparison to previous seasons – in fact Stuart Nichols from Personalised Sea Charters said one or two of these fish have been the smallest bluefin he has ever seen – and trust me, there is a guy who has seen A LOT of bluefin!

It will be interesting to see what this means – whether it is a positive thing or not for fish stocks in the coming seasons as we don’t usually see many bluefin under the 10 to 15 kilo mark down that way. Further south the fishing has been much more consistent with good numbers of bluefin reported around the 30 kilos and over mark being taken from ‘The Friars’ at the southern end of Bruny island right through to the south west corner of Tassie and particularly at the ever reliable Pedra Branca rock. Lee Harris from GO Charters has had some absolute ‘cracker’ days down there this season with a few good sized fish thrown into the mix just to keep you on your toes when the reels start screaming.

Realistically we have another two or three months of bluefin fishing left in front of us this season so anglers from the north of the state who would like to land a ‘Bluey’ should consider getting a group together and booking as soon as possible to ensure they don’t miss out on a charter with the guys that are out on the water every day and know where to look for them. It’s a lot easier than going to the trouble & expense of towing your own boat all the way south for a days fishing in uncharted territory and, it increases your chances of success. Well, that’s it for this issue – may your eskies bulge at the seams on the way home!

John Orchard