Presented from Issue 97
What a fantastic year it has been already! The eastern side of the state has been producing some extraordinary fishing, including the appearance of some very solid striped marlin and yellowfin tuna. It would seem that the fishing has improved greatly since last year, as more and more big, trophy sized fish have been landed, lost or sighted. One thing I am really impressed with this year, is the size of the yellowfin that have been caught off the one and only game fishing capital of Tasmania, St. Helens! Not too long ago, I was lucky enough to have seen a huge yellowfin swimming beside our boat, the Terminator. Unfortunately though, for us, after a long battle on considerably heavy tackle, the line gave way and the fish was lost. Jamie Harris was on the rod, and I can assure you all right now, it was a very quiet few moments aboard the boat after the fish snapped the line and powered back off into the depths.
Regardless, it was a very encouraging start to our tuna season. With any luck, we will luck onto another ‘jumbo’ sized yellowfin tuna before winter. Another highlight for me was to watch Damien Tucker, fishing aboard the vessel titled ‘BEEFRUNNER’ off St. Helens, land a magnificent striped marlin after a long scrap on heavy gear. Along with the spectacular aerial display the marlin gave dad and I as we watched intently from our own boat a short distance away, another element that made this battle so special was that Damien had nothing but a gumboot to stick the butt section of the rod into while he fought the fish! Now, how was that for some extreme game fishing? I’d only ever seen one marlin before that, of about the same size, but too see one jumping was pretty special. Maybe next time, we will hook into one!
This year has already been an absolute ripper for marlin, albacore and big yellowfin tuna. There has been a constant tug of war between the two most popular game fishing locations in the state, St. Helens and Eaglehawk Neck. One minute, there will be a marlin or yellowfin caught at the ‘Neck’ and the next there will be a marlin or yellowfin caught at St. Helens! Most of the fish, both marlin and yellowfin have been feeding in considerably shallow water, which is typical of both species, especially here in Tasmania. I’ve spent more time fishing out off St. Helens, so I’m not to sure about Eaglehawk Neck, but most of the fish that have been caught off St. Helens have been found actively feeding in depths between sixty and ninety meters deep. Big albacore have been pretty prominent too, especially around the Tasman Peninsula. They have been pretty touchy around St. Helens, but that should change once the water temperature decreases. Albacore may the regarded as the ‘chicken’ of the sea, for there white flesh and taste, but don’t neglect them, they fight just as hard as any other tuna species, especially when they tip the 20kg mark!
I can’t say I’ve done much shark fishing this year, mainly due to an operation I had earlier on in the year. However, before said operation, we had a few successful ‘sharking’ trips off both Burnie and Devonport. During the Devonport shark fishing competition in early January, we managed a solid little mako that tipped the 70kg mark from memory, that has been the only shark we’ve taken this year. She may have only been a small fish, compared
to how big they can get, but it was great to finally see something over a meter long! There have been plenty of smaller fish around this year, and although they may the best eating sized fish, and they’re much easier to deal with beside the boat, please, only take what you need for a feed! I’ve heard of a few people bowling over five fish per day! Honestly people, how much ‘flake’ do you need?
Again, particularly in Bass Strait, my favourite shark, well favourite fish to be honest, has returned. The great white shark has graced more than one lucky angler this year. This has been very encouraging to see, especially since nearly every shark that has been spotted, has been an absolute monster! Once again, the Devonport shark fishing competition produced multiple ‘jumbo’ sized white sharks, one of which followed the crew aboard ‘Hammerhead II’ for a very long period of time. Another great thing to see, especially this year, is the amount of anglers taking the camera to these gigantic fish! I couldn’t think of anything better to hang on my wall, a large, framed photograph of a great white shark with it’s head poking out of the water, preferably chewing on something, wouldn’t you agree?
They may not be really classed as a popular Tasmanian game fish, yet, but the yellowtail kingfish have made a very impressive appearance this year. They have been caught all around the state this so far. While most of the fish haven’t been huge, they have been pretty easy to find and catch, especially on the east coast. If I think about kingfish, I immediately think of Elephant Rock. Elephant Rock has to be one of the most popular places to successfully target kingfish in Tasmania, and it isn’t all that far from the coastline, which makes it accessible to just about everyone, although a boat would be required, obviously. Dad and I had a great little session out there in February, we got stuck into a few very nice little ‘rat’ sized kingfish. A while ago, catching a kingfish would have been a top priority for nearly every keen offshore angler, but with an ever changing climate, everyone will be able to successfully target these fish with ease, both from a boat and from the shore. Hopefully, with any luck, a few bigger fish will start to show up in greater numbers. A 10kg yellowtail kingfish lurking off the Cam or Emu River? I really can’t wait for that! I guess every game fishing enthusiast is waiting for one thing now since the water temperature is slowly dropping, the return of our gigantic southern bluefin tuna! What will happen this year I wonder? Hopefully, judging by the way the fishing has been, we are all in for a spectacular ‘jumbo’ bluefin season. Juvenile bluefin tuna are regularly caught down south, there is no doubt about that, but the bigger fish are what most of us are after. I’m guessing that all the usual locations around the southern end of the state will fire, it will just be the case of being in the right spot at the right time. Usually, the bigger fish will turn up after or during they appear off Portland, on the mainland.
It’s always a good sign when the Victorians start catching the bigger fish, because by then, they are already starting to swim down this way. When they do turn up in Victoria, there would be a good chance in locking onto a good fish on the west coast, you’ve just got to get the weather right! A monster bluefin caught off the west coast? Who will be the lucky, and brave angler to pioneer a new fishery? I almost forgot, striped tuna, they are actually good fun to catch, just as long as you’re not trying to catch anything else! Dad and I had an awesome time chasing them off St. Helens on light spinning gear a while back. They where everywhere! We were casting small soft plastics into massive schools of them while they were busting up on the surface in about eighty metres of water. If anything, I couldn’t believe there weren’t a few marlin or yellowfin chasing them! They’ve tapered off a little bit now I think, due to the cooler water flowing up from the south, but I think it was more to do with what they were feeding on at the time. There were krill everywhere, and I guess that’s what would have fired the fish up so much. I wish I had the fly rod with me at the time, that would have been fun!
I guess it’s time to talk about tackle, because at the end of the day, you can’t catch fish without it! Most of the marlin and yellowfin that I have seen this year have taken small to medium sized pushers, but there would be other skirted lures that would work just as well. Colours haven’t been too important, I don’t think, but something with a hint of green, purple or pink would be advisable. People that have been using heavier gear have been landing there fish, while those using lighter tackle have either been absolutely smoked, or broken off. Any overhead setup with line ranging from 15-37kg should be enough to successfully tackle a raging striped marlin, yellowfin or bluefin tuna. Nothing has changed on the shark fishing scene, a well spread burley trail and a sturdy 24-37kg outfit will do the job. Earlier this year, Paul Hicks landed a 311.6kg mako on 37kg line, so if you can’t land anything on that stuff, you probably won’t land anything at all! You could always step up to the super heavy gear used for ‘grander’ black marlin, but where’s the fun in that?
So, with that out of the way, I could nearly say that the game fishing scene will continue to fire until the sea surface temperature really starts to drop, but even then, we’ve still got those big bluefin to look forward to! There is still plenty of fishing to be done offshore this year, so if you can, get out onto the water and have a crack. Out on the ocean, you never really know what you may catch, and I’d nearly say that’s the most exciting element to game fishing!
Striped marlin have been more prevalent than ever this season.
A good sized ‘schoolie’ bluefin