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Presented from Issue 97

For the past eight or nine years, game fishing in Tasmania has predominantly relied upon good numbers of southern bluefin tuna turning up in the south of the state. St.Helens, which for many years was the Mecca of game fishing slumped to the stage most anglers were heading south to get their “fix” or targeting other species instead.

2012 has seen a dramatic turn around with numerous catches of striped marlin in both the north and south of the eastern side of the state – as well as many more hook ups that have been lost before getting them to the boat. Some of these catches have been by first time anglers who weren’t even trying to catch marlin!!

On top of all this there have been good numbers of yellowfin tuna landed, particularly around Merricks Reef off St.Helens with some great fish up around the 60-80kg mark.

There was great anticipation for the St.Helens Game Fishing Classic this year with the numbers of good fish being caught in the weeks leading up to the event, only to disappoint organizers and competitors alike by fishing poorly over the duration of the event itself - and yet the competition was no sooner over and, yes – you guessed it!! - the fish came back on the bite with a vengeance. I guess that’s fishing for you.

Further south, the numbers of albacore being landed over late March has dropped off somewhat, however the size of those being landed has increased with some fish up around the 20-25 kilo mark – not bad for an “Alby”.

Yellowtail kingfish have also been around in greater than normal numbers this season in both the north and the south of the State and in places not normally known for “Kingies”. In February I came across a large school of big ones smashing the daylights out of Australian salmon just off Tomahawk Island in the north east of the state.

Over March there have been numerous catches of these hard fighting fish taken from Bellerive Bluff and also underneath the Tasman Bridge on both lures and baits. One particular “Red Letter Day” in the south saw multiple boats hooking kingfish on tuna lures as they trolled past patches of floating kelp – word spread fast and the next day saw a flotilla of boats heading down the Tasman Peninsula to partake in the bonanza only to find there was no kelp and no kingfish to be found – once again, I guess that’s fishing for you.

Kingfish are notorious for taking refuge under anything that floats - or in fact any structure. A floating stick, kelp, rope or buoy can all hold kingfish.

Bluefin are the holy grail though for many. They are the most expensive fish in the world and held in the highest regard as sashimi. From February they have been increasing in numbers by the day and although the size is still predominantly around the 20-30 kilo mark there have been the odd larger fish mixed in amongst them just to keep anglers on their toes when the reels “go off”.

These fish have been widespread with catches regularly being reported from Eaglehawk Neck right around to Whale Head and the Matsyker Group. With the best bluefin months still in front of us yet, things are looking great for yet another bumper season in the south.

Over the past decades May and June have been some of the best months for large bluefin and it is one of the only fish you can catch in world record size in Tasmania. Probably the biggest drawback to game fishing has been the shitty south easterly weather that has dogged us a bit over Feb/March.

However when the winds abate or swing back into the west there are some great fish out there just waiting to be caught so clean off the gear, sharpen the hooks on your “Brown Dog” and get out there and make your own luck – they are a bit hard to catch off the couch in your lounge - and 2012 has so far been the year we have been dreaming of for a very long time!!!

Our (John Orchard) four best tuna lure colours so far this season for bluefin are all Meridians, these are: 1; Meridian Super Donger – referred to by its nickname The Brown Dog: 2; Meridian Stripey: 3; Meridian Orange Runner: 4; Meridian Super Jerk in white – referred to by its nickname Baby Squid.

The first 3 colours have been successful in both the Demon style as well as the Saltshaker style, the 4th one is a small heavily weighted baby squid pattern that has had great success when the fish are a bit touchy and hard to catch – this one can be trolled, cast or if you toothpick the lure it is also great for jigging as you drift.

Best lures from Spot On Hobart are: 1; Black Barts – Tuna Candy and Pelagic Breakfast: 2; Billmark – Prowler 6” and Dougal 6“ 3: Meridian – Dart, Demon (Sz 5) and Saltshaker (Sz 5): 4; Williamson – Tuna Catcher, Dorado Catcher rigged or unrigged: 5; Pakula – Softease in Uzi, Fluzi, Mini Roach and Mini Sprocket sizes. Best lures from Rodney Howard at Tassie Tackle: Zuker ZF12. The Zuker I would put up against any lure at any time and be confident. Meridian Demon - Super Donger Sz 4 and 5. Best lures from Dean at Tamar Marine are: Meridian Demon No 5 - Dolphin fish: Halco Laser Pro 190 - King Brown: Pakula Micro Uzi - Crystal: Rapala XR30 - Red Sardine.

John Orchard