Tassie Yellowfin Tuna
The yellowfin tuna is one of the great sport and game fish of tthe world. Thunnus Albacares is sought after by all tassie game fishermen and is highest standard, which we all would like the achieve. The power and beauty of these fish is something you will not forget once you have done battle with one of these powerful tuna. Sadly these tuna are plundered all down the east coast of Australia and around the world. These tuna are apex predators, meaning they are near the top of the food chain, they will eat anything that crosses their path. Their main diet consists of slimey mackeral, jack mackeral, pilchards and number one on their menu is sauries. They also will follow trawlers around and eat trawler trash that is thrown over the side of these boats.
These tuna are tough apponents and will reveal any weak points in your gear. I would recommend a minimum of 15 kg for yellowfin as they are a hard running fish. Each year I replace my line, service rod rollers and reel, making sure gear is in optimun condition. My reel of choice is Shimano's Tiagra series, a smooth faultless drag, strong and reliable.
For St. Helens and surrounding areas, I still use rods with quality eyes and a roller tip. Leroy Tirant at Bigfin, East Devonport custom makes all my sticks and makes a beautiful rod. I use wind on leaders on all my reels now, so I can run short leaders on my lures. most of my lures are rigged on 250 or 400 lb Jinkia leader material. This allows you to fight the fish all the way to the boat without having to take leader to early. With all lures, make sure all connections have armour, so leaders will not wear through in a drawn out fight, and hooks are razor sharp. With my gaffs I only use big fixed head gaffs, they are easy to control the fish at the side of the boat and there is less chance of making a mistake with them.
A couple of years back, myself and Tim Anderson were late out of bed, packed a few rods and were going to set my cray pot on Merricks Reef off St. Helens. At about 10:30am, we were watching the sounder looking for a good spot for the pot. The radio crackled to life and we heard a angler complaining that he had just broke his rod on a large tuna. I knew the voice, looked around and saw the boat. Needless to say the pot went over the side and the next 2 hours were mayhem. We ran 4 lures out and did a lap out the back of Merricks resulting in two massive fish taking two lures, and such was the force of the strike, they smashed both lures off. Now I was driving the boat and did not see anything but Tim assured me they were fish the size a wheely bins. My 50W had a strike in the carnage but failed to hook up. I wound the lure in, checked it and let it back out, turned to go back to the wheel and the Tiagra let out a huge howl with line disappearing fast, yellowfin I thought, after a tense hour long fight a beautiful 53 kg yellowfin layed on the floor of the boat.
Now with a severe case of arm pump, a few pics were taken, then into them again. We finished the session with four yellowfin ranging from 53 kg to 25 kg. I have been fishing for 18 years and that has been my hottest session on yellowfin.
Most of the yellowfin I have caught have been inside the shelf between Merricks and the 120m mark, down at Pulfers and off the Gardens. One thing I have noticed when cleaning these fish, they have been feeding hard. Don't be frightened to run a varied spread of lures, run big and small. I have had success with both. I haved landed a 30 kg fish on a 12 inch marlin lure with twin 12/0 hooks. We have caught a lot of small fish on the cheap Barramundi Mauler, which is a small diving minnow.
I was lucky enough to land a Tasmanian record yellowfin on 15kg line class which weighed in at 66kg. This fish was the result of a long day fishing with not much activity and fishing with good friends Geoff and Tim Cook and Rob Stevenson. We were scanning the horizon when we saw a heap of white birds hovering over the Binalong Patch. The birds were well up in the air, all looking straight down at the water. We sped the boat up to reach the spot and on the arrival the water was boiling with big fish. We ran through the school resulting in one 6 kg bust off and one 15 kg record. All these fish have been caught in fairly uncomfortable south easterley conditions.
I have caught very few yellowfin in calm conditions. Finding these fish still comes down to a keen eye watching for the white bird. Last year while fishing the Coles Bay comp I smashed the transducer off the rear of my boat. Great! I thought sounder completely disabled, no water temp and can't find any bait schools. It all came down to waching out for the white birds again. Conditions were overcast, with rain squalls, and made for pretty tough going. But later in the afternoon my son Daniel spotted about five gannets hovering above the water, on closer investigation we spotted two yellowfin launching out of the water, one pass with the lures and Daniel's on and a lovely yellowfin comes to the gaff after a tough 40 minute fight. The fish later pulled the scales down to 28 kg, and gave Daniel second overall in the competition. So with all the gadgets on hand it came down to a keen eye and plenty of time scanning the ocean. So watch out for the tell tale signs white birds, dolphins feeding hard, bait on the sounder and temp breaks, tide lines, all these conditions will show up yellowfin at sometime.
The most effective and most productive method for all gamefishing though is heaps of time on the water. In my opinion the best months are March and April. There are a few crews at St. Helens that perform well on the yellowfin and they do so through hard work.
As everyone knows, I love shark fishing, and when berleying for big makos you spend heaps of time waiting around. I spend this time chasing other fish while waiting for a shark to swim along. Time is utilized cubing, live baiting and the use of knife jigs deep in the trail. Each morning we stop at the bait grounds (Bobby Halls Rock, Elephant Rock, or Merricks Reef) to pick up our live bait, which is the humble jack mackerel. We use the sounder to find these fish around the rocky headlands, early morning is the best time for them when the sun is low, they seem to be a bit harder when the sun is higher. I use the sabiki bait rig to collect them, 10 to 20 will be plenty. This is good fun for your children if they are keen budding gamefishers, my son still enjoys this part of the morning. All my shark fishing these days is well out over the shelf, so we are in the deep water with a fair chance to see both target species (sharks, tuna). I make my own mince logs - usually for the sharks - which is very fine and makes a huge slick. Once the trail is established we start to drop the live bait back in the trail. My rigs are nice and simple, two metres of 100 lb Jinkia leader with a Mustad Big Gun chemically sharpened hook in a 12/0. these hooks have given me a good hook up ratio.
The live bait is hooked in the nose or in the back depending on the wind and current. Be careful when inserting the hook in the back of the mackeral to keep it above the lateral line in the fish, otherwise to close to this line seems to kill them pretty quickly. Done properly I have had baits out all day and released them to swim off to fight another day.
We hang the live bait back in the berley trail, if the drift is a bit quick I use a small sinker to make the bait sit low in in the water column. Set the drag to prevent an over run and then the waiting game starts. When yellowfin are feeding they don't mess about. They normally smash the bait and take off, when this happens free spool the reel to give the fish no resistance. Give them time to take bait right down, then push drag up to strike and let the hook find its mark.
I can't say I have caught heaps of yellowfin this way, but it is the most rewarding way to catch these fish I have found. My best yellowfin to date on live bait was 32 kg. It was caught on the Eddystone trevalla patch on a bright, glassy calm day (there goes my theory on rough weather producing the best results). Some good albacore to 10 kg were also caught on the liveys. In finishing this segment we also use knife jigs with great effect on the albies, let them sink well down the berley trail and retrieve them quickly albies love them.
I like to chase records for all my game fish, I always carry the latest newsletter from the club which has all the current state records. Always be mindful when rigging your gear that it meets IGFA rules and regulations. The legal lengths of leaders are in the back of the St Helens newsletter so make your self familiar with this. If you think you have a potetial record keep your catch covered with a damp towel or keep it on ice, so to retain maximum weight. Find your official weigh master, he will help with all the paper work. Tagging of this great fish is also a winner; the fish lives to fight another day and you come away with 5000 points. Conservation of all fish is everyones responsibility. I want my son to target yellowfin and many other magnificent fish in years to come.