by Rocky Carosi
The Yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) is now widely regarded as the ultimate offshore sportfish and has captured the imagination of Tasmania's Sport and Game fishing fraternity. A combination of blistering speed, unlimited power and incredible stamina is what sets the Yellowfin Tuna apart from other sport fish and makes it an awesome opponent.
Yellowfin Tuna occur throughout the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Indo-Pacific between 40 degrees South and 40 degrees North. They generally require water temperature above 15 and up to 31 degrees Celsius. They spawn in the Tropics and show a much faster growth rate than other tuna species (5 kilograms in their first year and a weight of 55 kg by the age of 5).
Juvenile Yellowfin Tuna, below 15 kg, often form surface schools, where the adults tend to be more solitary. A study of these fish has revealed that during the day they inhabit waters just above the Thermocline (50-100 m depth) and at night tend to stay within 50 metres of the surface.
Adult Yellowfin tuna are Apex predators, meaning that they are at or very near the top of the food chain, in general they rule the roost.
They are opportunistic feeders in that they eat just about anything that crosses their path. Food items would be baitfish such as Black Mackerel, Slimy Mackerel, Pilchards and Sauries. Yellowfin tuna have a very well developed sight and sense of smell which are both well utilised when being attracted to a berley trail or moving lure.
Southern NSW would be considered number one Yellowfin tuna fishing area in Australia, and fishing methods pioneered there have been perfected over many years. Fishing with cubes and live baits in a berley trail has proved to be he most consistently successful method. Even though a small number of Yellowfin tuna have been caught on cube baits off Tasmania, most have been caught on skirted trolling lures.
Several types of lures appeal to Yellowfin tuna with the most popular being the skirted, wither high speed or jet head or pusher style. Most under rated and one of my favourites is the deep diving Bibless Minnow run well back in the lure pattern. Most would agree that a skirted lure with at least some green in it is the way to go.
The large Yo-Zuri squid skirt, weighted, in the pink and brown colour is another proven Yellowfin catcher. In recent years Paul Arnold's lead headed Hitman lures have been popular and are carving out a reputation of their own.
Cubing and live baiting
Cubing is a term referred to as chunks of fish drifted back in a berley trail. The idea is to establish a steady berley trail of fish chunks the same size as those you will use on the hook. A steady stream of fine berley from the Berley Bucket will also enhance the cube trail.
Once the cube is attached to the hook it is fed into the trail to slowly sink at the same rate as the other cubes. Once the cube has been fed out about 100-150 metres it can then be retrieved and checked ready to start again. Some of the best cubing material is striped marlin, Mackerel, Salmon and Pilchards. Setting one or two live baits whilst cubing can just spread you options that bit further.
During the Game Fishing season, Tasmania's East Coast provides a ready supply of Jack Mackerel and Slimy Mackerel which are ideal and can be found around most reef systems.
The Mackerel are also very hardy and remain lively in the bait tank for long periods. Tiny weighted bait jigs are ideal for catching the mackerel quickly. One bait can be set on the surface using a balloon as a float.
To make the second bait go deeper, attach the hook behind the Dorsal fin or, tie a small ball sinker to the snap swivel with a piece of cotton. Which ever method you employ, whether lure trolling or cubing and live baiting, choice and maintenance of tackle for a fish as demanding as the yellowfin tuna is most important. 150-250 pound tough monofilament trace connected to a good quality hook from 7/0 - 9/0 is ideal. Good quality snap swivels, are essential especially when cubing to prevent line twists.
Apart from being pound for pound one of the toughest Game fish opponents, the yellowfin tuna has several other good points. Most appealing is its accessibility, with most of the larger specimens being caught within three miles of shore. This opens up the fishery to many of the smaller boats.
A good seaworthy trailer boat, some quality tackle and a bit of Game fishing knowledge, and you are out there with a chance.