Presented from Issue 115, April 2015
I don’t think we can really start talking about what May and June will bring for fishing in Tasmania without first talking about what has been happening in the Tasmanian game fishing scene recently. Tasmania has gone off, particularly the lower East coast. Bicheno has seen some battles with big yellowfin tuna with a few sad results.
Talking to one angler with years of experience he had a tale of woe. It was a day like any other off the 80 metre mark just off the top side of the Gulch, looking very fishy. The skipper decided to put in a small spread and troll out to the shelf. He had on a couple of tried and true albacore lures that had never let him down. This one particular lure he mentioned he had…. HAD.. for over 15 years. They had only been trolling for 10 minutes when the reel screamed off in earnest and within an instant they knew there was a big fish heading home with lure in mouth. They battled this fish for an hour before sighting it at the back of the boat. That’s when things got exciting !
The fish was big and on sighting the boat and the two wide eyed anglers with their bottom jaws near on the deck, took off on another blindingly fast run and went deep. The angler and skipper worked for another two hours finally getting the fish up for another close look and conformation of species. BIG SICKLES. Big yellow tinged sickles. The fish was a good’un and was not finished yet. It turned and pulled and whirled around and …. Pop! — something let go.
That lure that had been catching albacore effortlessly for 15 years or more had let go at the crimp on a fish of a lifetime. Not only did the angler loose a yellowfin as wide as his boat , but also a favourite lure. Nothing more frustrating than losing a fish you have worked on for over 3 hours. Multiply that by the fact they saw what it was and knew what a trophy it was and it all adds up to misery. The lure had never been checked or re-rigged.
|Harness on and laid back -
who will tire first.
Check, double check and re rig
The start of each season, mid-way through the season or just before a big trip are prime times to run the eye over all your terminal tackle. Kids love helping Dad check the gear. Explain to them first what is going on, why you are doing it and the importance of not letting the line hit the ground. Head to a grassy area of a footy oval near you. Have the kids hook the wind on swivel to the back of their pants and tell then to take off like a fish. Run the line between the thumb and forefinger as it pays out. Check for any issue like chaffing or a nick in the line. Do the same as you wind it back in onto the spool. You should be confident that the line is in very good condition. If not. Any doubt what so ever and it is time to re spool with fresh line. Nobody wants to lose a great fish thinking. Line is cheap.
Tasmania is off tap
The tail end of March was out of control. The Broadbill fishing was mad…seriously mad ! There were a number of swords caught over 180kg over 3 days. Leo Miller and his band of Swordsman were in great form putting their designated angler on to a ‘broady’ in the Coles Bay Classic. It also looks to have smashed the current Australian record for line class to pieces. Read more about that epic battle elsewhere in this edition.
The very best thing you can do as a game fisherman in Tasmania for April and May is sort out your annual leave and holidays. March yourself to a tackle store load up on some gear and head out and get involved. Get out on the water and get some lures or a bait in the water.
The fishing is really firing all down the coast from Bicheno down. Coles bay as mentioned, was the venue for angler Kyle Longmore and skipper Leo Miller to snare a monster broadbill. I was lucky enough to be fishing just 2 NM from that great capture and we were tagging sharks as that battle went on for 6 hours. It was a superb angling effort and one I was glad to witness. Leo Miller and his crew created world wide news with their capture. Triabunna fished well recently with a broadbill hooked and lost and a number of mako sharks and good sized albacore being harvested.
We move on down to “The Neck” and surrounds and they have had a sensational opening to their season. Early on the albacore came on and with some good size in them. Just to keep everyone guessing an angler decided to shake it up and landed a short billed spearfish. The area picked a gear after that and started to produce really big albacore while those making the trip to Pedra and Mewstone were catching some impressive southern bluefin tuna.
Archie’s fish fires ‘em up
Archie Cashion managed to feed a big southern bluefin tuna a lure and find himself a very nice trophy fish. The fish pulled the scales down and read 112kg making it a true jumbo! The talk and whispers were about when these fish might find their way to Eaglehawk Neck. They didn’t have to wait long and the following week there were some very impressive captures of fish well over 100kg. The fishing really fired up and with the boat traffic came more great reports of fish being caught in and around the Pirates Bay and Tasman Island areas. One boat managed to capture a 30 plus kg albacore that would have ordinarily been a story in its own right. However this same vessel managed to also catch a broadbill Swordfish and nice mako shark as well.
Not all beer and skittles
It is often good to hear of the good news stories, but for every fishing story that goes well there is always another that did not. One particular super keen angler was out having a great day on the water outside the Little and Big Hippo when it all happened at once. On seeing some SBT breaking their backs out of the water and seeing they were BIG fish he manoeuvred to head the fish off. It happened like clock work and once he quartered the fish and they lures went over them he While waiting for a mako to come along bounce a jig in the trail heard a noise he had never heard before. His 15 kg tuna outfit was literally screaming line out at a rate never experienced. In and amongst the mayhem of clearing rods and getting settled the fish were busting up around them and so to where a heap of seals. The fish was obviously a barrel and the angler felt that he must get this fish to the boat quickly. He pushed the lever past strike drag and up to sunset in an attempt to slow the fish and pull it through the seals quickly. On 15 kg with a good fish on nothing happens quickly and the inevitable happened. The speed of which the line was being pulled from the reel combined with the water pressure against the line was too much at strike drag and the line parted. This is a very frustrating moment when using lever drag reels. It just should not happen.
Set your drag properly
Pre set drag, lever action reels like the offerings from PENN reels are designed to be a fail safe system. You set them up for what line class you feel you would like to fish. The size of the reel is normally matched to the line breaking strain. It is not a hard and fast rule but as a guide a 30 size reel is for 15kg (30 pound) line, a 50 for 24kg and a 70 for 37kg and so on and so on. The lever on the side of these reels applies a set amount of tension adjusted by the angler. These levers operate on an indent or stopper that does not allow them to move past a certain spot without depressing a button. This is from what is called free spool to “strike” In the strike position the drag tension is set to around 1/3rd line breaking point so for 15kg it would be set at 5kg and for 37kg line it would be set to 12.3kg. This is done, as at this stage if your knots and rigging are perfect you will always be connected to a fish and be tiring it out. Barring disaster like touching the line on another, the side of the boat or being reefed, it will only now be up to who tires first — fish or angler.
Relax and hang on
When that fish of a lifetime comes along you will know. The reel will be three pitches higher than normal on the ratchet and the rod will have a serious bend in it. If you are using rods you are familiar with and have used for a while catching school sized bluefin and big albacore, you will be like “Hang on … That rod has a fair curve on board!”
This is the time to be the Fonz — be cool and relax push the drag lever up to strike (it would be down off strike for reasons we will discuss later) and get a good hook set. Clear the other lines in the spread starting from the shortest to the boat first. This is for two reasons. The first being you will quickly make a hole in the spread to fight the fish into and gain some control. The second being it a much better idea than winding the longer set lures over the top of other lines and lures. The last thing you need will be a tangle. Once you have the lines clear have a crew member get the harness on you and settle in. Oh and here is a hot tip.
If you are on the rod and yell out to a crew member quick grab the harness and they say ‘The What?’ This is less than ideal. Getting a harness on someone on a rocking boat is not something you want to be doing for the first time with a jumbo on. Have a run through the night before with new crew and have a practice if things are a bit slow while out on the boat. The sooner you are comfortably in a harness with weight off your arms the sooner you are in control.
Think the battle through
The first part of any battle with a big fish you are more often a passenger. Use this time to play the fight out in your mind. Get a sense of the fish position in the water, the drift and line angle. If there are some seals about don’t panic. In the early part of the fight a fresh tunny will out distance a seal or two no worries at all. Use this to your advantage. If the drift and line angle allow , come away from any rocks or shallow ground and seals. Line off the reel is no big deal. It just means time , which you should have plenty of. If you get a sense you are down to under a third of your line capacity then angle over to a fish and run down the line to gain some back. The boat driver must be ready to react should the fish move quickly, but it should of course be in only one direction and that is away from the line. So while running down the line the skipper should be watching the line and have arm and hands positioned ready to turn and accelerate away from the line should the need arise.
|While waiting for a mako to come
along bounce a jig in the trai
Keep cool, calm and collected and that big fish will be beside the boat in no time. Keeping a constant bend in the rod and having the load on the fish will mean he will tire and be laying along side. Decisions need to be made before this happens as this is the time a lot of fish are attacked by seals. Have a plan and talk it through. Run through who is going to leader the fish, who will sink the gaff and where the second gaff is. Having two or three seals rock up and lunch on an unmarked fish while looking for the gaff is about as uncool as socks with sandals!!!
No mucking about at this stage lads — adrenaline will mean that even the biggest tuna will be slapped on the deck if you work as one… on three. THREE !!
Tasmania is having a fantastic period of Bluewater fishing and it is time to plan a trip. The fish are here and they look to be here in reasonable numbers. This will build through right into May. Last season went on and on so don’t feel just because the football starts you have to put the boat away. There are some magic days in autumn and not taking advantage of them is a waste. The fish will be there so gear up and get after them.