Presented from Issue 116, June 2015
There is still plenty of time left to hook up with some big tuna - off Tasmania’s coast. You often hear about the one that got away and that can be heart breaking. However with good preparation the risk of losing a fi sh of a lifetime drops enormously.
1. Keep an eye on the sky
There is no better indicator of tuna activity than feeding birds. Sea birds are your eyes in the sky and can indicate tuna activity from miles away. Not only can they indicate what direction are school of tuna might be heading, they can also tell you what type/size of bait the tuna may be after. For example, my favorite bird to see dropping from the sky is the gannet. These birds hit the water over 100 Kph to snatch baitfi sh from below the surface. Gannets generally target large bait such as mackerel, sauries and redbait. In comparison, the small crested terns that skip across the waves, penguins and small pied cormorants are generally preoccupied with much smaller bait such as pilchards. You can use this information to help you with the size of lures you are running behind the boat.
2. Be prepared for the hookup
Strikes often come without warning, so make sure the boat is prepared. Ensure gaffs and landing nets are within easy reach and not stuck under other items and gimbal belts and fi ghting harnesses are correctly adjusted.
When that reel lights up and all hell breaks loose, don’t stop the boat. Tuna are a schooling fi sh, they feed in numbers and are very rarely on their own. If a reel goes off, ensure that you maintain your trolling speed for a good 20-30 meters before backing off and settling in for the fi ght. You can often turn one hookup into several by adopting this method.
3. Look after your catch
Once you have boated your tuna, take the time to look after it. Tuna should be bled as soon as possible with an incision made just behind each pectoral fi n. Get your fi sh onto ice as soon as you can, especially during the warmer months. If you really want high grade tuna for the table, after bleeding the fi sh, remove the side fi llets and put them straight into ice. This will take up less room than the whole fi sh and will preserve the quality of the meat.
4. Use a variety of lure sizes, colours and types
Tuna lures come in such a growing variety of types, sizes and colours that it can be overwhelming when looking at what tuna lures you should use. Of all the lures I carry with me in every tuna trip, I still fi nd myself using the same 4-6 lures! Nothing beats confi dence in the stuff you’re pulling behind the boat, so if you’re having success with what you have, stick to it. As a rough guide, run a mix of lure types including deep diver style lures (Rapala, Halco and Yo-Zuri make some tough, realistic styles) pushers and jet-heads. Most of the bait tuna are chasing rarely exceeds 9 inches in length with a great majority of it somewhere between 6 and 8 inches. This fact is far more important than colour. Blue/silver, pink/brown, lumo/green and black/purple colour combinations are all proven tuna catchers in Tassie waters.
5. Keep your equipment in good order
Too many tuna are lost to poorly maintained gear or faulty, cheap equipment. My thinking is if you are prepared to spend the money on fuel and get up at ridiculous hours to chase tuna then why skimp on ensuring your gear is going to work for you? You don’t have to line your boat with gold reels, but there are a few simple, cheap things you can do to maximize your chances of landing a good fi sh. After all, tuna have a habit of fi nding weak points in your equipment! Make sure your line is in good condition. Monofi lament line deteriorates in sun light meaning all of your line has a limited life. If you are hesitant about replacing your reels with new line every season, wind on the top of the line from one reel straight onto your other reel, thereby putting the unused line at the top of reel and the older line at the base of the spool. Ensure the drag mechanisms on your reels are set to the line you are using and that they are running smoothly. The ceramic inserts in the rod guides are easily damaged and can become very sharp and abrasive if unchecked, if you have roller guides, ensure they are rolling freely.
6. Before each tuna trip, use a hook file to sharpen up the points on your lure hooks.
7. Fish bait balls efficiently and…. Effectively!
When baitfish are forced to the surface by their predators from below and are being bombarded by birds from above there is no better place to be than amongst this action. Seals, dolphins, whales and tuna often make up this feeding frenzy but it never lasts for long. Therefore it is important to fi sh this opportunity effi ciently. Worst thing you can do is barrel straight through the middle of the bait school, more often than not, this will disperse the bait that have been bottled to the surface and leave you fi shing blind. Maneuver your boat so that you can make circular sweeps around the feeding frenzy. As you troll around the school, you can cut angles to cause your entire spread of lures to swim right through the bait school without causing any disturbance to the bait school. When cutting these angles, don’t be afraid to drop your speed or cut a tight enough angle so that your spread of lures plummets down deeper. Also, be respectful to other boats trying to get in on the action, the ocean is a big place but bait balls may only be a few boat lengths in size. Allow other boats plenty of room, especially if they are hooked up.
8. Bad weather is your friend but not at the expense of safety
It is no secret that rough weather brings on the tuna, especially Tasmanian Southern Bluefi n. I have rarely had a positive result when conditions are fl at, sunny and clear. Overcast, blustery, drizzly days from the south-west are legendary for stirring up the bluey’s. When planning your trips, monitor reliable weather forecasts right up to the morning you plan on launching the boat weather conditions in Tassie change quickly, what could have been forecasted a few days ago may have changed by the time to hit the water. If you plan your trips carefully, you can maximize your chances by fi shing likely tuna conditions without sacrifi cing safety. Always have an escape plan organized in case conditions turn bad. Be mindful of land structures and travel times to protection if things get nasty. Ensure all your safety equipment is in date and in good working order.
9. Make a plan and stick to it, don’t chase the ocean.
Prior to your trip, do some research! Use online fishing forums, tackle shops, social media updates and fishing updates to fi nd out what’s happening in the ocean. With the fi shing and weather knowledge, you should be able to put together a rough plan of what your day should involve. Are the fi sh in close or are they wide? Have they been favoring a particular area? Are they targeting are certain lure style or colour? All this info can help you make the most of your time on the water.
10. Ensure your lures are swimming correctly
When trolling, watch your lures as much as you can. You will be surprised with what you see if you make an effort to watch the spread instead of what your mate packed for lunch. Subtle clues are often lost when not watching the lures. Make sure your lures are swimming the way they were designed to. Diving lures should be diving, not skipping cross the water due to excess trolling speeds or rough conditions. Use rubber bands or fl at line trolling clips to help keep your lures in the water should they keep breaking the surface. Pusher lures, jet heads and skirts should be just under the surface and depending on their design, breaking the surface temporarily to leave an air bubble trail behind them. Make sure they’re not spinning upside down either; a toothpick inserted into the top of the lure can help maintain an upright swimming position.
11. Adopt a good fish fighting technique!
Good fish fighting techniques can reduce your fi ght time dramatically. Ensure your gear is set up correctly and that you are using your gear to the max of its capabilities. Use your legs more than your back to lift the rod during the fi ght and don’t bring the rod up to high, once the rod passes a 90 degree angle, it begins to lose power. Ensure that the driver of the boat is staying off the fi sh, and that the lines are clear of the prop leg and the hull of the boat.