It's Bluefin Time Again!
Once again it's that time of year when avid game fishermen pull out their gear and give it the once over in anticipation of the arrival of the mighty southern bluefin tuna. These powerhouse fish put both angler skill and product quality to the ultimate test each year and anglers look forward to the challenge.
Although the game season was somewhat late starting this year, it has so far produced many good fish with a number of albacore up around the 18-20 kilo mark and yellowfin up to 63.5 kilos.
Eaglehawk Neck has fished the most consistently so far this season and anglers are hoping this is a good sign of things to come as we near the start of the Bluefin season. Already there have been a number of sightings with a small number of anglers already notching up their first "Bluey".
As we all know, there are days when the fish seem wary about coming too close to the surface, particularly bright calm sunny days. Bearing in mind the fact that tuna have no eyelids to protect their eyes from the sun it is quite understandable that they will prefer to stay deeper until something entices them to the surface, and sometimes this enticing takes a bit of doing.
So what will give you the edge when it comes to getting fish to strike and make your reel scream?
One way that often helps to produce the goods is run a deeper diving style of lure such as a "Mack Bait" that is capable of being trolled at around 6-8 knots, at the front of your lure spread.
This puts a "bait" in a conspicuous position underneath the outboard wash, out of the direct glare of the sun and deep enough that the fish aren't required to come right up to the surface in order to strike. The good thing about this is that it will usually draw more than one fish up from the depths and those that "miss out" will then have a go at the other lures that are now so close - bingo! Multiple hook-up. On days like this it often pays to keep all bar one of your spread "bunched" up fairly tight behind the deep diver, the other lure should be run well back from the rest to represent a lone baitfish out on its own.
If this fails then its time to back the trolling speed off a bit and run out a spread of all deep diving style lures.
Mack Baits, Halco Tremblers and the mighty Barra Mauler #9 are ideal lures for this and should produce the goods.
Also when chasing tuna, don't underestimate the power of the teaser! These aren't used just to draw marlin to the boat, they work just as well on tuna, particularly the one's that create a lot of surface disturbance, lots of splashing etc that represents fleeing baitfish trying to escape a predator - the "Raider Teaser" is a ripper for this. Run it to one side of the boat, in close off one of the back corners where it can be retrieved quickly in the event of a hook-up.
Vary the colours of your lure spread from dark to light and dull to flashy patterns until you find what they are taking on the day. If they are taking light coloured lures and all is going well and then you find that the action seems to have died over the past hour or so there is a strong possibility that they will have switched their feeding habits to a different type of baitfish and the odds are they will now be taking darker coloured lures.
For example, you may find that in the morning they are feeding on Sauri's (which look like a garfish - only without the bill); these fish will most likely take lighter coloured lures - silvers, blues and lumo type colours.
Later in the day when the sun heats up and the "Redbait" (which are a bit like a 3 - 4 inch darkish red Pilchard) start to appear you may well find that they are now taking darker colours - black & red, black and purple, green and gold etc.
The only lure I tend to leave out in almost all weather conditions is a true Lumo coloured one, which I run way out the back on its own (as a lone baitfish) and has been responsible for many a fine capture when all else has been struggling.
If they are feeding on squid then try the brownish type lures such as "Brown Dog" & "Super Donger".
The main thing is to be prepared to experiment if things aren't going your way, clean your fish as you catch them and pay attention to the stomach contents and whereabouts in the stomach each type of baitfish is found - this will be your early warning signal that the feeding habits are starting to change and give you an indication as to what colours you should now be thinking of running.
So far this season there have been a couple of lures that have stood out on Albacore and Yellowfin when it comes to consistently bringing home the goods!
The ever popular green and gold Zuker's, the new Steeley's "Brown Dog" and also the "Green and Gold" have also been consistent catchers as has the infamous Saltshaker in "Green Lumo", "Super Donger" and "Bullfrog". If you have any of these in your tackle bag you can't go far wrong.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for circling/diving birds, particularly Gannets and Albatross, and what ever you do, don't overlook the humble muttonbird
Shearwaters spend hours every day cruising the ocean in search of krill, the same thing that small baitfish search for - which are in turn sought out by bigger fish and these are in turn being sought out by you!
Look for large congregations of muttonbirds feeding on the surface, lifting off and then settling back down again ahead of the main mob - a sure sign that something is going on down below and well worth investigating.
Another thing to watch out for is how your lures are presented in the water.
Many believe that so long as they have a spread of lures out that are known Bluefin takers and they are out there "doing it" then they have as much chance as the next person to take a Bluefin, and yet many anglers, particularly those new to the sport, are merely towing their lures around the ocean for 75% of the time and are in actual fact only trolling them in the manner that they were designed for the remaining 25% of the time - enter the toothpick and the kebab skewer, either/or play a great part in ensuring that on quiet days, what few tuna that are around view the lure in the way that it is supposed to look.
What is he talking about you might say?
Well, if you think about it, fish are darker on top fading to lighter colours underneath; this is the case with all fish including the baitfish that tuna feed on and therefore this is the way your lure needs to appear at that exact point in time when it crosses the path of your intended prey.
Now bearing in mind that your lure, due to the forces of water pressure upon it, is going to gradually rotate around the line on which it runs meaning that it is only in the upright position for 25% of the time it is in the water - the rest of the time it is either swimming on its side or worse, upside down!
Because the lures are back behind the boat and basically out of sight, the problem goes un-noticed.
Now for the trick! As with a yacht that has a fixed keel to keep it in the upright position, so too does a tuna lure (in the form of a hook) however the hook is not attached to the lure, only to the line, and so the lure rotates whilst the hook stays in the correct position.
Simply hold the lure up and position the hook so that the bend of the hook comes out through the bottom (or lightest part) of the lure and then jam it in place front and rear (where the line runs through) with a toothpick or kebab stick. This will ensure that the lure travels in the correct manner at all times, held in place by the "keel".
I hope that these few tips will help you to catch more fish and more fun doing it!
With the Southern Bluefin Championships just around the corner and Eaglehawk Neck fishing so well at the moment, anglers are sure to have an absolute ball and they tell me there are some great prizes on offer once again.
Good luck and stay safe on the water.