Game fishing TasmaniaMason Paull
I have been game fishing in Tasmania for about 18 years. With the onset of the warm East Australian current, most game fishers eagerly await the first of our target game species, albacore, stripey tuna, yellowfin tuna, striped marlin, mako sharks, blue sharks and so on. This article is a guide to the game fisher who is just starting out.
There is nothing like the anticipation of launching your own craft and heading to sea to to pit your skills against some of the great fish Tasmania has to offer. I started fishing at St Helens in a 14 foot Stessl with a 1974 model tiller steer Evinrude outboard. I can still remember vividly my first game fish, the mighty striped tuna. I might also add my lovely wife, Denise, bought my first boat for me, and since then has seen me turn into a game fishing junkie, with a few boat changes and many thousands of dollars spent on tackle.
In Tasmania we have quite a few great places to chase game fish; St Helens, Coles Bay, Eaglehawk Neck and so on. There are plenty more game fishing destinations, but I will stick to the ones have fished myself. All of these places offer stunning back drops to great fishing.
You don't need a hundred thousand dollar boat to chase a fish of a lifetime. Many years ago Graeme Walker and a couple of fishing buddies landed two massive yellowfin tuna in a double hookup. One weighed 87 kilo and is still the current Tasmanian record on 24 kg tackle. They were fishing from a 4.5 metre centre console Quintrex. Your boat should be sea worthy and have the following saftey gear if heading out of sheltered waters; off shore flare kit, radar reflector, VHF or 27 mhz radio, anchor, chain and at least 100 metres of rope, EPIRB, fresh water, life jackets. I also carry a large sea anchor, if you do run into trouble these will slow your drift and keep the nose of the boat into the sea. If unsure of requirements give MAST a ring they are only to happy to help you out.
With the advance sounders over the last couple of years they have become a integral part of the modern game boat, and the GPS plotter are standard on most boats. Rods and reels don't need to be all that expensive when starting out. There are plenty of quality combos from Shimano, Penn and other leading brands that will handle just about any thing tassie has to offer. Lures come in all shapes and sizes, I find the most productive lures for albacore are small jet heads, bibless minnows, Rapala Xraps. I rig most of these lures on 150 and 250 lb Jinkia leader material, and use Mustad 7691S tuna hooks to rig all my skirted lures. These are all sub-surface lures and work very well in all conditions. I can go on and on about tackle and lures but this is a basic look about getting started.
Lets bag a few
I will base this section on St Helens where I do the lions share of my fishing. You are heading around St Helens Point and are confronted by a massive watery paddock. You must be very vigalant when trolling and make the most of all the signs the ocean will give you.
I usually start with a range of lures to troll for tuna, two jet heads in the wash close to the boat, one bibless lure on the starboard side just on the edge of the prop wash, a medium size pusher on the port side long (love the Meridian Salt Shaker in lumo there or lumo Demon in the ten inch) and a couple of big pushers on the outriggers. Right! now we start looking. I always fish Merricks Reef - a reef system just off St Helens Point. I have caught some huge fish there over the years so it is always worth a look.
This is also where we start to use the sounder for two reasons. Firstly we are looking for bait schools below the surface and secondly, we need to watch for temperature variations. Where there is a change in temperature is always a good spot to work your lures over and back through this temperature break.
Now we are trolling we need to look for other signs of activity, we are seated or standing in our boats trolling we can not see very much around us on the surface of the ocean. This is where we look for the next sign post of activity, white birds - the gannets, terns and albatross. These birds are constantly soaring about the ocean looking for food. When tuna locate bait schools, they push them to surface to feed attracting the attention of the white birds which will hover over the bait schools. These birds are easy to see in the sky and are always worth a look, so when you are trolling always have the crew on their toes looking for these signs. This could be the difference between a good day and a great day.
Now we are probably catching some good albies. I always mark on my plotter where I have caught the fish, then work that spot really hard, don't leave fish to go looking for more fish. As I write this early February there are some good fish been caught on the 100 metre mark directly off St Helens Point. I have caught big yellowfin on this contour line. I am not sure why, but always seems to be a good depth to work over. Next stop is the Continental Shelf, this is 15 nautical miles off St Helens Point. There are plenty of GPS marks to look out for, including the Hill, Plateau, Cliff and Binalong Patch. These spots are all great on there day. When I work the shelf I always work back and forth across the deep edge - back inside the shelf and out to deep water again. The reality of trolling is there is a fair amount of luck involved with locating the fish but once found it's on for young and old. Just remember those who put plenty of time in are often rewarded.
Caring for catch
Now hopefully you have caught some fish. Always be prepared to properly care for your catch. When you have boated your tuna, bleed them straight away. Do this by inserting a filleting knife directly behind pectoral fin on both sides of the fish. This allows the blood to drain from tuna and makes them better table fare. I leave them in my wet well till bled out then get them on ice. It is a waste of time and money if you do not care for your fish properly. Only take as many as you need, and leave some for future generations.
Join a club
Now you have started your tuna fishing, why not join a club? I have been a member of the St Helens game fishing club for 15 years and formed great friendships and have learnt from the many of the club members, new and old. When in a club every one shares info and the comps are always good fun. The launching ramps have improved so much in St Helens and this is mainly due to the hard work of commitee members of our club over recent years. So get behind this club if you fish St Helens regularly. Your membership will help improve the Burns Bay boat ramp and facilities.
Lastly, boat safety is the responsibility of every skipper. At St Helens there is the St Helens Marine Rescue. When leaving the boat ramp always log on with rescue boys in town, they are on channel 94 on 27 mhz and channel 16 vhf give your number of people on board and where you are heading. It always makes for a safer day out when the coastal patrol know of your position throughout the day. And lastly always log off, they don't like to have to drive to the boat ramp of a night to check on trailers at the ramp for no reason. They are all volunteers and do a great job.