Game Fishing - Tasman Peninsula and South
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.
The season so far has been on and off a lot due to the weather conditions that, for anglers, has been almost too good! With numerous calm, bright sunny days scattered throughout the season so far when the tuna have been wary about coming too close to the surface, due to the fact they have no eyelids to protect their eyes from the bright sun, it is quite understandable that they have taking some enticing to the top and pickings have been somewhat lean. Some anglers have managed to overcome this problem to some degree with the advent of the new Classic F18 high speed deep diving lures which have allowed them to run lures down to 15 feet whilst still running a spread of traditional "skirts" on the surface.
On other days when there has been cloud cover and a bit of surface chop the pickings have been excellent and it has only been a matter of working out what colours are performing best at this time of the season. Many fish boated so far this season have had a varied diet, anything from krill to mackerel and squid which has made colour selection less critical than in seasons past and until such time as they "switch" onto a particular bait species, such as redbait, not much is likely to change. Once this happens, the Meridian "Brown Dog" will once again take some beating.
On good days, striped tuna have been abundant this season and many anglers have struggled to keep their lures in the water long enough to "wedge" an albacore up through them.
There have also been some great yellowfin tuna landed this season with quite a few in the mid 40s range and also a couple that I know of that topped the 70 kilo mark - good fish in anyone's language!
Although there have been the odd bluefin mixed in with these fish over the past month or two, it has only been since mid March that the "Bluey's" have started to make their presence felt in earnest and should continue to "thicken up" over April, May and June.
I know Stuart Nichols from Personalised Sea Charters landed numerous bluefin over the last week of March with most fish being in the 20 - 30 kilo bracket. A great sign!!
Ideal days for catching bluefin are the dirty days when it is overcast or raining and there is a nice south westerly chop on the go, the type of day you need to take care and not risks.
So, what will give you the edge when conditions aren't ideal and you want your reel to scream on those calmer bright days?
One way that often helps to produce the goods is to run a deeper diving style of lure such as a "Mack Bait" or the new Classic F18 at the front of your lure spread. Lures that are capable of being trolled from 6-10 knots whilst still allowing you to run traditional skirted style lures at the same time. These high speed lures put your "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 running this type of spread is that it will usually draw more than one fish up from the depths and those that "miss out" will then often have a go at the other lures that are now so close - bugger, 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.
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 - "Bird" style teasers are great for this as are "spreader bars", run in close off one of the back corners of the boat where it can be retrieved quickly in the event of a hook-up.
Don't be scared to 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. Many anglers stick to the same old favourites trip after trip without trying anything new - sometimes they work and sometimes they don't - be adventurous and try new lures, one may just be the "jackpot" you are looking for!
The only lure I personally tend to leave out investigating in almost all weather conditions is a 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 the fish are feeding on redbait, the Meridian "brown dog" has proven itself time after time and is probably the safest bet you can run, otherwise mix it up a bit.
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.
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 taking a close look at.
Another sign to watch out for is the "beloved fur seal" feeding flat out - a great sign something is happening down below - and a pain in the butt once you have hooked up!!
I hope that these few tips will help you to, catch more fish on "bad" days, and have more fun out there "doing it"!
With the Southern Bluefin Championships just around the corner and Eaglehawk Neck traditionally fishing so well from now until June, anglers are sure to have an absolute ball at the competition again this year - and they tell me there are some great prizes on offer once again.