Paxy’s Bluefin Tripby Rob Paxevanos
In the late 70’s my dad took my three brothers
and I along with 2 cousins and a family friend
to Eagle Hawk Neck on the South East
Corner of Tasmania.
This was one of our first game fishing
trips, and weather reports were not so detailed
back then so dad wanted a place where there
was good shelter should the prevailing south
easterlies come up from the open expanse of
the Southern Ocean.
EHN was the perfect choice with its grand
cliffs as much as 275 metres high. To add to
the excitement we had heard before the trip
that you could that tuna were being caught
within a couple hundred of metres of cliffs.
Seven boys between the age of 8 and 14,
and a single dad mad keen on fishing; well that
was a recipe for one of the most memorable
adventures of my youth; we caught a swag
of stripey tuna, some reef fish, and I got
lucky with the only bluefin of the trip, a ‘40
pounder’. Yep I was as big a fluke back then
as I am today.
While I have been back to Tasmania
dozens of times since chasing everything from
trout to tuna, I had yet to return to EHN and
have long wondered if the tuna fishing was
still as good.
As part of a filming shoot for the new
series of Fishing Australia I finally got back
there and was delighted to find the scenery and
people were still as welcoming—hopefully the
tuna would also come to the party.
At 6 am on the first day out we boarded
the 7 metre trailer boat owned by Skipper of
South East Charters Michael Kent.
The plan was to beat all the other boats
down to Tasman Island where the first tuna
had arrived as far back as 20 March, and now
almost two months later the odds were even
I am a big believer that it is first in best
dressed, especially when trolling, as tuna have
good lateral lines and will investigate the first
boat that comes along—each pass after that
typically gets less attention from any resident
fish but today was different.
The tuna were nowhere to be seen at
first light and even after half a dozen boats
had arrived to troll the better spots like the
Lanterns, the Pillars, and Monkeys: no one
had seen a tuna let alone hooked up!
Perhaps we had missed the dawn bite by
half an hour? Regardless I was still confident,
especially seeing Michael suggested that the
tuna had come on the chew around 9 am over
Around 9:30 am the tuna alarm went off
in the form of a screaming reel and a fish
bolting between a bommie and Tasman Island.
There was a bit of desperation in the mix as I
tried to steer the fish clear of the rocks as the
rest of the team cleared the lines.
Five minutes later and things had settled as
the fish was well clear of the reefs and happily
powering away towards deeper water. I was
thinking she’d be a typical schoolie around
the 25 kg mark when the afterburners kicked
in and 100 metres of 37 kg braid disappeared
in frighteningly quick time.
Sammy the seal was the culprit and now I
had a real challenge on my hands; trying to get
a 60 pound fish past a 400 pound seal.
We drove up on the tuna under less a little
less drag pressure and then I went for broke
as we got close. The gaff shot came quickly
and the tuna was boated with only a couple
of small scuff marks from seal.
It never ceases to amaze me what a
magnificent creature these fish are; the best
video game designer in the world could not
design a more sleek and powerful looking
swimmer in my books.
Michael dispatched the fish with a brain
core thingy and after a few quick pics the fish
was filleted and laid on ice to prevent burnt
tuna syndrome which renders their perfect
flesh useless. You must look after these fish
if you are to get an idea of how just good
they can taste.
The next tuna came about an hour later
but despite our best efforts we couldn’t beat
the seals and Michael was faced with a tug of
war as he tried to pull the gaffed tuna free of
the seals wolf like teeth. It would’ve weighed
25 kg but for the missing flesh.
It was Fishing Australia team 1, seals 1, and
while Michael and the rest of the fleet said the
fishing was slow due to calm seas and bright
sunlight, I’d had a fantastic time.
The next day we headed out aboard the 36
foot Steber ‘Moonshine’ with Skipper Steve
Gilbert. Having caught a few tuna the day
before, getting to Tasman by dawn was ruled
out, especially seeing the bite seemed to be
around mid morning.
It was even calmer and sunnier than the
first day and there were a lot more boats on
the water. We were all concerned that it was
going to be tough.
But fishing lays up some random cards at
times and at 8 am around the Red Dirt area a
good fish sung line off the 37 kg outfit.
This fish was tough but I got her to the
boat quickly only to see a seal turn after
hearing our engine revs drop. I immediately
freespooled her so she could out run the
hungry mammal, and this worked a treat; the
seal soon lost interest.
Problem was bluefin have a heart 8
times the size of most fish and she was fully
recovered; to my surprise the second round
was harder much than the first!
I had refused to use a harness or gimbal unless we
hooked a 60 kilo plus fish, but perhaps I should’ve; after
a strenuous battle I finally boated a superb ‘non-sealed’ 25
After some fresh sashimi with soy and wasabi the lines
went back in and not long after a double hook up occurred.
Both fish were boated and released. We caught several more
tuna to 30 kg that afternoon.
On one occasion we cleared the lines while leaving the
boat moving so that the seals didn’t hear the boat stop.
This works ‘some’ of the time but all eyes on deck are
needed to help judge the seals movements so you can act
24 kg to 36 kg line is ideal for the schoolies, it ensures a
quick but exciting battle which means better tasting tuna and
fish that are released in healthier condition, mind you these
fish are incredibly good at recovering from any fight.
Mono main line is fine, but I use braid now that I have
the experience to do so; it allows me to carry smaller reels
and also feel what the fish is doing during the fight, which
can be important-especially when there are seals and sharks
around. The 37 kg suffix stuff I had on in this case was
colored every 10 metres which helped me set a spread of
lures more precisely.
You will need a reel that
holds a minimum of 500 metres
of 37 kg line in case you hook a
barrel that peels off 400 metres
on the first run.
I tie a 5 metre double in the
braid with a 7 turn surgeons
loop, and then attach 5 metres
of 100 pound fluro carbon via
an Albright knot. The lure is
attached via a Uni knot. This
set up has served me well
accounting for various species
of tuna and marlin over the 100
150 or even 200 pound
leader is often used at times,
but this can be a bit heavy when
it is calm and clear and the tuna
can see well.
T h e s p r e a d o f l u r e s
consisted of three deep diving
Rapala XRap Magnum 30s, one
10 metres back, one 30 metres
back, and one 80 metres back.
The one 80 metres back caught
as many as the rest of the lures
put together, which is often the
case on calm clear days.
A 6 inch long jet head
running just clear of the last
XRap caught only one of the
tuna, but never underestimate
t h i s ‘ s h o t g u n’ p o s i t i o n ,
especially on rougher days.
Most interestingly of all I
now use single hooks on the
XRaps via simply looping on
some Williamson Assist Style
Hooks. This means there is no
leverage on the hook and no
split rings or trebles to bend,
break or rust. The hook up rate is sensational and the holding
power of a single hook is exceptional given there are no other
hooks to pull out the one that has found a home.
If I notice wear on the loops I put on new assist hooks,
which is about every 5 or so school tuna. I do this in case
that 100 kg plus barrel comes along and offers up a 2 hour
I couldn’t be happier with this hook configuration,
and it allows you to release unwanted tuna in even better
condition…after all the bluefin are why I travelled to EHN
in the first place.
My team and I got to keep the first fish of the trip and
it fed my team of 6 for the 3 nights we had there. Had we
taken any more it would’ve been wasted so it’s best to work
out how much you need to keep before you get out on the
EHN is a special spot, and these are special fish, so please
look after them as they continue their run this season.
Footnote: Rob and team have travelled to Tasmania several
times recently and the episodes they captured can be viewed on
WIN Televisions Fishing Australia from June 5th onwards.