Not only dreamers ..but doers
As fisherman we are always dreaming of the perfect day on the water where everything comes together resulting in a meritorious catch, be it chasing brown trout in the highlands, bream in our estuaries or big game fish in our oceans its what drives us to keep trying even when we think it's a waste of time.
We watch fishing shows on the television and read magazines where wonderful fish of magnificent proportions are caught in far away places, destinations most of us will never see but wish we could. But every now and again we hear of a capture in our own back yard, caught by fisherman just like the rest of us, no plane trips to remote fishing spots or expensive charters, a capture that drops jaws and leaves people amazed, gets the respect of seasoned veterans and gets fisherman everywhere fired up and twitchy--.this is one of those stories.
It all started 5 or 6 years ago, two mates, Rob Arnold and Tim Youd, decided to try their hand at game fishing and concentrate their efforts on the East Coast of Tasmania, St Helens, the "Game Fishing Capital" of Tassie.
With a boat and fishing gear they headed off to explore the blue waters of eastern Tasmania, a few years went by with mixed results, all the time new gear was purchased and collected, rods, reels, a myriad of lures that any tackle shop would be proud to own and the most important thing of all, experience on the water.
These guys were dedicated, always looking for a trip, working hard all week just to get on the water on the weekend and never wasting any part of the day; leaving the boat ramp pre-dawn and most days not returning until it was getting dark. With guidance from people like charter operator Gerald Spaulding on the "Norseman" and his seasoned, and very experienced deckhand, Paul Rigby, things started to come together.
The last couple of seasons brought some good success, and with every trip the guys would gain a little more knowledge and a feel for what goes on when the tuna are about.
Then the 2007 season came around and by this stage the guys had amassed a big investment in gear so making the most of every opportunity was very important. The season started slow with many missed hookups and dropped fish, from Christmas time onwards the boys were on the water most weekends, by mid May they had racked up around 30 trips but there had been a couple of exciting encounters.
The first was getting a good marlin up behind the spread out in an area known as the Binalong Patch, but they were denied a solid hookup. Then some decent albacore to 25kg, a solid catch in anyone's books, but the best was yet to come. While fishing without his regular partner one afternoon, Tim with Rob's sister as crew hooked a 55kg yellowfin on a 15kg outfit. The fish was hooked just south of the Plateau and gave Tim hell, the fish fought hard coming to the boat a few times but just wouldn't give up, darkness was drawing close and Rob's sister was tiring from the heavy steering on the boat, local charter skipper Rocky Carosi on "Saltshaker" was nearby and had lost a good fish. He had been on the radio with Tim earlier and knew he had hooked a good fish and radioed back to see how he was going, Tim had been on the fish for a few hours by this stage so the decision to help out by dropping Rocky's deck hand, Greg, onto the other boat was made. Greg took over the wheel and steered the boat to help Tim subdue the fish and after 4 gruelling hours he was there to help with the gaff shot, fighting a big fish from a trailer boat into the darkness was a gutsy effort.
For most fishermen this would be the pinnacle, but for these guys there is always a bigger fish to catch and three weeks later saw them back on the water this time together and with Paul Rigby as a third crew member.
The day was beautiful, flat calm and clear skies, the boat was pointed towards the Plateau once again as the preceding weeks had seen some action and good fish in the area. A couple of mid sized albacore were soon boated and the day was looking fishy, then it happened a double hookup with the 15 kg screaming line only to have the hooks pull free-..but it was a good fish. Robs 24 kg outfit, a Shimano TLD50 2 speed, was hit hard and was losing line rapidly, 700m of 24kg line disappeared in seconds and the boys knew they had something big, the fish dived hard but with only 250m of depth he arced out and ran fast creating a huge belly in the line. This only worked against the fish as the drag on the belly of line took its toll, Rob worked hard on the fish with the encouragement of his crewmembers and everything held together. After a 2 ¼ hour battle the fish was boatside and the size of the fish wasn't realised until it took 2 gaffs and a tail rope to get it into the boat.
A massive southern bluefin tuna lay in the boat but and the boys called it for somewhere around 90-100kg. A southern bluefin of that size was a magnificent catch for St Helens waters but it wasn't until they had the fish back at the Hillcrest Caravan Park and up on the gantry with the scales that the true significance of the capture was realised.
The big bluefin pulled the scales down to 153kg, a mere 5kg under the world record for southern bluefin tuna but smashing the Australian record by 27.25kg, a record that has stood since 1985 of a 125.75kg fish caught by Ashley Hallam also in Tasmanian waters.
This is one of those captures that lays testimony to never giving up when the fishing is slow, never throwing in the towel and to keep plugging away as the rewards will eventually come. For these guys the dedication and hard work has put them in the record books and cemented them as local legends.