The best lures and tips from the experts. Andrew Large interviews several well known bluefin anglers.
Tasmania has eight world records for this fabulous game fish and during April-May it is keenly sought. In this story anglers reveal their top lures and techniques for targeting these fish.
Gamefishing lures are many and varied and all anglers have their favourites. Southern Bluefin Tuna lures vary from angler to angler - each have their special "gun" lures that they have confidence in.
David and Ashley Hallam
David and his son, Ashley, have spent nearly two lifetimes fishing for southern bluefin tuna off the Tasman Peninsula and in their pursuits broken many a tuna record.
Ashley is still the holder of the Australian Record for bluefin which weighed in at 126 kilograms or 277 pounds. David and Ashley are only too keen to help both experienced and inexperienced bluefin tuna fishermen.
They believe that when bluefin are really on the go, then just about any trolled skirted lure will tempt and tease the primal feeding instincts of these fish. However, if the conditions are calm and the bluefin are proving hard to catch, try 6-9 inch pusher-style lures. These lures continually break the surface displacing large amounts of water, then noisily dive again leaving streams of bubbles behind them.
On choppy, windy days David prefers to run weighted 6-9 inch squid skirts. Unlike the lighter pusher-style lures, these skirts, because of their lead heads are not as wind affected and tend not to allow the lines to cross as much when turning or trolling across the wind.
David and Ashley also place a lot of importance on the ability of the white water caused by the boat to lure schools of tuna from the deep and bring them to the surface. David suggests differing troll speeds and the use of lures that search different depths in the water column such as the Rapala CD-18 Bibbed Series and the fast-swimming Halco Tremblers.
When chasing bluefin Stephen believes in finding water temperatures of 14-16°C, feeding birds working the water, and then changing the trolled lures to match the baitfish. The use of troll speed also plays an important role in locating feeding fish in different depths. Obviously the faster you troll, the closer the lures will work to the surface and, the slower the troll, the deeper. During the bright part of the day Steve suggests trolling areas of shade where the tuna are not frightened to remain closer to the surface.
Steve likes the Hippolytes because of their ability to hold baitfish and to mix different temperatures of water due to high tidal movement and thermal upwellings. Try using Boone Teaser Rigs to lure schools of tuna to the surface, either the winged or prism types work well.
Favoured skirted lures include: Shark; Bullet Head; Pakula; Top Gun; Boone and Pacific. Just recently Steve and his fishing crew did really well off the Tasman Peninsula in westerly weather, managing to land any amount of striped tuna, eight albacore and a 30 kg yellowfin.
Dale is a keen young fisherman and deck hand living at Eaglehawk Neck and has spent the last few game seasons on two prominent charter boats in the area. He likes to use a wide variety of lures in various sizes for bluefin including: Dabsters; Pakula; Top Gun; Zuker and Shark Having grown up at the "Neck" Dale knows only too well that the bluefin prefer choppy, southwesterly sea and weather conditions. His favourite bluefin areas are naturally the close at hand Hippolytes, Lanterns and the notorious Tasman Island.
Dale believes in well-maintained tackle and fully spooled reels, with adequate carrying capacity for bluefin being 350-450 yards of 15-24 kilograms.
Shane is an Executive Member of the Tuna Club of Tasmania, keen tuna fisherman and skipper of his own game boat, "Crazy Bear'.
His best advice for bluefin is preferably early in the morning although later in the afternoon can be good as well. These are peak daily fishing periods because the amount of direct sunlight is at a minimum and, as a result, does not push the light-sensitive tuna to deeper feeding depths. This may also explain why Shane prefers, and is most successful, on overcast and drizzling days.
Shane's favourite spot for bluefin is the Hippolyte Rocks off the Tasman Peninsula where he chooses to run short troll lines (10-20 metres) using his favourite and, ever increasingly rare Yo-Zuri squid skirts. He also runs both weighted and pusher-style lures in brands such as Mascott; Pakula; Pacific and Top Gun. Our last tip is to use pink and clear as a bluefin lure colour.
David and Michelle Reid
David and Michelle manufacture Reidy's Lures - a budget priced, pusher-style lure for targeting small marlin; yellowfin; bluefin and albacore tuna. The heads are tinted in various colours with prism inserts and joggle eyes. Dressed with Yo-Zuri top and underskirts the lures give the angler more than enough scope to match the conditions of the day. The Reid's recommend bright coloured lure like pink; orange; yellow and fluoro green for albacore and darker colours like green; dark green; black; purple; silver; dark red and translucent blue for bluefin. When targeting bluefin the Reids" look for plenty of bird action and troll around prominent fixtures like the Hippolyte Rocks, Cape Pillar and Tasman Island. One suggestion that holds true on most species is to use dark lures on bright days and bright lures on dull days. These keen locals seem to have their most successful bluefin trips on dark, choppy days and prefer a westerly wind stream. Reidy's Lures can be found in most tackle stores.
John is a very successful charter operator and runs his "Pauletta Charters" out of Eaglehawk Neck. His day usually kicks off taking his crew straight to the Hippolyte Rocks in search of bluefin and then, if need be, further trolling south towards Tasman Island/ Perseverance is the key, according to John, and nothing will help and angler more than time spent on the water.
One only has to look at John's impressive daily success rate to gauge his ability to find bluefin. As a result his trade secrets are hard to come by but John does suggest trying an assortment of Shark, Zuker, Pakula and Top Gun lures. John places a lot of importance on water temperature and prefers to fish areas of 14-16°C for bluefin. Your last tip from John is to fish dark, choppy water usually associated with dark skies and breezy conditions. As John says, "The rougher, the better for bluefin'. Definitely not for the queasy-stomached and inexperienced, or for that matter unseaworthy vessels, but ideal bluefin conditions none-the-less.
Fish any form of blustery westerly weather, although choppy SW is usually the best. - Fish early in the morning or later in the afternoon, or all day if conditions are rough and breezy. - Use well-maintained fishing tackle and ensure all reels hold enough line and are fully spooled. - Fish water 14-16°C. - Periodically check bluefin stomachs and inspect baitfish to ascertain not only lure size and colour, but also the feeding pattern of the tuna. - Fish lures that search different depths in the water column, such as Bibbed Rapalas, CD-18s and Halco Tremblers. - For bluefin use dark lures: dark green; green; brown; purple; pink; blue; translucent blue; red and black. - Finally, patience, perseverance, persistence and a little luck will go a long way.