Tuna For Newbies – Part 2

Part of the infamous Team PENN – SIMRAD Fishing team from Tasmania, Kelly “Hooch” Hunt presents Part 2 of his 101 hints and tips for targeting Tuna this season.

Weather and Where to Go

Safe boating is very dependent on good weather and that is true for any fishing. Pick some good calm weather and make a plan that allows 2 days to get the job done. That way if you have bad weather on one day you have another day up your sleeve. Swell and seas below 1m and little to no wind is preferable in a smaller boat. On a bigger boat you can handle some swell and sea and a little wind. When the weather is like this the tuna seem to feed that little bit harder. I think the sea conditions just make them less timid and more likely to strike, so look to down size your lure leaders and use a high quality one. We find in very bright sunny conditions Momoi NEO is awesome. Check the Bureau of Meteorology website and learn how to use it. The METEYE section on the BOM is fantastic once you get your head around it.

Make sure you have all your life jackets and wet weather gear up to spec. While we always look to go out in good boating conditions, those conditions can change in a heartbeat. Having a trip plan based around the weather report is a great idea as well. Heading in a direction of travel in the morning that has you coming home with the sea and swell up your bum is always favorable.

The HOLY GRAIL – Yellowfin tuna showing golden sickles

The HOLY GRAIL – Yellowfin tuna showing golden sickles

What Speed…What Tuna

The speed to tow your lures is between 6 and 8 knots or 14kph. Don’t get hung up on being too fast or too slow, just do 14kph and you will get strikes. It may seem too fast if you are not used to it, but tuna are speedsters and they will smash it easily. The thing to watch out for is going too fast for your lures. If you have not purchased good quality lures they may blow out of the water and tumble. This is not desirable as the lures are not presenting well or having the hook sit well for hook up. Going down sea without adjusting speed is the biggest cause of this. If you are picked up by following swells and surf a bit your speed will increase rapidly and ruin lure spread. Pull the throttle back a little and watch the lures. They should be on the surface and then dive under a little, pulling a bubble trail down with them. They should then resurface creating some disturbance and cupping some water forward before submerging again with a little wiggle.

Bluefin showing the yellow finlets that cause confusion

Bluefin showing the yellow finlets that cause confusion

I have not been particular with specific tuna species as they will all fall for these techniques. We are lucky that we have all four species off our coasts at the minute. Southern Bluefin, Albacore, Yellowfin and Striped Tuna will all fall to these lures and tips so be prepared for anything to come over the side. The Bluefin are most plentiful along with the Albacore. Striped tuna are the much less favoured catch and unfairly seen as bait and burley. The prized catch is the Yellowfin tuna. They are superb eating and have fantastic fighting qualities. Often mistaken for Bluefin by Newbies as Bluefin schoolies have bright yellow Finlets behind their second dorsal. A Yellowfin has bigger elongated second dorsal often called “sickles” Albacore have big eyes and big long pectoral fins and Stripy tuna have stripes on their bellies, how easy is that!

Albacore have big pectoral fins and big eyes. Mozz has a big grin as this Albacore went 22kg

Albacore have big pectoral fins and big eyes. Mozz has a big grin as this Albacore went 22kg

When You Hook A Fish

The reel will scream off, maybe more than one, and it is important to remain calm in and around the excitement. Get the rods in hand and have others clear the lines not connected to a fish. Take your time as there is no rush. Be smooth and steady. Don’t give the hooks an excuse to come out by jerking and being rough. The rod is a tool and should be kept bent and with a curve in it at all times. You do this by lifting up and pulling a curve into the rod and winding down slow. You do not want nor should you try to get ten winds back each lift. Lift up and quickly get 1 or two winds back on the reel and repeat. The tuna will be as unexcited to see the boat as you are excited to finally see it alongside. This is the time for cool heads and maybe backing the drag on the reel back a touch. This will allow the fish to run smoothly should it still have some energy up its sleeve.

Tuna when tired will start to do circles in the water and the trick is to gaff the fish as it comes past in one of these loops. I have mentioned earlier about gaffing so I won’t repeat that, but watch the flapping fish. Nobody wants a hook in them at this stage. A wildly flapping Bluefin will slide over the floor and jam a treble hook or big tuna single hook in you lickety split, so be careful. I will repeat this as it is important. Bleed the fish and then place the fish in the shade or better yet an ice slurry. Bluefin is best for the table when looked after very well. Leaving on the deck of a boat all day to slide around in the sun and you would wonder why people say… “Bluefin …Oh I don’t like that, its rubbish”. Bluefin is awesome, Yellowfin is better and Albacore is totally different again. While Bluefin and Yellowfin lend themselves to Sashimi and steaks, Albacore is fantastic done in crumbs. Do some research and find a nice recipe that you like and practice it.

Short run to fish

Tasmania Is Tuna Country

I apologise for this section on being so Tasmanian specific, but we are blessed with some very special places to fish for tuna. The action can be located very close from land and around some fantastic sheltered bays and headlands. This means that with a favourable weather forecast these fish are able to be targeted by dingy or kayak.

Fortescue Bay, Bicheno and Schouten Island are all accessible by smaller boats and crews with little or no tuna fishing experience. That’s awesome for locals, but what does this mean for KAYDO fishing readers that are from mainland Australia. Well I think it is very exciting and here is why. Cheap airfares nowadays mean that with a little planning a flight to Tasmania is nothing? The Hobart airport is a little over an hour away from these tuna fishing spots and the charter operations are sensational. The operations out of Eaglehawk Neck are so close to the world class tuna fishing that when we take seasoned anglers in our trailer boat they are gobsmacked. The scenery is absolutely amazing as well and the travel time in the boat compared to most mainland destinations is ridiculously short. This of course means more time fishing and can also lead to other fishing techniques and species tried in one day’s charter. The short travel time and many headlands and bays to get out of the weather also makes for a family friendly experience. Never has there been a better time to come and enjoy some of the best tuna fishing you are ever likely to enjoy.

Fortesque Bay

Fabulous and sheltered in most wind and sea conditions with exception from anything from the EAST. It is also not a place to be in a howling NORTHERLY, but then neither is the entire area. The bay is a great place to launch and set your tuna spread in the comfort of the bay. When the tuna are as thick and as hungry as they are at the minute you won’t find you have to venture to far from the mouth of Fortescue. Keeping inside the shelter of either headland will find fish at the minute. Should you not find them in the middle or directly out front, work the areas from The Lanterns and back towards The Thumbs. It takes some getting used to but you do not have to be out to sea. You will pick tuna up very close into shore along the cliffs. Mix your line of travel up a bit between in close and out a bit wider. Always looking for surface disturbance or some birds taking interest in something.

Little bit on


A little more open to sea conditions but on the right weather pattern is an amazing fishery. The beauty of this region is again the close proximity of the tuna at present. The boat ramp is very sheltered and easy to launch and retrieve. On a very low tide some care needs to be taken, but still ok.

The fish can be found just about anywhere, but in recent weeks have been in the 70 – 100m mark. There is abundant bird life in and around Bicheno and when you come across where they are out to see it’s a great spot to concentrate on. The band of birds is often on or just before the 100m mark and this is where we found good numbers of fish. Birds are very important to the tuna fisher as they can turn a very poor day into a good one. The crew that can remain diligent and keep an eye out for feeding birds will be rewarded. Should you see some birds gaining height and diving into the water, head over slowly! Do not barge through the middle of them but circle them and work the area over.

tuna trio

Schouten Island

Another jewel in Tasmania’s tuna fishing crown is the area in and around Schouten passage. The current and water flow here brings nutrients and bait that at certain times of year, bring the place alive. You can use the shelter afforded by the Freycinet peninsular and travel down Great Oyster Bay. Set your lures in the calm waters of the passage and head out into the open sea looking for tuna. This is another spot you do not need to head off into Open Ocean. Working the edges of Schouten Island will find fish. The point down the far end has some bait holding grounds worth a look. Keep an eye out for birds that are picking right in close. They will be on fish and cleaning up the scraps from them feeding. If it is a bit quiet in close and the weather allows, head out towards the 100m depth line and again watch for bird action. The place has been alive with tuna of late and you should find them.

So get your logistics hat on and make a plan to come and fish Tasmania. If you want to contact me for more information and a few hints and tips on how to make your time in Tasmania a real winner by all means do so. It’s a fantastic place to come and sample our fine food, hospitality and fishing. Make a plan, check the weather, stay safe and tight lines.

Kelly Hunt

About Kelly Hunt

Kelly “Hooch” Hunt grew up on the North West coast of Tasmania, right on the river FORTH. Spending many hours on its banks chasing trout, at the estuary chasing salmon or knee deep at night floundering. It’s just what you did, nothing special. What is special and why Kelly has fished all his life is the friendships and adventures fishing has delivered. The life skills and amazing moments along with gut splitting belly laughs can all be attributed to his fishing exploits. The adventures now days are often offshore chasing mako shark, marlin and tuna as a member of Team PENN. Game fishing has been a massive part of what Hooch has been involved in recently and he puts this down to a trip as a teenager to Hervey Bay. The Hervey Bay pier was his playground for 2 weeks and the trout fishing took a serious back step. The lad’s eye’s where opened to a world of hard charging salty critters and he was hooked deep. Hooch is passionate and enthusiastic about his home state of Tasmania and the life skills that the outdoors and fishing have bestowed him. Family and community engagement is very close to his heart and with four kids of his own has his own little community. Developing fishing events that deliver benefit to regional coastal towns is a something he loves to do. Never is he ever likely to profess to be an expert or know everything about any one thing, however his general knowledge on boating and fishing is generous. So too is his willingness to share that knowledge. Recognising his down to earth approach and nothing’s a problem attitude Navico Australia and PENN reels Australia put Hooch to work as a national brand Ambassador. He also enjoys generous support from BRP Australia and Surtees Boats New Zealand. Kelly writes for several print magazines and contributes to a number of national blog pages, holds down a spot on radio’s Geelong Fishing Show and speaks at tackle nights when ever asked. Sharing stories, successes and failures with the same outgoing and extroverted manner that generally keeps all amused. He was also part of the crew that fought a fish for 20 hours only to have it break the line. If we ask and the scars have healed he may share that epic tale as well.

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Next Poppers in the North

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