Tuna Tips – Part 2

So lets continue our Tuna Tips journey with Kelly Hunt as he gets into the lure to use, how to use them and other interesting things……… 

LURE STYLES, COLOURS AND SIZES.

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Traditional skirted pushers have been the favour of most anglers for a very long time when targeting Tuna. I think for good reason. A well made tuna skirt does the job of what it was created to do very well and that’s to mimmick a fleeing bait fish.

More and more we are starting to see “sub” surface lures like MAC baits and big bibbed divers. These lures are fantastic options when it is bright conditions or the fish have shut down a touch. The extra action these lures generate can raise a strike out of a fish purely for that agonising wounded bait fish waddle. Their other advantage of course is they offer another dimension to the spread by being down deeper into the food bowl.

Colours for these lures start out with “matching the bait” Work out what your target fish are feeding on, the size they are on and you won’t go far wrong….. OK smarty pants explain Pink Mac baits

You have me there I got nuff’in. Pink Mac baits have been a fantastic lure for Tuna and the explanation on why is a fun topic. It can be argued it’s the “action” or it may be we started to have success so they are always the one out, so it “just Seems’ like the GO TO for any occasion.

The fishing for large Tuna down south has had great success with Halco’s Brown Bomber and other patterns. These lures once trolled slow reach fantastic depth and can find a hungry fish down deeper.

Skirted Surface lures are the big player in the art of catching Tuna. There are a number of good quality brands that work very well. Here is the point that I like to make. They do have to “work”. By work I mean breath, pull down a smoke trail and re surface. There are a number of different head shapes that dictate when and at what interval they will do this at any given spread position. The general rule of thumb is the longer the head the further back in the spread that lure should run. The shorter lures with a cupped face when working well should cup a bit of water forwards when they take a breath. All these factors will have your spread doing what it is intended to do and that is look like a nervous bait school.

Tasmanian conditions demand that you have a couple of lures from the Zacatak lure range. Zacataks are a quality Australian made lure and have a massive range of skirt combinations that mimic our Australian bait fish.

Lure skirt combinations that mimic squid are also a good choice and a good starting point to any spread.

Weather can be a big decider on what type of lures to run. If the conditions are a bit sloppy and windy it may pay to slow a touch and run some bigger cup faced lures that will hold in the water better. Should the weather deteriorate further then some deep divers along with a couple of Jet Heads may work best.

TROLLING SPEED AND LURE SPREADS

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Tuna trolling speeds are within a range of six (6) and eight (8) knots. Switching to larger lures can draw interest from Yellow fin and Bluefin Tuna, but the trolling speed is still there abouts. If you have surface skirts out keep an eye out on how they are behaving. If they are skipping and tumbling out of the water you are going a bit quick. If they are a bit listless and not coming out to breath you are going a bit slow.

If they are spending more time out of the water than under the surface it may be time to slow down a touch. Traveling up wind and against a swell will also affect your speed so keep an eye on your spread and adjust speed accordingly when you turn and run with the sea again. When trying to find fish you can run as many rods as you can manage and try and work straight lines. Once you find fish and mark them with a waypoint, pull the spread back to 4 allowing you better ability to wheel around and pick up some more without any issues.

MIX IT UP

Trolling skirted lures is the traditional domain of the Bluefin hunt, but if you close your mind to other ideas you will miss a lot of opportunity. There are a number or reasons to use other tactics at your disposal and try some sub surface lures. SEBILE lures manufacture a number of lures that are attractive in this space. Quality and strength is paramount and Sebile have this in spades. Just as important is function and fit for purpose. The Sebile Bonga Jerk is a fabulous lure when running skirts over the top. The Bonga will handle skirted trolling speeds of 5-8 knots with ease. We have run one right under the prop wash on short corner with a lot of success. To maximise the lures deeper running potential you can run then well back in a shotgun position just out of the prop wash. The idea of the sub surface lure is to raise those fish within striking distance. If they are being stubborn and you feel you need to get deeper down to them, look no further than the Halco Laser PRO range. They are a good deep diving lure that will run sweet to 5knots. We find that once a decision has been made to raise fish we have seen on the sounder, slowing down and presenting divers over skirts works well.

CHECK THEIR TUM TUMS

If you have put it all together and found some fish, one of the best things to do is check a fish’s stomach contents. This will give you some idea of what bait the fish the Tuna are on and may give you some ideas on what lures place in the spread. Tailoring your lure presentation to colour and size of the bait being fed on can maximise your success.

TEASERS

I am personally a fan of having some sort of “Teaser” running at the rear of the boat. They can take many forms and come in a number of styles, but something at the back of the boat creating a splash and or a flash cannot be a bad thing. The wash of the boat is already creating froth and bubble that fish will come to investigate. The added shape and flash of a teaser will keep them interested until they spot your lures.

WATER DEPTH

The decision on what depth to fish for Tuna can also be attributed to another factor … Bait

Large concentrations of bait can be found out on the shelf and working the areas across the considerable depth variations can work very well. It can be very easy to get hung up on a lot of tips and age old ideas on when and where to catch Tuna. Water depth is a classic example. Most defiantly there are areas that hold fish and are great places to start, but fish do two things. SWIM and EAT ! They have tails and must at times be in transit for their next meal. If next time you are setting off for a known Tuna holding area and the weather doesn’t allow you to get there fast, put the lures out and troll there. You may be surprised!

What I am trying to say is if you don’t have a boat big enough to chase Tuna on the shelf or off the back of Tasman Island. Come out of the shelter of Fortescue Bay and sneak about weather depending. St Helens in and around Merricks is another area that can hold Tuna and not be an issue to a smaller vessel.

Schouten Island has been holding tuna right up against its eastern edge all month and can be missed if you have the mindset of going far and wide all the time. These are areas in Tasmania but the same works for mainland areas. If there is a good section of water with a few birds sniffing about, don’t power over it to go 12 more miles to the shelf. Set a spread out and give the area a few runs and zig zag about. Same applies if your sounder picks up a good bit of bait in an area. It is worth a few runs over it trying to pull up some feeding tuna.

BIRDS – WHAT DO THEY MEAN?

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If you are a fisherman you love birds! You might not be that happy with the big Albatross that picks your shotgun lure out of the spread, but any other bird is the fisherman’s friend. When trolling around scanning the horizon for birds, there is nothing as exciting as watching a group of gannets gaining height and then start to dive bomb the surface. This means they have found some bait that is on the surface. More often than not bait are on the surface because something considerably bigger than them is feeding on them. The birds can see this commotion and think “free feed” Everyone loves a free feed and the birds of the southern ocean are no exception. This concentrated bird activity is a key indicator of TUNA. If it is happening some distance away, pull the lures in and motor over. Once within a couple of hundred meters calmly re set your spread and work the edges of the “FEED”. The worst thing you can do is motor right through them.

Leave the shotgun lure out a little further than you might normally and this will allow you to skirt the edge , but pull that lure right through the middle.

MOON

Moon phase, time of day, wind direction and cloud cover. To me all this does matter , however it is an article all in itself. What I would like to share is most of us have little opportunity to go fishing at the drop of a hat and to try and target fish feeding trigger points. I would suggest that when you go fishing keep a log book. Write down the weather and conditions. Put pen to paper when you caught a fish and log time and conditions. Keep it short and very specific. After a short while you will have some decent information that will suggest to you the better times to go out and raise the percentage of being successful. Then it can be used to plan future trips and better outcomes. It’s great to just fish with mates and be out in the elements, but coming home with a nice amount of freezer fodder keeps the cook happy.

OUTFITS

Overhead reels or big spinning reels? This question really depends on personal choice and the probability of entering any fishing competitions. The overhead reels are excellent for line holding capacity and ease of setting breaking strain parameters. The lever drag systems can be pre-set checked and you have the confidence that where you set the lever is the pre-determined drag tension. Overheads also have the added ability to attach a fighting harness should you come along that fish of a lifetime. Egg beaters or spinning reels are coming into favour and for good reason. The bigger jobbies in the 8500 series and above have enough line capacity and drag pressure to hold most Tuna an angler will encounter. It takes a bit of getting used to setting strike drag and ramping them up to fight tension, but it all comes from a little practice and you are good to go.

CARING FOR YOUR CATCH.

Tuna destined for the table should be bleed immediately after capture. Knifing in behind the pectoral fin 90 degree’s to the lateral line will allow this to be achieved. Let the fish bleed out into the kill well or fish bin and then place on ice. Getting the fish on ice is important in keeping the flesh in best condition. If not in a competition it is often best once the fish has been bled and rested to take off the edible flesh as soon as you can. This allows the fillets to be iced down in eskies a lot easier than whole fish. It also solves the issue of cleaning back at the ramp and looking for somewhere to dispose of the frames in a responsible manner.

SAFETY

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The technology we all have at arm’s length is amazing and there is no excuse for not being able to access an up to date weather forecast. When venturing offshore to target Tuna it is very important not only to have the weather in mind before you go, but also to have an understanding of the forecast wind, and what effect that will have on sea conditions throughout the day. Depending on direction and strength, a nice looking morning on the water can turn very uncomfortable later in the day. In Tuna fishing you cover a lot of ground and can be quite some way from the boat ramp. Coming back home into nasty weather that is only getting worse IS NOT GOOD!

The sometimes long hours between strikes can be a great time to show those on board where the safety gear is located and how to use it for those new to the sport. I like to have a bit of a “Half Time” tidy up as the day goes on as well. If you have been lucky enough to have hooked and caught a few that can leave the deck in a bit of disarray and with lure leaders, Teaser ropes and spare rods and Gaffs about it can get a bit hectic. Lunch is a good time to get everything back nicely stowed and reset for some more action. Not a lot worse than to lose a fish of a life time due to tripping over something or failing to get the rod out and around the back of the motor because you got caught up on the squid rod you had in the way.

DON’T PANIC

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Once you have hooked a fish the hard work has been done. You have found the fish. Have the skipper put a way point down and settle into the battle. There is no need to try and rip the fish’s head off and get him to the boat in 10 seconds flat. Get a sense of the size of the fish and play it out. Let the fish run if it wants to, it is hardly going to wrap a pylon or reef section out off the shelf! Tire the fish and it will be easier to land later. Work together with the skipper and keep the battle over the rear corners of the boat. Tuna won’t tend to fight on the surface. Once they now something is up they will fight deep and hard. The skipper will need to be on his toes to keep the fish in the best position and circle around to keep the line away from the gunnels. If you sense the fish tiring, work the Tuna up closer to the boat but watch for it circling under the boat. The angler must be ready for this and have the rod out of the gimble and tip in the water should they need. You can use a Tuna’s propensity to circle at the end of a fight to your advantage. No need to leader the Tuna over to you roughly, just allow the fish to circle around and as it comes into range fire a gaff shot. If you miss , stay calm and hit him on the next lap.

HAPPY DAYS Get out there with a plan in mind. Set a date , sort your crew and get them organised. A great day on the water awaits so get amongst them.

Have a great day from the lads at Team PENN

Ps. DON’T FORGET THE ICE !

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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