Cool Water, Big Tuna !

Cool water Al
Kaydo contributor Al McGlashan is the only angler to stack big jumbo bluefin in three different states so we thought to was time to get him to let us in on his secrets. It’s now time to grab a drink, get comfortable and enjoy an article about catching monster tuna off the Australian coast!

Feel the raw power!

I love catching tuna, especially big ones. There is something about hooking up and feeling that raw power of a big bluefin. Marlin may jump, sharks have the aggression but for sheer power tuna are number one.

This season has been a ripper with heaps of big bluefin to more than 100kg being caught in South Australia, Victoria and Tassi and now NSW is kicking into gear.

Amazing migrations

 

This is the type of tuna we are talking about - big hard fighting fish - the catch of a lifetime for many!

This is the type of tuna we are talking about – big hard fighting fish – the catch of a lifetime for many!

The bluefin undertake one of the most amazing journeys in the world. IN Australia we are super lucky and big bluefin are common in four states. While they can be caught in WA the bigger ones usually appear in South Australia before moving into Victoria. Interestingly it seems each year they appear at different spots. The first year I caught them we on the shelf off Portland, the next time it was in 50 metres of water off Port Fairy. More recently it was off Apollo Bay and then this year it was in close of Port McDonnell. The trick to getting onto them in Vic is through the fishing grapevine.

Tasmania is the most consistent big bluefin destination. Every autumn big bluefin are caught around the south western corner of the Apple Isle. The best part about Tassi is the fish often feed right in close in places like the Hippolytes and Tasman Island. Unfortunately Tasmania’s fishery has a downside is its massive population of seals which are pack attacking hooked fish.

When I caught my first big jumbo bluefin years ago seals were a bit of an issue, but now they have become a presence so strong it is near impossible to get a fish past them. For anglers it is heart breaking to see a beautiful big bluefin torn to pieces by the seals.

NSW is usually kicks into gear later in winter. Unlike Victoria and Tassi the NSW fishery is well offshore and they rarely come inside the 1000fathom line. The key to finding fish is all about understanding the currents and in particular the Tasman Front which is the front edge of the East Australian Current.

Being the first in line

 

Lures are out ,we are keeping a close watch on the sounder, and primed for an imminent hook up.

Lures are out ,we are keeping a close watch on the sounder, and primed for an imminent hook up.

The one thing that seems paramount wherever you chase big bluefin you need to be quick. As soon as you hear of a big one being caught pack you bags and go. NSW has the advantage of the fish running parallel to the coast so you can follow the bite as they migrate up. If you miss the bite at Bermi then you can try again Ulladulla, Kiama or even Sydney. The trick is to watch the SST charts and follow that 17.5 to 19 degree water as it pushes up the coast.

One hint I can offer is the big fish always seem to be in the lead pack on the East Coast. What often happens is everyone hears that reports of a few big fish being caught so they race up a week or two later to find heaps of school fish. The odd big fish is still landed but that is simply because their are more boats on the water. In reality the big fellas have moved on so stay ahead of the pack.

Unlocking big tuna secrets

The biggest question I get asked is when and where to fish for the big bluefin. Well having now caught them in three states the problem is that the variables are different for each location. However the one constant is the current. Like an underwater highway the fish ride the current along Victoria’s West Coast, around Tassi before being sucked up with the receding East Australian Current on the eastern seaboard. There is no where near enough space here for me to give you the intimate details here but the more you watch the currents the better you will understand.

Al with another great catch.

Al with another great catch.

Current aside water colour in my biggest concern. Big fish like clean water. There is no two ways about it, find the cleaner water irrespective of temperature and you are in with a shot. As for temperature I have caught them in water as cool as 14 and as hot as 20 degrees but it seems that 16-18 degree is the prime temperature range.

Finally we have the seabirds. In Victoria and Tassi the birds will point you to the fish. Throw in some seals and dolphins and the tuna are almost guaranteed. NSW is the complete opposite and there is rarely a single bird on the fish to give their presences away. This makes locating the fish a lot harder and as a result anglers work together more than anywhere else spreading out to find the fish. Once someone locates a school they call others in on the action which is awesome.

Fishing with lures and bait

 

Over the years I have caught bluefin on just about every technique conceivable, however trolling stands out as the best technique for really big fish. All my jumbos have been caught on lures in fact they have all been on the same one – a Laser Pro 190. What is even more impressive is that it is always the same colour blue mackerel (H58 to be precise). I have always trolled a wide selection of colours and styles yet it is this lure that always scores and as a result I will happily admit I am openly biased!

I like to keep it simple when it comes to trolling and never run more than four rods. Two skirts and two deep divers that is it. My favourite position that accounts for a vast majority of the big fish is the Laser Pro in the shotgun position. I have covered trolling in depth in past issue so what I want to cover here is the new technique of incorporating bait.

A big tuna under the boat prior to being landed.

A big tuna under the boat prior to being landed.

This season with so many fish around it gave me a great opportunity to really refine things. Basically I troll to locate the fish initially but have a bucket of cubes ready to go. The moment we get a bite I start tossing handfuls of pilchards out. The idea is that the bait will get the rest of school fired up and excited. Bluefin love a free hand out and will race up to the back of the boat and stay there as long as they are being fed.

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We are talking the fish of a lifetime here … huge tuna that will have you buzzing for days.

The trick is always use fresh Aussie pilchards, imported sardines are crud. While swimming with the tuna I observed first hand how fussy they can be, the tuna would rush up eat all the pilchards but ignore imported or old bait.

You also need to keep them interested. Stop the free handouts and the fish will quickly loose interest and vanish. So with this in mind you need to be prepared and take lots of bait. A couple of years back we had a big school at the boat for hours but we went through 40 kilos of bait!

I should also add the fish often take a while to come up to the boat. Once you have picked up a fish on the troll and started the trail don’t expect the action to be instantaneous. Sometimes it takes the fish twenty minutes or so to find the source so it is essential to keep the trail going. At the same time always watch the sounder if the fish are there you will see them and then it is a matter of time.

When the school does come up it is the most fun you can have with your pants. They will eat anything and everything you throw at them. For those that want to catch them on the surface lures this is it. The key is to keep feeding them.

Too hard to catch?

 

Suitable tuna lures set up with single hooks - experience has proven this is definitely the way to go!

Suitable tuna lures set up with single hooks – experience has proven this is definitely the way to go!

The amazing thing about bluefin is when the fishing is this good you end up having more fun just feeding or teasing them with hookless poppers rather than simply catching them. I know this sounds mad but I have had days where we simply feed and tease them as opposed to catching them. It is a dream come true to have huge bluefin at the boat and something all fishermen have to see just once.

Tuna fact box – get single!

If you’re seriously targeting big tuna it is a smart idea to upgrade from treble hooks to heavy duty single hooks. This will offer a better hook up rate and less chance of hooks pulling during the fight.

 

 

 

 

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