Blowhole Bluefin – I Remember The Day

The year was 1986. I was 21 and living the single minded life of a fisherman on a quest to land his first big game fish off the rocks.

Since discovering the potential for catching game fish off our local rocks, my good mate Simon Rees and I had put in dozens of long days on Blowhole point at Kiama on the NSW South Coast.

While drifting live yellowtail or slimies we were eavesdropping on the conversations of the veteran live baiters in the hope we’d pick up some gem of knowledge that would help get us connected to a big king or tuna. We had seen some big fish hooked and lost by other fishermen and had some screaming runs ourselves but hadn’t landed anything bigger than some hefty salmon and bonito and the occasional small king and mackerel tuna.

All that changed for me on a day I remember so well. On the day in question I was to fish the Blowhole on my own as my mate had other plans, so the evening beforehand I headed down to Kiama Harbour to stock up on livebait.

I managed to catch eight good sized yellowtail and set them up in a plastic garbage bin with an aerator and headed home to get my fishing gear ready for the dawn walk out to the rock platform.


The Blowhole – A decent walk with a bucket of livies.


That morning I had a quick breakfast and loaded my rods and backpack into the back of my Subaru and headed down the steep hill to the main street in Kiama. I could hear the aerator chugging away as I drove and felt the anticipation – today could be the day I get the big fish. Visions of bent rods and screaming reels filled my mind.

As I braked at the bottom of Shoalhaven Street to turn into Terralong, disaster struck as the bin full of seawater toppled over and sent a mini tsunami flooding through the car. I pulled over and spent the next 10 minutes searching for the yellowtail that were flapping around under seats and bailing salt water as best I could.

By the time I’d cleared up the mess unfortunately most of my livebait was no longer alive and I considered giving up my plans for fishing that day and simply going home for a few more hours in bed. Fortunately I didn’t and continued on to Kiama Harbour to see if I could catch a few more yellowtail and still get out on the rocks before the sun got up.

Luck was on my side as I managed to catch half a dozen yakkas and a couple of slimy mackerel in the next 40 minutes and headed out on the long walk from the Blowhole carpark to the point where I intended to fish that day.

The rocks were deserted, which was a bit unusual for such a popular spot, but there was a reasonable swell rolling in from the northeast which made the rocks a bit wet and limited the area that could be safely fished.

I set my gear up on the north west section of the point which wasn’t copping the splash from waves, installed my live bait in a blow-up kids pool and soon had a lively slimy towing a torpedo float out towards the current line.

The day proceeded to follow the pattern of many before it with me watching the drifting float for any sign that a predator was showing interest in the bait fish, adjusting the amount of slack line on the water surface to avoid it snagging up on the cunjevoi and  every couple of hours replacing the tired yakka or slimy with a fresh one.

By mid afternoon the early start and sun had me feeling lethargic and I made myself as comfortable as is possible on Kiama’s volcanic rock and lay down for a snooze.

There hadn’t been a sign of a fish and I didn’t really expect any change as the afternoon dragged on. I dozed for about an hour, then got up and prepared to reel in my rig and head for home.

I was surprised to see the yellowtail was gone from the hook as there’d been no run and no click of a ratchet as it was taken. Feeling a bit more hopeful and with thoughts of heading for home put on hold I checked in the live bait pool for a new bait and selected an energetic slimy mackerel and gently cast it a few metres out from the rocks.

As I fed out some line to get the bait away from the rocks I was amazed to see a big tuna porpoising towards my float and it all went a bit surreal as it took the slimy and headed out to sea at no great speed.

I let it run for about 30 metres and then engaged the 4/O Penn Senator and lifted the rod to set the hook.

That’s when the enormity of what had happened struck me: I was finally hooked up on a big fish and I was also on my own with no one to help me gaff it, if and when, the opportunity arose.

The fish headed south in a big arc that had me chasing it around the eastern tip of the headland. This put me in a position where the waves were breaking against the rocks and the backwash off the cliff at the rear of the platform caused me to lose my footing and I found myself on my rear end being washed along whilst trying to maintain control of the tuna.

When I regained my footing and clambered onto some higher rocks I discovered one of my shoes had been sucked off by the force of the water and worse still some loose line had become looped around the my reel … if the fish made a sudden run it would easily snap the 30lb monofilament.

The fish gods were definitely on my side that day as I managed to unravel the line from the reel’s handle and continue pumping and winding the hopefully tiring fish towards the rocks. At this stage of the fight it was about 100 metres out from the point and still heading south, which was in my favour as I was now fighting it from higher rocks, without the danger of being hit by waves.

I estimated that 20 minutes had passed since the tuna had grabbed my slimy and as I worked the fish in closer I started to look at where I could land it. My options were very limited.

With no gaff at hand, no one nearby to assist me and a steep rock face below my feet,  getting the fish out of the water was looking unlikely.

Luck or the fish gods were on my side once again though, because as I drew the now exhausted fish toward the south west corner of the point – which happens to be the only gently sloping ramp of rock on that side of the point – the big fish died, which allowed me to  make use of a low swell to slide it up the rocks where I could finally let out a yell of victory. I was heard by a distant tourist who was admiring the Blowhole and gave me a thumbs up as I lifted 50lbs of southern bluefin tuna. 

As I started the long walk back around to the north side of the point where I’d hooked the fish I hardly noticed the sharp rocks under my bare foot due to the adrenalin still surging through my body. It was just as well as I still had quite a big effort ahead of me in getting all my fishing gear plus a 50lb bluefin up to the carpark.

After driving to my parents’ house at Bombo and borrowing some dry clothes off my brothers, I rang my mate Simon with the news of the capture and then drove up to Shellharbour where he lived. We then headed to the local tackle store where Mark Goodyer, who worked in the shop at the time, weighed it and confirmed it as 22 kgs or 50lb in the old scale. Mark had shown me how to tie a uni knot and given plenty of advice on gear and techniques for livebaiting from the rocks, so it was great to show him the result of his tuition.


The 21-year-old author with his 50lb southern bluefin.

inline_205_ 550 3.jpg

After the taking of many photos, the bluefin was converted into several delicious steaks which were enjoyed by friends and family at a barbeque the following weekend.

Not a scrap was wasted of that noble fish, even the neighbour’s labrador that wandered into the backyard in the early hours of the morning after the barbeque got to enjoy a taste.

Now all these years later as I pursue snapper from my kayak or chase bass on fly or whiting on poppers, I look back fondly on the day I caught my bluefin from Blowhole Point.

So if you’ve ever thought you should have a go at catching yourself a really big fish off the rocks but it all seems a bit hard, I say just go for it. The memory will last you a lifetime.


Back at the old stomping ground – Carl checks out the water before sending out a cast or two.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.