Thursday, February 29, 2024

Hot tuna action off Sydney coast

WHEN the bluefin are “on” off Sydney – a rare enough occurrence as it is – it can be highly unpredictable as to how long their migration run will keep them in accessible range of the coast before they spear off with the cold currents into the Pacific, nary to be seen till possibly 2012…

The trip out to Heatons had been very comfortable, with the seas dropping off throughout the day and into the afternoon. After setting a trail on a temp break and furiously jigging for around 40 minutes without a look, the decision was made to head further in. The water was split between around 16.5 degrees C on one side of the break and about 18.5 on the other side. Reports had come in on the radio of good sized yellowfin between 30-55kg being caught at depths of 750-1000 fathoms. It was getting late in the day so we figured a tuna, whatever species it may be, would be better than no tuna out at Heatons. Ivan pulled the pin and we powered back in.

When we arrived back on the 1000 fathom line, the light was dwindling as the sun made its descent in the west and Rob began to cube hard. The light continued to fade, the jigs and cubes continued to flow, but still no fish. By this stage I wasn’t feeling particularly confident.

Then… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!

Line started peeling from the battered TLD 50 at a fairly steady pace, but nothing that made me think it was anything other than an average yellowfin or big albie. But it kept going, and going, getting quicker and quicker as line descended into the depths and the spool looked very sparse. I demanded that everyone pull up and we give chase, lest the mystery behemoth spool me on the first run.

Chase was made, and we got the thing under control, so the cubing began again even though we had moved off our trail. Within five minutes Steve was onto another fish which hit and ran in typical bluefin fashion. Steve was forced to the front of the boat but both fish at this stage were staying up on the surface, 400m out and well apart. The light turned to darkness and made things harder, but they were going to get a whole lot harder…

Steve’s fish managed to free itself by unknown means, the main line coming back with a clean break. My fish was staying up very high in the water column so we backed down on it and were making good line back when the unthinkable happened – the handle broke off the reel! I was left with only a metal bar and my thumb-screwing abilities. In disbelief, I persisted until I perfected a technique I hope I will never have to use again: pumping the rod, then leaning forward, grabbing the line below the last roller with my left hand and thumb screwing the metal bar where the handle was once attached, with my right thumb and index finger. Needless to say, I now have the mother of all blisters on my thumb.

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After a slow and steady fight, and some great team work from everyone on board, we got our first look at the fish and it was called for a monster bigeye. I secretly held out hope for a bluefin.

The fish got spooked by the boat and proceeded to peel off all the line on the reel until we were once again down to backing and the dread set in as I knew there was only one way it was coming up – at the expense of my hands. This long process was repeated twice, and each time the fish quickly darted under the boat, coming within millimetres of busting us off and out the other side then down again to the depths. I was only saved by my suicidally leaning over the side of the boat with the rod out of the gimbal and some superb boat driving by Ivan.

On the third time we raised the fish to the boat there was an unspoken general consensus that it was do or die time, and the rest of the crew with gaffs in hand, spearheaded by a wild lunge on the long gaff from Rob finally resulted in the call of “BLUEFIN!” With the fish on deck (moving it to the transom door was no small feat in itself), a wave of relief and euphoria washed over me as my new PB fish sat staring back at me, and I could finally relax. Fight time was about three hours, but it felt like 10 on a reel with no handle.

Examining the rig, we found that somehow the pilchard must have tied itself up when it was drifting down the trail because there was a big fat granny knot about 3cm from the hook. With all the factors stacked against us, it was truly amazing that we were able to land that fish, and I really do mean we, as it was a 100 per cent team effort.

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A happy author with his SBT which weighed in at 95.8kg.

Eddy Aspden fished off Sydney as part of a group charter with Ambition Charters. For info go to:

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