Persistence pays with mega bluefin

SUPER keen anglers put in hard yards and were rewarded with spectacular catches of massive southern bluefin tuna off Sydney yesterday.

The Kiama-based game boat Profishent, a 40-foot Luhrs skippered by well-known angler Sondal Bensan, left the protected South Coast harbour at 5.30am yesterday and headed northwards. Onboard were crew members Jay Marmont, Clint Rimmer and Scott Brown.

Brownie, a Fisho writer, had given me the good oil that the fish were heading north. Together with regular fishing mates Guy Jamieson and Ian Osterloh, we ditched plans to launch at Jervis Bay and instead towed the Fisho Bar Crusher up to Kiama.

We said “g’day and good luck” to the boys on Profishent as they left their mooring. Unfortunately we didn’t have the fuel capacity to follow them north and instead went east to some marks about 20 miles out from the Kiama Canyons. Our plan was that we’d intercept stragglers as they followed the current uphill. It was clear from radio chatter that the best water was well to the north of us. Boats fishing out of Wollongong were already talking about steaming up to Browns Mountain off Sydney.

We crossed the shelf line and headed nor-east. The water temp rose from 17.8 to 19 degrees C in less than a mile and then dropped to 18.3 just as quickly. We kept heading out, hoping to find the 20-degree water the fish were reportedly in. Further south boats reported very cold water. Looked like we’d made a good decision to launch at Kiama …

The radio was alive with skippers theorising on where the fish might be. One boat, Anticipation, had the brilliant idea to organise a spotter plane out from Albion Park. We listened with interest as the pilot spoke with Anticipation’s skipper. The plan was for the plane to find schools of fish and then broadcast the co-ordinates. A damn sight quicker and easier than driving around the ocean in the hope of finding a patch of tuna. Unfortunately low cloud and rain showers prohibited the ability of the plane to spot fish and after about 45 minutes of searching it headed back to the airstrip.

Kudos to whoever came up with the idea of hiring a spotter plane – a fantastic example of fisho ingenuity. As I understand it, costs are minimal when spread over a number of boats – expect to see more spotter planes employed over coming SBT seasons. TV host Rob Paxevanous is sending a plane out from Wollongong on Saturday so it will be really interesting to see what images and vision he ends up with.

We eventually found some good water and put the lines in. Apart from a few stripies, it was very quiet. Further north we heard boats reporting good numbers of solid albacore – it was frustrating to hear about multiple hook-ups 30-40 miles north of us!
Then an excited voice reported a hook up on SBTs. “The fish are under the boat! Under the boat!” The skipper gave the co-ordinates – they were SE of Browns Mountain. With that the boys on Profishent, who at that stage were off the Wollongong area, made the decision to pull their lines in and blast even further northwards. Brownie got on the radio and let us now they were heading off. It was a big run and a major gamble. They’d chew a heap of fuel, be miles away from home and there was no guarantee the fish would be there when they arrived.

We all wished them the best of luck and continued our fruitless troll. Little fronts kept blowing through, dumping rain on us. We were wet, cold and fishless.

The guys up north stayed on the radio, giving reports on what the fish were doing. Good reports of multiple hook ups on SBT to 60 kilos were coming over the radio. We also heard about a 45kg yellowfin, as well as big numbers of albacore to 10 kilos. We even heard about a decent dolphinfish! It sounded like it was going off up there.

The key to SBT fishing is to get as many boats cubing around the fish as possible. Berley keeps the fish active and in one location. There’s no room for secret squirrel stuff when chasing SBT – it’s a team game and everyone on the water is part of the team. If you find fish, the idea is to let everyone know exactly where you are so they can blast over and get some cubes in the water. Obviously there are protocols to follow – for example, you don’t troll through a patch of working fish – that just puts them down. You get close without being too close and berley. More often than not you’ll stir the fish up and everyone has a fat time.

After a few hours we heard Sondal on the radio asking about the fish. They’d arrived to the mark after a long run at 25 knots. Heartbreakingly, the fish had gone down and stayed down. They were visible on the sounder but just weren’t biting. Damn!

By this stage it was late afternoon. We hadn’t even seen a fish. We slowly began edging westwards, not wanting to give up but knowing our chances of fish were minimal. Just then the shotgun screamed off. Guy took the rod and watched in amazement as line just kept unloading. Ian and I cleared the other lines as guy began pumping the fish back to the boat. It was way too big for a stripie or albie. SBT? Yellowfin? It turned out to be a nice ‘fin of about 25 kilos. Guy’s first and a great way for us to end the day.

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  Guy Jamieson with his 20-25kg yellowfin tuna caught while trolling off Kiama yesterday.

We got the fish on ice and began the long run back to Kiama. Brownie and the boys on Profishent were heading in as well, trolling towards the shelf and then either staying the night in Sydney or heading south 60 miles back to Kiama. Brownie sounded pretty despondent on the radio … They’d made a big call to blast all that way north in search of fish and it looked like the gamble had backfired. I felt bad for Brownie and Sondal – they’d put in some massive efforts over the past few weeks in search of SBTs but success had eluded them at every turn.

Back at the ramp we cleaned the fish and washed the boat. Driving back south towards home Guy got a text. The boys on Profishent had had a seven-way hook up on massive bluefin out around the 700-fathom line. They had had two fish of 100kg+ on the deck and Brownie was still fighting an even bigger one!

Long story short, the boys ran into a patch of mega fish on the way in. “All the rods went off, massive blue barrels were porpoising in the wash smashing everything up,” a tired but elated Brownie told me this morning. His fish, the biggest of the lot, weighed in at 131kg. Jay got one of 101kg and Clint’s went 123kg. All fish of a lifetime.

Sondal’s brave decision to gamble everything on a big run north paid off in spades. Just goes to show that persistence pays … No doubt there are heaps of boats out there again today. We’ll let you know what gets caught.

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The Profishent crew with a triple of mega SBTs which weighed 101, 123 and 131kgs.

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Scott Brown’s (bottom far right) 131kg monster SBT.

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