Southern tuna on the chew

The most exciting news this past winter has been the arrival of southern bluefin tuna in NSW south coast waters. I’ve heard many rumours over the years about southern blues caught off the NSW south coast – I can even remember an article Fishing World founder Ron Calcutt wrote in the 1970s about catching SBTs to 10 or 15 kilos out of Currarong in an old DeHavilland tinnie. Since those heady days southern bluefin have really been the property of Victorian, South Oz and Tassie anglers.

While they rarely venture into NSW waters I have heard old pro fishermen at Ulladulla and Greenwell Point talk about big schools of southern blues marauding many miles off the coast in July.

This winter we witnessed a strange situation where a couple of longliners got amongst some big southern blues off Bermagui back in late June. With in a week several large game boats based in Bermi and Merimbula were heading wide and catching fish on lures. Most were in the 80 to 120 kilo size bracket; big barrels bigger than any tuna most of those boats had ever seen, let alone caught.

In a two week period dozens of fish had been caught and club record books rewritten. The biggest I heard of was a fish of around 160 kilos but many over 100 kilos were taken. That fishing was over within two weeks as the fish headed north and ended up off Kiama in late July. In a two week period the same situation occurred with dozens of fish to 130 plus kilos taken. Several fish over a hundred kilos were taken by Kiama and Wollongong boats with many more fish in the 30 to 50 size range taken by trailer boats.

I was lucky enough to be on a boat that found fish 30 miles off Greenwell Point in late July and we took four fish from a quadruple hookup. Those tuna were between 32 and 46 kilos. We only found one school that day and spent a lot of time trolling and looking before experiencing half an hour of frantic action. Even so I caught my first southern blue and who knows when they’ll show up again? It could be next season now that we have a bit of knowledge, but it could be another decade before we see another one.

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