Winter along the east coast is in full swing and with it has begun the annual tuna migration. Good numbers of yellowfin tuna, albacore and some big southern bluefin are starting to make their presence felt along the continental shelf as far north as Sydney and the Central Coast. According to reports from the far NSW south coast albacore have been around in sizable numbers and in some cases jumbo sizes.
According to Bermagui Bait & Tackle many local fishos have downsized their gear to small 3000 sized threadline outfits and as light as 14lb gel spun lines to take full advantage of the great sport on offer. The albacore are also readily taking everything from soft plastic lures – generally in the form of five and seven inch jerk shads and 130mm Squidgy Flickbaits – to cubes and cast metal lures.
Some of the albacore taken recently off the NSW South Coast have tipped the scales at 25kg.
Fishing World editor Jim Harnwell, in the company of BRP’s Riley Tolmay and Chris “Slick” Wright, recently got amongst several tuna offshore from Merimbula. In fairly lumpy conditions the trio accounted for yellowfin to 40kg and albacore to 30kg. According to Harnwell another ‘fin around the 55kg mark was lost on the day.
BRP’s Riley Tolmay with a yellowfin taken off the NSW south coast.
Chris “Slick” Wright with an albacore.
The big news at present is the movement of big southern bluefin up the east coast from southern waters. Three Australian records are currently pending for tuna taken out of Bermagui. The heaviest of these is a southern bluefin that tipped the scales to 127.4kg. The big tuna were taken by an angler from Tathra and two Bermagui Fishing Club members. DeanFord started the outstanding day when he hauled in a massive 127.4kilogram southern bluefin tuna on 37 kilogram tackle to set anAustralian and NSW senior record. Tathra’s 16-year-old TammyPauline caught a 99.6kg SBT on 24 kilo gear to breaka 50-year-old ladies record held by Dolly Dyer.
Also at the time of writing, came news from Merimbula based charter operator Bruce Libbis on board Rathlin 11. Libbis spoke to Fishing World whilst motoring back from the continental shelf after a successful day’s trolling. The day’s session saw Rathlin 11 account for six SBTs ranging from approximately 70-110kg. Libbis said they had concentrated their efforts around 33 nautical miles offshore from Merimbula in calm flat seas and beautiful winter conditions. Libbis told Fishing World all six tuna were taken within a 400m stretch on Hollowpoint lures with the tuna located via sounder screen and displaying at a depth of around six metres.
Rathlin 11’s recent SBT haul.
Catches of southern bluefin tuna have also been occurring wide off Sydney with fish to 80kgs taken at Browns Mountain over the weekend of June 27/28. There have also been reports of a 101kg SBT being caught offshore from the NSW capital.
While the state of the southern bluefin tuna fishery appears to have been on the rise in southern Australian waters over the last few years the species is still listed as “endangered” or “threatened” as has been the case for several years. According to World Conservation Union (IUCN) statistics SBT have undergone around an 80 per cent population reduction over three generations based on year 2000 figures.
As Fishing World looked into this further major inconsistencies within laws relating to southern bluefin tuna in Australian waters were uncovered. A confusing situation currently exists where southern bluefin tuna are listed as endangered under NSW law but not so under Commonwealth law. It appears the different management agencies take different views on the conservation status of the species. Complex management arrangements for commercial fishing too (under the 1991 Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS)) state that off NSW the Commonwealth has jurisdiction over all tunas by longlining, purse seining and pole and line fishing. NSW has jurisdiction over SBT inside 3 miles – a zone in which commercial fishing for the species is not permitted – and also has jursidiction for recreational fishing for all species from the shore out to the 200 nautical mile limit, including SBT.
Despite current bag and size limits for rec anglers in NSW (90cm plus two in total; less than 90cm five in total) the species is still listed as endangered in the state’s waters. In Victoria a two fish bag/possession limit applies, with only one fish to exceed 120cm in length.
As the long term future of southern bluefin tuna appears uncertain Fishing World suggests rec anglers should consider practising tag and release on SBT whenever possible to minimise the impact on a still highly vulnerable fishery.