The JB Blues

SATURDAY, June 29, 2013, 5.45am. We headed out into a sea of mud. Recent flooding on the NSW South Coast resulted in plumes of dirty water that extended out past the famous Jervis Bay Canyons. A mile or two past the shelf the water began to clear up and the temperature rose quickly to 19.4 degrees.

We put the lures in at the 600 fathom line. We still had 15 miles to go until we came to the mark where the tuna had been yesterday but it seemed weird to be out here and not fishing. There were plenty of birds wheeling around but apart from a couple of half-hearted hits from either stripies or small albacore we didn’t turn a reel.

A couple of hours later we neared the mark. We were about 37 miles east of JB. We’d just passed a couple of long-line floats and saw other boats converging on our position when a call came over the radio.

“We’ve found ’em!”

The excited angler gave a couple of co-ordinates which a quick check on the GPS revealed were a mile or two to our south. I started the turn and could see other boats to our east, west and north doing the same thing. We approached the new mark and saw a couple of boats hooked up. I stayed clear, not wanting to get in the way. We did a slow circle around, noticing boats arriving from all directions. What was previously an empty ocean miraculously filled up with trailer boats all of which seemed to come from nowhere …

A big black plate boat just inside us hooked up. We kept trolling past. Then both ‘riggers popped, drags screamed and rods buckled. We were on. Mark and Andy grabbed the rods as I throttled back and started clearing lines. It started raining. Then the shotgun went off. Three fish on. I was frantically winding in an X-Rap 30 on the starboard corner when the rod was almost ripped from my hands. Mark’s brand new Stella 20,000SW started unloading line at a furious pace. Four fish on. I handed the spin outfit to Mark, taking a 15kg overhead in return. He was whooping and hollering as the fish bored downwards, 80lb braid crackling from the big gold spool. Andy’s fish spat the hook. He pulled the line and lure in, then took the loaded up 24 from the shotgun and immediately got to work on another tuna.

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Successful bluefin hookup in the rain offshore from Jervis Bay.

I took it easy on my fish as Mark worked his to the boat. He soon had it beat and I stuck the rod in a holder before leadering the tuna and sinking the gaff. We hauled the keg-shaped fish aboard, Mark was ecstatic with the first fish on his new outfit. I left him to deal with the flapping 35kg SBT and returned to my fish, which found a new lease of life and sizzled 15kg line off the spool. By now the rain was pelting down – we were soaked, the deck was red with tuna blood and all around us boats were hooked up.

Mark helped Andy land his fish, another top specimen, before I got mine to the boat. Two fish on the deck so I released the healthy tuna boatside after grabbing a few quick pics.
A series of high fives all around. What a blast! We brain spiked and bled the fish. SBT makes outstanding sashimi and I was keen to ensure our tuna were top quality. I loaded one in a PrecisionPak fish storage bag filled with ice and put the second fish into a somewhat inadequate esky.

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Jim Harnwell (top) with an SBT boatside before release, and the spoils of Saturday’s frantic session (above).

By the time we’d sorted the fish and washed the decks down there were about 12 boats around us. Most seemed to be hooked up. We decided to throw a few cubes in to see if we could get the fish behind the boat. Mark dropped a jig and hooked up almost straight away. There were thick red lines on the sounder, showing fish between 30 and 70 fathoms down. Andy fed a pillie out, missed a bite, rebaited and then came solid to a good fish. Gav McCallum, from Nowra’s McCallum’s Tackleworld, pulled up alongside and started cubing. I saw them hook and then land a nice albacore. Three guys in an alloy cat to our east were jigging and throwing poppers. I saw them fight and land several nice fish.
Mark unfortunately lost his fish but Andy managed to get his to the boat. It was a solid 40kgs and joined its mates on the deck.

Three tuna was more than enough. By this time it was mid afternoon. We were elated, wet and none of us were looking forward to the long run home. I didn’t fancy making the trip in the dark so we pulled the pin and left them biting. It took more than two hours at 18-20 knots to get back to the ramp at Murrays Beach. The Merc 150 used a total of 122 litres for the day – I reckon I had 140 in the tank with another 30 spare. Next time I’ll feel more comfortable with a full 190l in the tank and 40 litres spare. I’d worried the whole day about running out of juice … Not a pleasant feeling when you’re near 40 miles from land …

We cleaned the boat and the fish at the ramp at Husky. The usual crew were on hand and everyone got a good feed of prime tuna. I got home in the dark, put the boat in the shed and took a chunk of bluefin out of the esky, leaving the remainder on ice for the night. I vacuum sealed it all the following day but enjoyed a top feed of fresh sashimi with plenty of wasabi that evening.

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Sashimi feast (top) and vacuum sealed bags of fresh tuna. 

Big thanks to Ian Osterloh and Phil Bolton for the inside info on the productive location. As far as I know, everyone fishing that mark wide of JB on Saturday caught fish but those further north and south did not enjoy the same level of action. The fish had moved slightly yesterday but were still in the approximate area. While the SBTs were the main catch, the fish of the day on Saturday was a magnificent 79.5kg yellowfin tuna caught by Gav McCallum on a Stella 30,000SW while cubing – pic below. Maybe we should have stayed a bit longer!

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