Who could believe that this year’s tuna season would produce so many fish over 100kg out of Apollo Bay?
Hundreds of boats and hopeful anglers continue to flock to Apollo Bay in search of that 100kg southern bluefin tuna. For many of these anglers that dream fish is still no closer but for a lucky few the hard work, the planning, the money, the days taken off work and away from home have paid off in a big way.
The tuna have been here for 7 weeks now and show no sign of moving on and why should they if all those bait schools hang around? The schools of bait and tuna are located on the back edge of the big reef some 36km off Cape Otway and each day can be located by looking for signs of diving birds which can be spotted from over 2km away if the conditions are right.
Having so many boats on the water, all racing to the bait schools at once puts the tuna down deep and makes them extremely hard to hook. It seems that the more boats that head out the less fish that get caught, making mid week the best time to plan a trip.
I have made six trips out to the tuna grounds this season and on four occasions our boat has hooked fish. This is an excellent strike rate as I know some boats that have made six trips for no hook ups at all and I put this down to going mid week instead of weekends.
Cubing has become very popular and is a good option when the boat traffic is thick. This can be done by pulling up on a bait ball and switching off the motors whilst throwing over a steady trail of pilchards before sending one out on your hook. Casting soft plastics into the bait balls is also very effective and constantly produces hook ups but landing 100kg tuna on threadline gear is no easy task and most of these fish have won the battle.
Trolling a mix of diving lures and skirts works well when the boat traffic is light otherwise it is hard to get your lures near the bait fish with so many boats cubing on top of the bait balls. On my last trip out I did witness three guys in a boat trolling three rods when all three hooked up at once.
With no one left to drive the boat it didn't take long for two of the fish to be lost whilst the other fish was boated after a two hour fight which involved chasing the fish over several kilometres. That fish weighed in at an impressive 127kg. I was lucky enough to capture my second tuna over 100kg on that same trip after the fish took a trolled Rapala X-Rap lure. I was fishing with Dan Mackrell of Colac who lost a fish after a 2 hour 45 minute battle that never saw us in control.
Returning to the GPS mark of his hook up it wasn't long before I was onto a big fish and all was going well until ten minutes into the fight the rod snapped in half! With the line now rubbing on the rod blank I had no choice but to take off the harness and turn the overhead reel upside down, winding backwards with my left hand. Not the most orthodox way to fight a big tuna but I eventually boated the fish thanks to some great trace and gaff work by Dan. At 117.8kg we haven't stopped smiling since.
Who knows what July has in stall but I’m tipping that many more anglers will realise their dream before the fish move on. So if you haven’t got one yet, then get down here!
These fish put up a massive fight and luck needs to be on your side to eventually land one. We got extra lucky when this one was landed using half a fishing rod!Reads: 4236