Yellowfin on the mind
  |  First Published: May 2012

There is a crispness in the air and daylight saving is a dim memory but pockets of warm water still feature this month, resulting in a wide variety of species of fish still on offer.

Weather will be a governing factor in what you decide to chase as May can deal light offshore winds and a calm ocean or raging southerlies and punishing seas.

With light winds and a smooth ocean, cubing for yellowfin tuna will be high on the agenda.

Drifting over the continental shelf or around the canyons while slowly laying out a berley trail is one of my favourite forms of fishing.

We generally start our day on the bait grounds securing a dozen live baits and hopefully a bunch more for cutting into cubes.

We prefer slimy mackerel but yellowtail are just as good when it comes to tuna.

These days we don’t really bother forking out big dollars on pilchards, preferring to cube with a mix of striped tuna, frigate mackerel and whatever baitfish we can catch.

Bonito and salmon also work fine and even sweep can be used.

I still like to have some pilchards in the mix but one 2.5kg block is enough.

Throughout the previous couple of months I start pre-cutting cubes of fish frames and leftover baitfish from the tail end of my LBG season and freeze them in buckets, ready for the yellowfin season.

We usually have a supply of whole frozen striped tuna and frigate mackerel as back-up, just in case we fail to troll up fresh ones on the way to productive water to commence cubing.


Our trolling spread mostly comprises a mix of Squidgies, deep-diving minnows and small jethead-style feathers or Christmas tree lures.

If the water is still fairly warm a big pusher will get a run on the long outrigger, just in case a late season marlin decides to crash the party.

The small lures account for stripies and frigates and the plastics and minnows attract albacore and yellowfin.

The usual practice is to start trolling east from around 65 fathoms, depending on what the current and water temperature is.

We are looking to hook a tuna to give us a place to stop and begin cubing but also to find a decent break in the temperature or a significant indication of feeding birds.

If those signs fail to show we make the call to cube at a GPS mark like a canyon by about 11am. Tuna seem to really like biting after lunch and into the afternoon so it pays to have your trail well established by then.

Last season plenty of tuna topping 50kg were captured and a handful of 70kg-80kg were encountered so 24kg tackle is advisable.

Even on 24kg my mate Rohan’s near-70kg fish took over three hours to beat. On lighter tackle that fish might not have been caught.


If those big southerlies prevail it will be time to break out the drummer gear and hit the protected rock gutters and inside points that break up the ocean, allowing you to safely fish rough and stirred-up water in relative safety.

All you need is bread for berley, some cheap cooked prawns, a selection of small ball sinkers and small but strong hooks.

I really enjoy fishing for drummer with braid and a snapper-style soft plastic outfit these days. Long rods and mono of yesteryear are cumbersome and take the fun out of pig fishing for me.

Bream, trevally and blackfish inhabit the same washy areas, as do the ubiquitous salmon and maybe a nice snapper, so a session flicking prawns into the suds can often produce a real mixed bag.

On the deep rock ledges big kingfish will still be a chance, as will bonito, huge salmon and possibly a longtail tuna. Since the deluges of March the big schools of slimy mackerel went MIA, thanks to chocolate estuary water stretching out to almost 60 fathoms.

If they return in numbers we might get a late flurry of LBG action.

The Winter months on the stones can also produce some red-hot spin action on striped tuna at times, about as good as it gets on light tackle. Their long, super-fast runs seem out of proportion to their size, at times keeping you stitched up for an honest 10 minutes that will feel like half an hour.

Once the brown water cleared, Ray Smith and I got stuck into some squid with one session resulting in double hook ups for the first six casts. We were giggling like a couple of kids in a lolly shop and ended up with over 20 for the session which will hopefully be converted to a big jewfish or snapper this Winter.

Speaking of jewfish and brown water, the flood rains should have sparked some life into the river jewfish and this will be a good month to chase them by day and by night. Lures and bait will be equally effective.

A few fish to 12kg have been caught and released and fish over 20kg remain a distinct possibility.

Beach jewfish have been conspicuously absent but this month is usually on of the best. All of the usual bait that jewfish love is present with salmon, tailor, migrating mullet and blackfish, so anything could happen.

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