Stare down a barrel
  |  First Published: July 2014

Water temps in Sydney are finally cooling down and some winter species are moving in. Good trevally schools in solid numbers are now being encountered inside the harbour and off the coast. The big schools of salmon that we used to get are now a thing of the past, but we are still getting smaller schools visiting so be sure to have metal slugs (small and large) ready to cast should one of these schools pop up in your vicinity.

Some very good sized greenback tailor are being reported off the stones, and some striped tuna and bonito are frequently being spun up using these same metals. When you hook up on a tuna you’ll know about it, as the speed they head off at is mind blowing.


Some yellowfin and bluefin are slowly making their way up the coast, and sporadic reports of fish up to 40kg are filtering in, which leads me to my next point. We often get asked at the shop how to target these barrels so I’ll run you through the basics of how to confront this species.

A lot of blokes are out there fishing for them but not having enough success. The fact is it’s very important to target these fish using particular applications, methods and websites to boost your chances and make sure you are totally in the zone when you get on the water. Sure – you can still just pull a lure through the water and catch a barrel sized fish but too many anglers head out for the day and come home with nothing so I’m going to run you through a few tips that I have found work a treat when you’re after the elusive offshore tuna.

Firstly, we use two main methods: trolling and bait fishing. For both methods we generally use 24kg line class as the norm in Sydney but often wander up to 37kg for mid to late season when the big boys come in.

The two popular styles of trolling are high and low speed. High speed is normally for lures like Zukers and small skirts to 7” like Billmarks and Bluefin Candies or Black Magic Jetsetters, which can be towed at quite quick speeds up and around 15 knots or so.

Low speed trolling generally involves diving lures like Rapala X-Raps, Halco Laser Pros, Strada Teras and Halco or Firenze Tremblers. This type of application also often involves the towing of live, dead or skipping baits, so be sure to try a few different styles because the tuna might just need a tad bit more encouragement on certain days.

Switch baiting is another popular method being used by a few of the guns out here. It involves attracting the attention of a fish with an artificial or hookless bait, and once you’ve sighted the fish you then switch back a rigged live or dead bait for the hook-up.

The other and often preferred application is baitfishing. The most popular method here is cubing, which consists of making a berley trail with cubed pilchards generally bought in a block of 10kg or 20kg. Each pilly gets cut up into five or so pieces and a piece gets thrown over. When it’s out of sight you throw out another. This will create a long trail of fish bits, and all that’s left to do is drop out a whole pilly or a live bait rigged with a solid circle hook in the trail 30m or so back. Before you start your trail be aware of your directional drift as it’s unwise to drift in somebody else’s trail and it certainly won’t make you any friends.

Every year we have hot and cold currents roaring up and down the coast, and where these two collide is often where fish will congregate. Tuna are no exception. Certain websites like Bureau of Meteorology, Seabreeze and SST (Sea Surface Temperature) can put you right on the money. True, these sites aren’t always right but they’re rarely all wrong so do a comparison before you leave shore. Social media like Facebook often has up-to-date tuna pics scattered throughout so be sure to like tackle store and fishing club pages to get your finger on the pulse. Some even provide successful GPS marks from recent trips which hopefully will find you the good water.

Keeping tuna in its best condition means killing it immediately. These fish can literally cook themselves on the deck through body temperature alone so you have to get them on ice straight away. Don’t forget your bag limits and remember there is a lot of flesh on a 30kg fish and a fair bit of cleaning and packaging involved, so there’s not much point keeping your bag limit if you don’t need to.

If you’d like to know more drop into Fishouttawater and see the guys or myself and we’ll be happy to be a part of getting you into that fish of a lifetime.

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