May is shaping up to be a fantastic month for avid blue water spearfishers with massive numbers of southern bluefin tuna on the southwest coast. The tuna have been holding in close making them very accessible in the preceding months and the build up on the shelf will continue. All indications are for one of the best seasons in years.
Through March and April the tuna have been thick in the shallower waters around Portland and Port Fairy. Leaving either towns’ harbour and travelling for less than 10 minutes into around 20m of water would put you on to massive schools of fish around the 15-25kg range, with some bigger fish amongst them at times.
The tuna have been feeding on very small profile baitfish and krill making them quite finicky and hard to catch with any consistency by line fishers, but this hasn't been an issue for spearfishers. Finding the fish hasn't been hard, by simply heading to the 20m water then looking for bird activity. When they are up and feeding it's not uncommon to have them all around the boat and freely jumping out of the water in every direction you care to look.
Local and gun bluewater spearo Christian ‘Doc’ Hughes has had great success targeting tuna recently out of Port Fairy. Doc has employed the usual methods of finding the fish visually then setting up a berley trail to hold the fish in the area. Generally after the divers enter the water, the tuna will go down but quickly come back to the surface to feed on the berley. This is the time to move in and attempt to get close enough to take a shot. Tuna move and feed very quickly and the best technique to achieve a successful shot is to focus on an individual piece of berley. When you see a fish enter your peripheral vision heading for your targeted berley chunk, this is the time to lead the shot and fire.
Timing is the key and experienced spearos like Doc have put in the time and effort required to master the skill required to hit and land SBT consistently.
May is also a great month to target reef species. King George whiting, snook, silver trevally, Australian salmon as well as abalone and southern rock lobster are all abundant at this time of year. Targeting shallow reefs and areas bordering sand holes is sure to produce plenty of fine eating fish. Heavily weeded reefs are the place to find abalone and lobster in depths of 3-10m.
With the abundance of bait in the southwest there is no doubt that May will be a great month for spearfishing so don't let the colder temps keep you out of the water. As always remember to fly your diver below flag off a clearly visible float to alert boats to your presence. Also always try to dive with a buddy and look out for each other's safety.Reads: 504