How lucky are we as Victorian’s to have such amazing fisheries around our state. One such fishery that has stood out almost above all others in the last five years, has been the southern bluefin tuna fishery in the western part of Victoria.
I remember heading down the road from Melbourne towards Portland for the first time a number of years back thinking how odd it felt to be driving west rather than east. It has become such a popular part of our sport in this state, that it is now penned in on the recreational fishing calendar as a ‘season’.
Whether it be 5kg fish or 105kg fish, preparation for southern bluefin tuna is essential. I grabbed a couple of my good mates and bluefin guns Lee Rayner and Simon Rinaldi, and probed them for some tuna essential information that we all can learn something from.
Before you hit the road, with boat in tow, what are some of the main things you double and triple check when on a tuna mission?
LR:First of all, it’s the weather forecasts and looking at multiple websites to ensure I have a good understanding of how the weather is shaping up. Then it’s making sure the boat’s in check, but especially the safety gear. I always double check all the safety gear, and going offshore in the southern ocean is no exception.
SR:I will always check my trailer bearings and the trailer in general. It can be a long drive so getting there in one piece is obviously important. I never hit the road before I check the bearings. Once I’m happy with all that I make sure all the safety gear is in check, then loaded up with all the necessary tackle and away we go!
What are your top 3 tuna lures?
LR:1.) Marlin Magic Baby Hardhead in Lumo, 2.) Black Bart Pelagic Breakfast in Big Dog, 3.) Rapala X-Rap 30 Silver Blue.
SR:1.) Richter Soft Grassy, 2.) Richter Splash, 3.) Rapala X-Rap 30 in LUU.
When it comes to rod, reel, line class and leader, what is your ideal set up?
LR:Generally speaking, I run 10kg and 15kg line on school fish, and up to 24kg line on jumbos. The reels I use are Okuma Makaira on Custom 80 Fathoms rods. I like to keep wind-ons light and short, so across the board I use 100lb or 150lb wind-on and they are only about 8ft, so I will chop them down from the usual lengths they come in.
SR:15kg and 24kg line. I always use overhead gear for the clients, as they are a good option for anglers of any level, whether it be beginners or even really experienced guys. I run Shimano Tiagras and Wilson Live Fibre game rods. In terms of wind-on, I always use 80lb and 100lb. That stays the same whether we chase big fish or small.
Once you are out on the water, what signs are you looking for to start fishing?
LR:I guess the obvious one is birds, seals and dolphins that are working and feeding, then watching and using my sounder. Keeping an eye on water temperature, looking for bait and anything that alarms me that there might be fish in the area. Electronics play a massive part in tuna fishing.
SR:It’s all got to do with how I’m reading the water, what I like, what I’m confident with. I’m usually pretty happy with nervous water that is getting stirred up by bait. I also rely heavily on the sounder. I always keep an eye on it, looking for a temperature break, or bait or even marking the tuna themselves. The reef structure is a pivotal factor in my fishing too. I spend a lot of time checking out the structure and bottom looking for ledges, reefs, inconsistent bottom depths and any of these should hold bait and in turn have bluefin not far away.
What is an ideal trolling speed for trolling skirts and hardbodies?
LR:In my boat, which throws a nice big flat wake, I troll at about 6.5 knots. Weather plays a bit of a part sometimes in the speed in which we troll, but at 6.5 knots I find it will be a good speed in even a bit of rough stuff.
SR: I think it all depends on what the swell is like and the wind too. My speed will change all throughout the day, but generally speaking, on a relatively calm day I will troll at 5-6 knots.
Finally, what are the most important things to know about targeting southern bluefin tuna?
LR:I’m critical about getting my lures to swim right! I don’t just throw them out there, I always make an effort to place them in the best spot and make sure they are swimming perfectly. It can be the difference in an awesome day and a very slow day. Another thing is, how you approach bait schools and feeding birds. Don’t just go in there and charge through a school and wreck it. Also, being aware of animal behaviour, for example birds. If they are all flying west and you are heading east, maybe think about doing a u-turn, because these birds are heading west for a reason!
SR:It’s definitely making sure the lures are swimming correctly. There’s putting lures in the water and there’s putting lures in the water. If you take the time to watch them for a while once you have put them in, you will soon see if one is swimming really well and if one is swimming poorly. The other key point on fishing for tuna in the west of Victoria, is not worrying too much about what everybody else is doing. I always encourage people to do their own thing, watch and learn from everything as you go, but you don’t need to follow and fish on top of others. In fact, moving away from a tight fleet can result in a much bigger success rate. If you can read the water and back yourself to move away from everyone, a lot of the time you will find plenty of fish.
Lee Rayner and Simon Rinaldi have both spent countless hours on the water chasing tuna. Both are finely tuned game anglers and highly-skilled when it comes to finding the fish. If you would like an opportunity to learn and fish with Simon, go to www.redhotfishingcharters.com.au and find out some more on what Simon and his Red Hot Fishing crew have to offer. You can check out some of his amazing captures and book a trip with him.
If you have your own boat and are planning a trip on the bluefin, drop in to Lee Rayner’s Fishing Fever store and chat to Lee and his staff about getting rigged up and ready to go. Also chack out Lee in action on Fishing Edge on ONE HD every Saturday afternoon (check your local guides). You can find out more about Fishing Fever and Fishing Edge at www.fishingfever.com.au and www.fishingedge.com.au .Reads: 2359