How many articles have we all read in the past 15 years an article asking where all the yellowfin tuna have gone?
I know I’ve asked that question myself many times and it would be fair to say that most recreational anglers and game anglers firmly believe that commercial longlining is, at least in some part, responsible for the decline in yellowfin tuna.
I’ve heard all the usual banter from it being a cyclic thing to El Nino, US purse seiners, lack of baitfish, ocean currents and so on but the fact remains that there are definitely a lot fewer yellowfin tuna roaming the Australian east coast than there were 20 years ago.
I can remember seasons when it was a fish per bait at The Banks with at least one or two jumbo tuna hooked most sessions. We thought it would never end – that was until the pros found out they could export yellowfin to Japan and earn big money.
Within one season we ended up with several longliners working from Greenwell Point and the same scenario happened right up and down the NSW coast. Within several seasons most recreational anglers were complaining about the drop in yellowfin numbers.
I’ve raised the subject of yellowfin because now is the time that we used to get a few nice fish many years ago, and also because I happened to come across a the December 2004 issue of a US fishing paper called Western Outdoor News. Two articles grabbed my attention because they featured yellowfin tuna.
Both were about long-range charter trips out of San Diego travelling for up to four days to the Hurricane Banks for yellowfin tuna. They also get wahoo, mahi mahi and billfish but big yellowfin are the prime target.
This style of fishing has been going on for years now and it was where Sabre, Seeker and Calstar short-stroker rods, Shimano LRS Tiagra reels and Braid harness/gimbal belts were initially developed. It’s all stand-up fishing with 60kg line but what really blew me away was the number and size of yellowfin these guys encountered.
One trip on the Excel, a cross between a game boat and the Fairstar, accounted for 41 fish over 90kg! The fishing goes on 24 hours a day with the boat anchored up-current of the pinnacle and crew berleying with live sardines. The biggest fish of the trip went 132 kilos. All these fish were taken on stand-up tackle from a stationary boat so you can imagine the physical effort required to land such a pound fish, let alone three in one night as one guy did.
That 292-pounder was taken on a chunk bait fished on 100lb Big Game leader with a main line of 130lb Spectra on a Tiagra 50 reel. The fight lasted 40 minutes so the angler must have been giving it some!
Another guy who took a couple of big fish was using dead skipjacks (striped tuna) on 10/0 Mustad 7691 hooks, 130lb Spectra line and a Calstar X46XH rod that was only 1.2 metres long. A lot of the anglers were spinning up skipjack tuna with threadline outfits and fishing these whole if they could get one back to the boat without it being eaten.
One trend I noticed was the use of very short rods and braided lines on Tiagra 50 and 50WLRS (long range special) reels developed for this style of fishing. The relatively light reel has a beefed-up drag system that holds 1000 metres of 130lb braid.
This trend may work its way down here in the next few years so keep an eye out for more anglers fishing braid with smaller reels and IGFA-tested leaders or wind-ons.
It was good to read that this fishery is not just kill ’em and grill ’em although bringing home 41 fish over 90kg is hardly environmentally responsible in my books.
The anglers started off releasing 50kg tuna on the first day and ended up cutting off anything under 90kg on the last day. One angler released 26 fish from 55kg to 90kg for the trip. I’m sure none of the fish brought home gets wasted but I did find it hard to comprehend that these boats are killing so many large breeders just so some red-necked, septic tank can boast about what he caught.
God knows how long the fishery will last with that type of carnage going on. What also gave me a wake-up call was that they have so many fish over there when Aussie anglers are getting excited if someone catches one yellowfin over 50kg. Obviously the yellowfin shortage isn’t a global problem.
Several months ago I got a glimpse of a home-made DVD that comprised some video footage and an arrangement of still photographs taken by a mate. What I saw was pretty impressive with some reasonable marlin action from small boats along with some footage from the Swain Reefs off Queensland.
There was also a heap of photos and slides from Bermagui and even some old LBG photos from back when you could actually go rock fishing at Currarong. It was all put to music with some nice effects along the way.
That DVD was the first production by David Eisenberg’s Mutley Productions and was put together with video footage he shot himself and photos that were given to him for the purpose. Since that first prototype David has edited and added to the original footage and come up with a DVD that is quite professional.
Obviously the footage is all his and may not be of any significance to anyone else but he can arrange DVDs with photos or video footage taken and supplied by anyone else.
In other words, you can give him your fishing photos or video footage and he’ll put it all together into a neat and legal production with music of your choice. If you’re interested, give David a call on 0403 526 198 or email --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 657