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Bluefin are back!
  |  First Published: July 2010



Last year we had that run of monster southern bluefin tuna, the first in this part of the world for a few decades, and it was mentioned in the July issue that it would be great if they returned this year. Well, they’re back, bigger and better!

Some guys from Wollongong Sportfishing Club had been hoping for the tuna comeback and had put in a lot of homework. They took on the odds and on their first attempt had all five rods go off at once, and with only three aboard, they were stretched.

The two 15kg outfits were left to their own devices and were eventually spooled or busted off and one fish escaped when the lines crossed but two were landed, with Luke Dodd scoring an impressive 82kg fish and Russell Emms nailing a sensational 117kg bluefin. Skipper Kev Ward went fishless.

They backed up two days later and at the same spot at the same time, all five rods went over again and with still only three aboard, again two rods had to be left.

Eventually three fish removed themselves so it was a bit easier with only fish on 24kg and 36kg stand-up tackle.

After a couple of hours, Adam Thorn’s 130kg bluefin hit the deck on the 36kg gear and then a few hours later Kev landed a massive 132kg tuna on 24 kg tackle.

These are outstanding captures but they weren’t the only fish caught. Word got out very quickly and there were quite a few other captures of 80kg to 110kg fish.

The good news is that plenty of other big fish could be seen on the sounder over just about the entire length of these fights.

These fish were caught well offshore so don’t rush out and fuel up the 4m tinnie or start towing lures behind the Hobie. Although some fish did come from 80 fathoms wide of Wollongong, most were taken more than 60km offshore.

The big fish were wide off Bellambi while others came from the canyons off Kiama, and they appear to have been off the Shoalhaven at the same time.

They were well spread out, proving you no longer have to go to western Victoria to score a big bluefin.

You have to congratulate the people in government who have been keeping strict quotas in place allowing the bluefin to re-establish after commercial overfishing pushed them to the brink of extinction. But they are not out of the woods yet.

The longline fleet was in the harbour and offshore and right on these fish. They are a valuable commodity when harvested at a sustainable rate, and with careful planning they will be available to recreational and professional fishers for a long time to come.

They are as precious as diamonds and should be treated in the same way. De Beers mine plenty of diamonds throughout the world each year but only a small portion are let onto the market at a time thus keeping the prices high, pretty smart.

Now here’s a thought: Yellowfin tuna have been overexploited by the longline fleet and grow much quicker than bluefin so let’s whack some restrictive quotas on yellowfin and get them back to somewhere near how they were not so long ago. It can be done if someone has the courage.

RED TARGETS

For the rest of us inshore or on the land, things are starting to pick up a bit but there is still a long way to go.

Snapper are still the main target this month with the first few weeks looking good. With the full moon later in the month the snapper should feed well into the morning and start early in the evenings.

Cuttlefish should be popping everywhere so the snapper will be in prime condition after gorging themselves. Get in now because numbers will thin out dramatically in September.

Trevally will be thick in the berley trails, particularly around the islands and the shallow reefs around Shellharbour. A few bream also can be picked up in the sheltered bays.

If you see a few fish slicing the surface chasing bait, chances are they will be big striped tuna. Small schools of fish over 10kg show every August and are dynamite on light tackle.

Salmon will be slashing the surface too. Small lures cast into the schools will catch both stripies and salmon, while pilchards on ganged hooks cast into the washes around the headlands and islands will score plenty of salmon as well.

Towards the end of the month a few decent kings should start to show over the deeper reefs with knife jigs and live baits set deep scoring fish – if the leatherjackets are not about. They have been in swarms, making it impossible to fish some reefs at all.

For the bottom bouncers, a few flathead are out already but not in numbers. Pigfish and mowies are over the reefs with plenty of small snapper.

While leatherjackets are tasty, even the bottom bouncers are giving them a miss when they start to swarm. They have been coming right up under the boat and biting off lines just below the surface, causing major gear loss.

BEACHES QUIET

The beaches are quiet with the usual salmon and tailor in the evenings, with pilchards on ganged hooks doing the job. A few trevally have been in the surf and while the bream are not in numbers, kilo-plus fish regular and even a snapper might even be on the cards on the northern beaches if a south-easter blows and a few reds follow the cuttlefish into the surf zone.

The jewies have been very quiet but you never know when they will show up.

On the rocks, drummer are the main targets with good fish on most platforms, particularly when the settles down after a blow. Free-floating cunjevoi baits or cunje under a float or bread in a bread berley trail will do the trick.

Snapper are a good chance this month, particularly on the deeper ledges.

A few bream are in the washes and in the quiet bays during the evenings, while on the deeper ledges there are a few salmon and the odd bonito hitting pilchards and lures.

If we get a few calm days after a westerly it would be worth a look for a groper.

If you are keen you could try for bream in the creeks on small hardbodies or peeled prawns and there should be a few big mama flatties working their way down to the mouth for spawning.

If you do hook one, don’t use a net, lift it, or even get it out of the water at all. Remove the hook quickly while in the water beside the boat or in the shallows and maybe if you are quick, get a pic with it still in the water and you may not jeopardise its spawning run too much.

Facts

ETHANOL FIASCO

Within 12 months it will be almost impossible to purchase 100% unleaded petrol, which will be phased out completely in NSW by July 2011 and replaced with 10% ethanol unleaded apart from in a few selected marinas, where it will easily be the price of premium unleaded.

This means most boats with built-in fuel tanks, and especially those with pre-2005 outboards, will have to use ethanol-free premium unleaded. My enquiries indicate that ethanol-blend fuel in older outboard motors can eat out the membranes in the fuel pumps.

I know this from experience and it is a very expensive exercise. I copped a bad batch of fuel a few years back that was supposed to be unleaded but was unlawful ethanol blend.

Apart from the embarrassment of being towed in, I could have been caught in a dangerous situation if conditions had changed.

If you check the pump at the service station, you should find a sticker that says ethanol blends are not for use in marine or aircraft engines.

And if you do not use your boat for more than a few weeks, the ethanol will separate in the fuel tank, create sludge, attract water and eventually damage fuel lines, tanks, pump membranes and even engines themselves. So be aware and buy premium, just another slug in the guts for we over taxed recreational anglers. – GC

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