Tuna Time in SA

Tuna Time in SA

Top banner.jpg

Tuna Time in SA

By Jamie Crawford

At the time of writing (Feb 2015) we’re experiencing another stellar SBT season here on the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula in SA. Like the past couple of seasons the fish arrived early, and have been around in strong numbers for the past several weeks. These aren’t the keg-sized SBTs that are seen in some parts of our country, but rather schooling fish in the 8 to 20kg bracket.

It’s been commonplace this season to see several patches of Bluefin all feeding in unison if you scan the horizon around some of our offshore islands and reef systems. Granted, these are generally smaller patches of fish, and they rise and dip frequently as they herd baitfish to the surface, but nonetheless it is fantastic to see some many fish scattered throughout our waters.

The better patches of fish are still a reasonable run from the coast (30 to 40km), but there are schools of SBT within around 4 to 5km from shore at certain locales. Like the past couple of seasons the fish are averaging around 12kg, and on the right tackle they make for fantastic fun.

I was fishing with good mate Ash Smith last week and we managed a better fish of around 32kg amongst the run-of-the-mill fish. The continental shelf is a long way from shore for us here on the Eyre Peninsula, which probably explains why we don’t encounter the barrels that have been present through Vic and southern NSW over the past few seasons.

The fish have been feeding well first thing in the morning and then lull for a few hours around the middle of the day. By mid to late arvo though, the fish are usually up on the surface again smashing baitfish. It’s still possible to get amongst some tuna action it the middle of the day; but the fish don’t stay on the surface for as long and push down quickly when a boat approaches so they are harder work.

We have been finding smaller hard bodied lures in the 100 to 120mm range the best bet for the smaller 8 – 15kg patches of fish, with the bigger fish responding well to 6” skirts and 140 to 180mm hard bodied lures. When we find a good patch of fish up on the surface feeding, we’ll run a spread of lures along the edge of the feeding fish. Once a rod goes off, we motor for another 20 to 30m trying for a double hook-up, which is regularly achieved.

These schools are readily accessible for trailer boats from around 5m and upwards in our area (weather permitting), and it’s usually easy to get into some action once some fish have been found. They are a highly mobile fish, and burn a lot of energy each day. This means they have a voracious appetite and will rarely pass up a meal if it resembles the baitfish they have been feeding on.

Within the next month or so, a lot of these fish will have vacated our waters and will be heading further east, with the waters along the south east of SA and western Vic the next ports of call on their eastward migration.

I have a couple of different outfits I like to troll with. The first outfit is a TLD15 spooled with 15kg mono and coupled to 10 – 15kg rod. I usually run a skirted lure off this outfit. The second is a Saragosa 8000 matched to a Deep Jig 200 rod. Although this is predominantly my jigging set-up, it trolls a diver at 4 to 5 knots perfectly, and I really enjoy using this combo for this application. It also doubles as a casting outfit should the situation present itself.

Bluefin tuna are one of our great southern sportfish, and it’s a real boon for trailer boat fishers along our cool water coastline to have access to these top fish. They are pretty darn good on the table too.  

Side 1.jpg

The Saragosa and Deep Jig combo is ideally suited to trolling hard bodies as well as jigging

Side 2.jpg

Fighting a fiesty SBT on a Saragosa

Side 4.jpg

Peter with a solid bluefin taken on a TLD15

Side 5.jpg

When approaching feeding fish like this, keep your speed low and aim for the sides of the school not the middle