Catching Yellowfin Tuna off the coast of Cairns.

Yellowfin Tuna off the coast of Cairns

Catching Yellowfin Tuna

By Dylan Brier Mills


Lately I haven’t been doing much fishing because Grade 12 is one busy year but last week I made the decision to put school on the back burner for a while to christen my new gear. On Wednesday night with the tides perfect for some big Salt water Barra we went to a local spot to try our luck. Throwing big Soft plastics the 3 of us missed two fish each including a few over the metre mark.

Whilst fishing for Barra we noticed the wind had dropped out and it would be a good opportunity to go off shore. It was about 11pm when we made the decision to head out early in the morning. A quick stop at home to grab my gear and a note on the bench for my parents it was all systems go. Unplanned trips always end up being awesome!

The preparation for a trip is always fun and very important; it’s easier doing on dry land then out in the blue. Up until the early hours of morning we tied knots, upgrade terminal tackle and loaded the boat. An alarm at 5am set for a fishing trip is so much better than one set for work or school. On the way out wide we decided to pop some schools of bait for GT’s. I had never really popped for GTs before so I just threw plastics and produced a nice Mackerel while Declan and Troy each got a GT. 

We continued to reef hop all day with multiple Coral Trout & GTs coming aboard. Late in the arvo we stopped inside the shelf to have a feed, probably the best decision we made all day. On the horizon we could see a few birds and what looked to be like some fish busting up so we headed out there to witnessed a sight that had to been seen to be believed. The glassed out water had been turned into a white water park with Yellow fin, Macs & many other big creatures feeding on huge bait ball. 

We were all excited to throw a cast into the mayhem so without really thinking Troy threw out a slug on 15lb Braid & a 3000 sized reel......Let the chase begin! He had hooked a Yellow Fin Tuna around 20kgs and after a solid 20mins we boated it. It was now a race against the sun for Dec & I to get our first YFT, luckily for us we each got a nice one then it was time to head home in the dark. 

The second day we headed off just as the sun started to rise, but with the GPS playing up we had to slow down until it found some satellites and decided to start working. In the mean time we stopped on an inner reef, getting busted off by multiple reef fish and mackerel. 

With the GPS finally working we headed out in search of more bait balls hoping there would be some GTs sitting around them up in the shallow waters around 5 meters. Only the little ones about 10kg wanted to play the game and they weren’t much of a challenge on an 18000 Stella with 90lb braid rigged up for fish over 30kgs. We all decided that there was only one thing in mind that we wanted to catch all day, Yellow Fin Tuna.

We headed out to about 60m’s of water near the shelf and luckily for us the birds, bait & tuna were going ballistic. Before getting to close to them we stopped the boat and talked about what we were going to throw all afternoon, Stick baits were the winner so we all tied one on and motored closer to some birds circling. As we stopped the boat there didn’t seem to be much busting up on the surface but we all had a cast anyway. Maybe just two of us should have casted, within seconds of the stick baits getting cranked across the surface we had a triple hook up on good size YFT. 

With three tuna screaming in all different directions it was fair to say we experienced some mayhem on the deck. In the end Declan loosened off his drag, put his rod and let the fish swim off out the back so he could help Troy and I land our fish. Half an hour later all three fish were boated and released in good condition. The bait and tuna seemed to go deep again while this happened so we took the time to take our trebles off and put one big single hook on the back to make it easier to release the fish boat side.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur with many more triple hook ups and countless doubles. The best part of the action was when we were able to say that we had enough of getting stretched by fish, so we decided to take all of our hooks off. I never thought id have a session when I could fish hook less stick baits just to see the explosive strike of a barrel come out of the water and maul the lure. Some of the strikes were so aggressive they peeled off 20meters of line before letting go of the hook less stick baits. We discovered in the end that as long as there were birds hovering around, if a stick bait went anywhere near where they were the tuna would just explode out of the water after our lures. Sadly it was time to leave the action and head back to the ramp in perfect glassed out conditions. On the way back we were all in shock to the afternoon we just witnessed and all agreed that it was a once in a lifetime experience. 

The gear I used for the two days fishing was a Shimano Sustain 10000FG with 50lb Power Pro depth hunter braid. The reel is silky smooth with a fair amount of drag that put me up against the side a few times. It was perfect for the Shallows when working plastics and could cast a mile for the Yellow Fin.

The rod I used the majority of the time was a Shimano Tcurve Revolution 200-400. This rod was great when we were working plastics and jigging. It had plenty of power through the whole rod that could stop any large reef fish from getting back to their hole. 

The stick bait I used for the tuna was an Orca stick bait. The action of it was great working side to side underwater slowly, but the Tuna were all over it when worked fast skipping across the surface. Ready to use straight out of the packet, the hooks and rings on them held up to some solid fish under heavy amounts of drag.

The thing I’ve learnt from those two days of madness on the water is if you’re a keen fisho never let a good gap in the weather slip, get out there and get amongst them while you can. It may turn out to be one of the best fishing trips of your life, just like it was for us. YFT are excellent eating so we kept a couple for the table but 95% of them were released boat side unharmed. Catch and release is one of the greatest things in our sport today and if we spread the word more and more days on the water will turn out to be none stop action. Until next time, get out there when you can and have some arm stretching fun.