• Published:June 11, 2018
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There is something very special about southern bluefin tuna.

They don't grow as big as their Atlantic cousins, but they are easily the most common 200-pound-plus fish in Australia.
These bluefin undertake one of the most amazing migrations in the world, traveling through three oceans. For Aussie anglers it is awesome because the migration route follows the coastline making them easily accessible across five states. However, despite their wide range the best places for jumbo sized fish is western Victoria, south eastern Tasmania and southern NSW.




WHERE THE TUNA LIVE

The jumbo tuna do not consistently appear off Victoria, offering up an interesting scenario. The first year I caught them we found the fish out on the shelf off Portland, the next time they appeared in 150 feet of water off Port Fairy. More recently, Portland seems to have been the hotspot. However, the fish showed up later in the year, appearing in August and September as the mature fish headed back towards the spawning grounds.
Tasmania offers consistent action and every season anglers catch big bluefin around Eagle Hawk Neck, as well as Pedra. The best part about Tassie is the fish feed right in close, sometimes the fish will hit your baits within meters of the cliffs, so there are no long runs to sea. Not only is the scenery spectacular but the sheer cliffs offer shelter from the prevailing southwesterly winds. As a result, you can fish in inclement weather most of the time.

New South Wales is last on the list and the tuna start showing up in numbers in June, peaking in July and can stay as late as August. Unlike Victoria and Tassie when the bluefin hit NSW waters the fish hold well offshore and rarely come inside the 1,000-fathom line. The key to finding fish offshore is all about understanding the currents and in particular the Tasman Front. It’s interesting to note that of the three locations, NSW consistently has the largest average in terms of size and for some reason fish under 60 pounds are almost nonexistent. Last season saw more jumbos caught in NSW than Victoria and Tasmanian combined.

BE FIRST IN LINE

The one thing that seems paramount wherever you fish is that the big boys only run for a few weeks before moving on. In Victoria, as soon as you hear one jumbo has been caught it’s practically time to pack your bags. NSW has the advantage of the fish running parallel to the coast, so you can follow them. If you miss the bite at Bermi, then you can try again in Ulladulla, Kiama or even Sydney. The trick is to watch the FishTrack SST charts and follow that 18- to 19-degree C water as it pushes up the coast.

The big fish always seem to be in the lead pack on Australia’s East Coast. What often happens is everyone hears reports of a few big fish being caught so they race up a week or two later to find heaps of school fish. The odd big fish will be landed but that is simply because there are more boats on the water. In reality, the big bluefin have moved on. So you really need to watch the water temps and current to stay ahead of the pack.

The biggest question I get asked is when and where to fish for the big bluefin. Having caught them in three states, I can say we’ve found different variables for each location. However, the one constant is the current. Like an underwater highway the fish ride the current along Victoria’s West Coast around Tassie before being sucked up with the receding East Australian Current. The more you watch the currents on FishTrack the better you will be at predicting the bite as opposed to hearing about it after the fact!

Current aside, the color of the water is my biggest concern, and you can use FishTrack’s Chlorophyl imagery to get a picture of where the cleaner water is located. Big fish like clean water. Finally, we always watch for seabirds. In Victoria and Tassie find a patch of birds, especially terns and gannets and there will be fish underneath. Throw in some seals and dolphins and the tuna are almost guaranteed. NSW is the complete opposite and there is rarely a single bird on the fish to give their location away. This makes finding fish a lot harder and anglers work together more here than anywhere else, spreading out to find the fish.

LURES AND BAIT

When it comes to big bluefin a vast majority are caught on lures. All of mine have been caught on the same lure, a Halco Laser Pro 190. What is even more impressive is that it is always the same color, blue mackerel. I have trolled a wide selection of colors and styles, yet it is this lure that always scores, so I am now openly biased!

I like to keep it simple when it comes to trolling and never run more than four rods. Two skirted lures and two deep divers, that’s it. My favourite position that accounts for a vast majority of the big fish is the Laser Pro in the shotgun position.

This past season there were many fish around which gave me the opportunity to refine my techniques. In my home waters of NSW, I troll to locate the fish and have a bucket of bait cubes ready to go. The moment we get a bite, I start tossing handfuls of chunks out. The idea is that the chunks will lure the rest of school up with free food.

Getting the school fired up is not as easy as it sounds and sometimes the fish can be very finicky. However, there are a couple of tricks to get them biting. Firstly, only use fresh Aussie pilchards. Imported sardines are crud. Furthermore, even fresh bait like chopped up stripies is still way down the list when compared to pilchards. While swimming with the tuna I observed first-hand how fussy they can be, the tuna would rush up, pick out all of the fresh pilchards and turn their nose up at everything else.

The second point is to keep them interested. Stop the free handouts and the fish will quickly vanish. When we got a school of big bluefin to the boat we went through 40 kilos of pilchards in a few hours until we ran out and the fish left. Stock up and be ready to feed them big time!

I should also add the fish often take a while to come up to the boat. Once you have picked up a fish on the troll and started the trail don’t expect the action to be instantaneous. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes or so to find the source, so it is essential to keep the trail going. If the bluefin are there you will see them on the fish finder.

When the school does come up around the boat, it’s the most fun you can have with your pants on. They will eat anything and everything you throw at them. For those that want to catch them on the surface lures this is the time to try it. The key is to never stop feeding them.

When the fishing is this good, you end up having more fun just feeding or teasing them with poppers. I know this sounds mad but the best days I have I have always spent more time playing with the fish on hookless lures or just jumped in to take photos!

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