Sunday, 22 April 2012

Port Fairy Tuna

Bluefin busting under birds
It was decided a few weeks back that instead of me having a bucks party for my wedding next week that a few mates would just head down to Port Fairy in the hope of finding a 100+ kg Bluefin Tuna, I was joined by my best man Dale McClellend and my best mate Daniel Stanilovic, for this weekend it was decided that we would take Dales boat a 6.5m Freedom Sport, this boat is know for lots of line class records and its skippers all round knowledge offshore. We left Melbourne's South East at 0230 in the morning hoping to get on the water by about 0730. I managed to get a bit of sleep in on the way up but earlier in the week I had some surgery on my teeth and jaw and with a little infection I was too busy popping pills to get much sleep, it was going to be a testing weekend with the pain in my mouth but pills and persistence would get me through. We hit the water at about 0800 and after a quick setup of the boat (should be noted I just stood by drinking coffee and talking to people at the ramp LOL)

We headed due south of Port Fairy in 45 to 50 meters in an area that is known for big bluefin tuna. Dale was on the wheel and Dan was working on the lure spread and again I was doing stuff all, We found some isolated patches of birds working nearby so made a bee line for the area the birds were in, in all the years I have been Tuna fishing I can say with confidence that I have never seen the fish so flighty. The bust ups only lasted a matter of seconds before they pushed deep again, it was clear from then on that it was going to be a tough weekend. We continued chasing the birds and bust ups for another hour or 2 when the first scream from a reel occurred, coming from the long rigger a small black and gold tuna bullet style lure got smacked, I was on strike so set the lever drag forward and got stuck into the fish, this fish gave a good accounting for it self in the fight department and behaved like a bigger fish but after a little bit of line play the fish came to the boat without out too much effort, Dan took the trace and Dale took the gaff and like a fine oiled machine they had the fish in the boat, its amazing how easy things can be with a good team on board. The fish was bled and prepared for the ice and it was back into the troll to try and find some more.
12 odd kg of fresh pre smoked Tuna

The next few hours saw a massive change in the bird and bait activity so a fair few kilometers were traveled as we looked for some activity, nothing seemed to change so at about 1430 we called it to head in from 17km out to rest up and try again the next day, bolting back in we got to about 5km from the ramp when all of a sudden birds appeared and tuna started busting again so off the throttle we set up the spread again to see if we could make some magic happen, it was tough going for a while with the fish behaving like they were in the morning and after chasing school after school of fish again we managed to hook up, same take from the same rigger on the same lure as the morning. Dan was on strike so he took the rod while Dale started clearing lines for him to fight the fish, I figured that they may still be deep blew the boat so I took a jig rod with a 200g turkey slider jig and started working below the boat. Nothing on the jig and just as I started to pack the rod away Dale had the trace at the side of the boat, we all know how unpredictable fish can be next to the boat and this one was no exception, as Dale position the fish to lift it took one last burst and headed under the boat, Dale was quick enough to let go of the trace to avoid contact with the boat, the fish took a quick deep lunge and then made a run back towards the boat, with in seconds the fish had managed to throw the hook. Devastated we decided to head back in with the low light and start fresh in the morning.

Seal in waiting for a feed at the ramp
I made a quick call to the Warnambool Holiday Park to sort out a cabin for the night and booked a cabin for some well needed rest and a bed for the night. After a quick pack up of the boat we headed for the Warnambool Holiday Park, upon arrival I met with Steve at the check in area, I have to say it was probably the most friendly place I have ever been to, staff and people in the park were great. Dale needed to make some quick repairs on the boat after hitting some thing in the water his live bait tank pick up had come adrift so wee needed to find a place that had some spare bits to do a quick fix so we would not take on water. It was decided that the filling of our stomachs was more important than the boat so we headed into town to a place called maceys bistro, meals looked nice but not quite big enough for me so I settled for a Chicken Parma and a Steak, also who can pass up a desert bar with self serve soft serve ice cream, not me thats for sure. Full as a boot the 3 of us waddled out of maceys and went in search of some silastic for the temp repair till we could get back home, we found a KMart open so Dale and Dan went in to find some while I put the seat back and had a nap. The boys came back and it was back to the Warnambool Holiday Park to charge phone and camera batteries and charge our selves so we could continue the battle in the morning.

Terez, Caldia and Gan Craft Jointed Claw rigged for Tuna

Day 2 had the wind up a bit but not deterred we made the short trip to Port Fairy from Warnambool and put the boat in the water, the plan was similar to the previous day so back to the same water depth line and started trolling with a similar lure spread to the day before. We quickly realised that the Tuna were not in the same area as they were, there was no birds, bait was scattered not balled up and water condition was different, we headed south east towards Lady Julia Percy Island, we had been on the water for a few hours and the wind was due to pick up so I made a phone call to Matthew Hunt, Matt is the best Tuna Charter operator in the area and very well known for his consistent results of good catches. Matt was brilliant and got on the wires to his network of gun Tuna local fisho's to try and find the fish for us, not more than 5 minutes later he rang back to let us know one of his mates was on the 80 meter line and was on a fish at the time. We had to make a decision whether to head south a further 40km and hope that the wind did not get out of hand or keeping working the shallower banks trying to find the fish close, we made the desicion to go deep, it was a long trip with the wind blowing against the current but an hour or so later we were in the area, a quick radio call to Adam the guy who was nice enough to share some info with us and we headed to the area to find some fish, we soon noticed the change, birds every where dolphins balling up bait and activity every where.

Dolphons from the 80 meter line

Alas it looks like we missed the bite time, we spent a couple of hours working the bait balls and areas where birds where diving, no Tuna were busting nor where they on the sounder, we knew that they would have been there by the activity but we just missed the window of chance as the fish had moved on. We decided that it was time to head close in and do what I do best catch a couple of squid from the reef outside Port Fairy. It was going to be a rough trip back with the wind picking up a bit, so we tidied up the boat a bit and made the long trip back, things got a bit damp with a few waves rolling up the front of the boat and onto our lap, I think the only dry part of me was a small part of my boxer shorts between my legs, we all had a good laugh along the way even when I managed to get a Halco lure lodged into my leg. We again got to about 5 km from the rap and the birds started again, back to the same drill of running lures out and chasing the birds, was not long before we realised that the Tuna were not surfacing it was slimy mackeral chasing 3" sauries to the surface. Defeated we called it a day. When we got back to the ramp we found out that only 4 other fish had come into Port fairy over the same 2 days. We got back to the ramp all wet and salt infused tired and sore we decided to stay another night, I rang the Warnambool Holiday park again and Steve was able to look after us again. We had a welcomed shower and change then headed to a Chinese Restaurant for a banquet for 4, there was only 3 of us but we all needed a good feed, after a few calf stretching exercise's from the boat trip and heaps of laughs we headed back to the cabin for a good sleep.
Dale doing the hard work

Although the fish didn't play ball I had a ball, a weekend fishing with 2 great friends with plenty of laughs and good food, it was a pleasure. It was also a great learning curve being able to cover lots of kilometers gave me a better understanding of the area. Sadly when I arrived back the the cabin I checked the local reports to find that Warnambool, Portland and Port Mac all went of with multiple catches of fish and lots of fish busting all over the place, spewing, I did have an outfit rigged with a Gan Craft Jointed Claw re rigged to make it tuna proof and I was hoping to land a tuna on it, at the end of the day what it does give me is an excuse to go back and try it again.

If any one is looking for a place to stay in the area I could not fault Warnambool Holiday Park for more details go to or contact 035525031 for bookings

For the best charter operator in the Portland area go to Matthew Hunt Fishing Services or contact 0419760510, thanks again for your help Matt.