Fortune Smiles upon Tuna Hunter!
Brendan Davids shares his tale of good fortune with Leisure Boating. He went looking for tuna but instead hooked into something that did a much prettier ‘surface salsa’ than a tuna ever could, sending his heart aflutter! Here’s the story, straight from the horse’s mouth.
One early morning last year, we launched my 28 foot butt cat, Kaskazi, from Simonstown in the early dawn, rounding Cape Point before sunrise hoping to find some tuna. On board were Tony Elvin-Jensen, Steph Stadler and myself. We had spied a marginal weather gap and although ugly earlier, it settled out nicely during the day and we were the only boat out in the deep.
The water was warm from the point (around 19° C) but it was dirty. Seeing plenty of Skipjack tuna on the surface, and as the water visibility started to improve, we began trolling just after 07h00. We trolled steadily out, SSW from the point, and we continued to see acres of Skipjack. We picked up a few on the troll so we kept two for a fry and sent the rest back. By 10h00, the weather was beautiful out in the deep. We found a long liner pulling her lines from the night before, and did two drifts with chum, but it was dead. After this we trolled SW to see if we could find fish more to the west, but just found more Skippies.
With all the bait fish in the water I was starting to convince myself that there must be something feeding on these Skippies. We were now 20nm SW of Cape Point, the water was 24°C, crystal clear blue and unsurprisingly devoid of tuna. I always carry my live bait kit on the boat but it’s not easy to change tactics from tuna fishing with the investment the guys have to put into fuel, etc. But by 11h00 I had worn the crew thin with my constant mutterings of live bait so we decided to put a live Skippy out and give it bash for an hour or so. I unconvincingly told the guys that no self-respecting Yellowfin would turn its nose up at a sumptuous Skippy.
As our game plan changed, a sudden excitement came over me. I crimped a 12/0 Super Mutu Owner Circle hook (about the same size as an 18/0 Mustad) to a 400 lb, 8 ft trace. I use a stiff rig with circles, preferring to snell if the line class allows. The 8 ft of trace later turned out to be a mistake, but more of that later. I then clipped it onto my 80 lb “bait” stick.
In a matter of minutes we had a Skippy (approximately 2 kg) on board; we neatly bridled it and quickly returned it to the water. I started with a slow troll but gave it up after five minutes as I wanted to hand-line the live bait rather. We drifted in the gentle breeze and to appease my fellow crewmen I chummed with my one hand while holding the live bait line with my other. After about 10 minutes in the water, I suddenly had the line pulled out of my hand and free spooled for about 30 seconds. There had been a number of seals around the boat so I guessed that a seal must’ve grabbed the Skippy.
I eased the drag up on the 50 Tiagra reel. At about 5 kg of tension line was coming off so I increased it to 8 kg and finally 12 kg of drag pressure, but the line was still peeling off with ease. The feeling that it was a seal soon left me. Two seconds later at right angles to where the line was entering the water she jumped. My heart skipped a beat and I shouted, “It’s a marlin!!” (using a somewhat profane adjective which I won’t include here). The guys turned to look but only saw white water on the surface. If the fish had come off at this point it would have been met with scepticism, particularly back at the pub. Luckily it jumped repeatedly and everyone just watched in awe, whooping and screaming with excitement. The fun had just started and I was now confident that the hook-up was solid. I called for my Black Magic, Tony took the boat controls and Steph fired up his iPhone and started taking video footage.
The fish jumped and took fast runs for the first 30 minutes while Tony did an excellent job manoeuvring the boat. All seemed to be going swimmingly and after about 45 minutes we had the double line on and the fish could clearly be seen under the boat on her side. The iridescent blue colour of her tail is burnt into my memory for all eternity. It was at this point that I started cursing myself for the short 8 ft leader. I couldn’t budge her. The closest we got her to the boat was about 4 m away. I had 100 lb ‘tuna’ leader and no matter how much pressure I put on the fish she wouldn’t budge. The marlin had enough of this view after a few minutes and then dove deep, starting to cork-screw in wide, deep circles. We tried to drive away from her but she was undeterred. It was now around midday, the sun blazed down mercilessly and I later poured sweat from my boots but the crew kept me constantly hydrated. Tony was also feeling the heat as he had been wearing thick welding gloves for over an hour in anticipation of leadering the fish. I was starting to take strain. As the fish came closer to the boat it would change direction quickly, which required getting out of the harness to keep the line from touching the bottom of the boat and props. This happened several times. At one point there were also five seals around the boat and I was concerned that they might cut me off. At this point I put the maximum pressure the rod would allow on the fish; 12 kg of drag plus holding the spool with both hands, praying the 100 lb leader would not part.
After 1 hour 40 minutes the fish finally gave us a chance at the 400 lb leader. Tony did not need a second invitation and leadered the fish like a pro. We could now see the circle hook sitting perfectly in the corner of her mouth as it should. With the engines in gear, Tony grabbed the bill and I discarded the rod and replaced it with the tagging pole. The tag was popped in and the hook was pulled. I then took her bill and waited for the fish to recover.
It had been a telling battle on her and we were prepared to be patient with her resuscitation. We had decided that if she could not be revived we would sadly keep her. Luckily she came around after about 10 minutes and I let her swim away strongly with her beautiful colours all lit up. Tony had taken a measurement of the fish from lower beak to fork length which later gave her an estimated weight (ORI) of 202 kg.
Many thanks to Tony and Steph for their indulgence, also to Tony with his boat and fish handling skills and to Steph with the footage that would be a cherished reminder of an epic day at sea. If you would like to watch the exciting video of Brendan’s magnificent catch, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/leisureboating.