Regular contributor and avid fisherman Mike Laubscher from Blue Water Charters gives us the basic run down of proper tuna catching, and the joys of landing one of South Africa’s most prominent sea predators.
Yellowfin Tuna are one of my favourite species to target when heading offshore. They are abundant, you can catch them using several different methods, they fight hard and they taste so good. South Africa consists of some of the best tuna hunting grounds in the world.
The name “Tuna” derives from the Greek verb for “thuno” meaning “to rush” and that is exactly how a Tuna will fight. A local nickname that we’ve bestowed on this species is “Gas Bottles” because of their compact muscle-filled torpedo shaped bodies, and of course, when a gas bottle’s top blows, it’s virtually unstoppable.
Tuna are an incredible fish species and very unique when compared to other gamefish. Tuna are warm-blooded (endothermic), which means that they can alter their body temperature and control their metabolism according to their environment.
This ability allows Tuna to live in a wide range of temperatures from 16 to 28 degrees Celsius, and also provides them with the stamina and endurance needed to maintain high speeds for long periods of time. This is exactly what makes them such worthy opponents on a rod and reel.
Tuna are always on the move, and with twice as many blood vessels as other gamefish, their bodies require large amounts of oxygen in their muscles and blood. This causes their flesh to be redder and darker than other fish.
With a magnetic sensing organ in their heads, Yellowfin Tuna can change colour when excited. They swim at an average of 14-15 km/h when cruising, and with incredible top speeds of up to 90 km/h.
Tuna can be found on the warm currents, on the edge of colour lines, where there is a lot of bait, swimming with Dolphins, on the peripheries of reefs, pinnacles, ledges and where there is a lot of feeding bird activity.
I find that Yellowfin Tuna often come into the shallows early morning and late afternoon and spend most of the day out in the deeper waters. However, there are many other factors to consider, especially food source. Yellowfin can be found along our coastline nearly all year round, with most activity from spring through to autumn (which is peak season on our coast).
Tuna are usually associated with birds. When you find them circling, diving and hovering it means that they have found a feeding area which indicates that Yellowfin are in the vicinity. The height that these birds hover from the water usually indicates the depth that the Tuna is feeding or chasing the bait shoal.
There are so many methods that can be effectively used to catch Yellowfin Tuna:
Generally Yellowfin Tuna prefer smaller live baits, so Mackerel, Mozzies, Pinkies, Piggies all make good live baits. The best method is to free drift these baits on a 100 lb fluorocarbon leader with a 7/0-9/0 circle hook tied with a Snell, or a 6/0-8/0 hook on a small loop. You can push the hooks through the mouth, nose, behind the neck, dorsal fin or by the tail. If the currents are too strong you may need to add weight or even down-rig these baits.
You can add a chum trail of finely minced sardines whilst the boat is on the drift, and then deploy your live baits, cast poppers, lures and spoons, and use bucktail and vertical jigs.
This works particularly well when you have found a shoal of Yellowfin Tuna feeding on the surface and you then position you boat upwind from the shoal and wait for them to come to you, this method will not spook the shoal and so they will not sound (go deep).
Trolling lures are also very effective and I run five lines behind my boat in either a “V” or “W” pattern, the speed will vary each day but I find that around 9 km/h seems to work well for me in the waters I fish. The range of lures that Tuna will eat is wide and I will list what I have used successfully.
• Shallow and deep Running Rapala’s and Halco’s from small to large
• Tuna Feathers
• Jet Feathers
• Jet Head skirted Lures
• Plugs, especially Cedar Plugs
• Small Kona’s
Plugging, Spinning and Jigging
Plugging and spinning are very effective methods for casting at a shoal, whilst vertical jigging will get you the Tuna down deep. Once I’ve found a shoal, I’ll drift my boat upwind, chum the water with fine chum as this will keep the shoal around you boat for longer. Then a couple of anglers will cast towards the shoal with plugging or spinning tackle with the wind behind them, whilst others will jig on the opposite side.
When casting at the shoal, always cast on the outsides as this is where the bigger Yellowfin Tuna will hang out. Remember to match your tackle for the size fish you expect to encounter as Yellowfin can get huge and push any tackle to its limits.
Contact Mike Laubscher from Blue Water Charters on 076 299 9445 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.bluewatercharters.co.za