Yellowfin tuna are back! With signs of our beloved tuna grounds slowly waking from its winter slumber we promptly conclude our preparation for the coming season. Conditions are looking favourable and it doesn’t take too much convincing for us to grab the opportunity at scouting.
We reach an area where the water colour and temp starts looking good and there are longliners a few miles south of us. Backlines go in and the anticipation starts building. Before long the short deep diver goes off… but the excitement is rather short lived as it is not our intended species. The Mako shark thankfully shakes itself off few meters short of the boat. The spread is reset and we continue the search, at least we know there is some life out here.
Just past 9 in the morning and a good time to bring out the boat packs and grab a bite. No way… ON it is with the long squid this time and it’s exactly what we came for! Travis straps in and start going to work on his first ever Yellowfin. With “endearing words of encouragement” from Pumbaa and myself he gets the fish to the gaff and it is now official – Fish Tales’ tuna season is open!
Knowing the fish are here, we continue to chum for awhile. There is a buzz aboard, photo session concluded and it’s time for the all important virgin tuna tradition to be duly observed. Travis obliges and takes it in true spirit. Some time has passed and the baiting hasn’t produced any significant signs of fish, back to trolling it is.
We work the area for a solid few hours without any success. As the saying goes: chum and they will come, we bring in the lures and start a fresh drift. Just on a hour of baiting I notice a small scratch on the sidescan sonar at 25m on the starboard side and we’re on. Pumbaa is up and the rod has a very slight bend. This doesn’t look like a Yellowfin tuna or even a Longfin tuna, please don’t tell me we have hooked another shark. The line is coming way too easy and the fish gives a half hearted run lasting a few seconds. Damn shark! All of a sudden the afterburners kick in and now we have a proper bend in the rod with line being dumped. Topshot gone! Backing now also evaporating… that’s what we came for!!!
The fish eventually settles straight under the boat and we even joke that it swam into the seabed. Pumbaa maintains good pressure on the fish after 15-20 minutes he is able to get most of the backing on the reel. Fish goes on another run an it’s back to square one. Fish start swimming upwards and it’s frantic reeling to not give any slack in the line. In no time all the backing and half the topshot is back on the reel.
An hour into the fight the fish becomes erratic, changing directions all the time… then at the drop of hat it sounds again and the backing becomes visible again. A Yellowfin doesn’t fight like this… getting the feeling this might well be a big eye we’ve got on here. Back and forth it goes but to be quite honest this fight is one-sided as this fish swims at will with absolutely no regard for a Tiagra 50w drag…
More than 2 hours in and the fish is simply staying at 20 meters. Not the typical pinwheel a tuna normal does, oh no this one is swimming pretty much like walking a dog on a leash. Stalemate of note!
Right 3 hours and counting… well not much has changed. The fish is now at 10 metres but we can hardly see it from the boat. This is bizarre as the visibility is quite good… Then I catch a quick glimpse and it becomes very apparent why we not seeing him. He is swimming strong and upright not on its side like they do when they start to tire.
Approaching the 4 hour mark the fish is now swimming on the surface, occasionally passing close to the boat but frustratingly out of reach of the gaff. Finally a lapse in judgement by the tuna and an opportunity is presented to attempt a gaff. The fish is still strong so this needs to be on point… brace, brace, brace the first gaff is solid and the second follows swiftly. Even in this position the fish is still surprisingly powerful fighting all the way until finally subdued.
A respectable 87,7kg yellowfin tuna that will be remembered for the incredible account it gave of itself during an epic fight rather than its performance on the scale…