Its 9 May 2016, the day before the Tuna Nationals is set to start.
As I’m not allowed to fish while I’m skippering for the Nationals I decided that it is absolutely necessary for me to get a line in the water the day before, to keep my sanity.
6am & we meet a few clients at Millers Point slipway, go through the safety briefing & set a course for the tuna grounds in the west. The sea is a bit choppy but in some cases the fish like to eat better in choppy seas rather than calm seas. Its once again one of those days, the clock turns 12:00 and we do not have a fish on the boat & I can see that my clients are starting to doubt that they will see a fish today.
12:30 and it starts. I look at my fishfinder and its packed with marks & I say to the crew that we are going to go tight NOW, a few seconds later & ZZZZZZZ goes the reel. We hook up to a longfin on the backlines, another & then a massive yellowfin tuna strike on the brown squid behind the bird.
Not to long & we have 3 longfin & 1 yellowfin on the boat. With the fish finder going crazy marking fish under the boat we start chumming and everyone starts catching longfin with every drop of the line.
With all my clients catching tuna like crazy, William and I drop a line to join on the action. With my second drop I get picked up by a fish that runs just like a longfin & I still say to William that “I dont need a harness, its a longfin”. But this was no longfin, all of a sudden it runs off like a steam locomotive & turns into a very big fish. Short after that another big fish makes a run on William’s rod & we are both on two very nice fish. Another 10 minutes & Tom goes tight on his stella 20 000 spinning outfit, also a big fish!
3x big Tuna equals lots of chaos on a boat & we have to dance around each other to ensure that the lines don’t cross. After 30min Tom’s braid pops but we still have two of the 3 fish on the line.
2 hours of keeping the fish from crossing our lines & we have the first yellowfin in the boat, 20 min later & my yellowfin is in the boat.
With smiles all round we decide to call it a day & head back to port.
The catch for the day: multiple Longfin tuna, 56kg, 90kg & 103.8kg Yellowfin tuna. What a day!
SADSAA Tuna Nationals starts….
10 May & its the start of the SADSAA Tuna Nationals & I have team Freestate on the boat. My start point will be the same area that I got the fish in the day before. But there’s a ugly twist to this story… In the Tuna Nationals the teams fish with 10kg line as opposed to the 36KG that we normally fish!
This was going to be quite a change in game plan for me as I learn more about how to approach the Nationals. Normally we go out & target bigger fish, but with the Nationals, this approach is not always the best.
Just before 13:00 we hook up to our first fish & what do you know, its a BIG fish! We ended up fighting the fish into extra time (the competition lines up is at 3pm, but if you are hooked up to a fish you are allowed extra time till 4pm) but the angler is unable to raise the fish & we end up breaking the line at 16:00. Sad, sad day to say the least. Fish Tales – 0 Points
Day two – Team North West
Hell bend to turn around the woes of the day before I go to a different area to try & get smaller longfin as well. We end up working an area far away from the other boats in the comp. There is absolutely NO wind & pulling lures just did not feel right to me. I saw a few bonnies jumping & decided to start a chum line right there. Our drift is so slow that our chum basically goes straight down… Wow, is this the Cape of Storms? I’m not complaining however, days like that we have to take in & enjoy.
Not long after our chum line was started the guys hook up to their first longfin, phew, atleast not a blank again.. Then its chaos with all 3 anglers landing multiple longfin tuna.
In 99% of the cases with making a chum line the fish comes in this order: 1st the Sharks, 2nd the Longfin & 3rd the Yellowfin. The order stayed true again with two anglers going tight with Yellowfin.
After 1hr the first yellowfin gets burned off by a longfin line & after 2 and a half hours the second also get burned off!
After landing a few more longfin we move off to another area to try & get one more yellowfin hookup & start a chum line. 20Min & we are hooked up to another yellowfin, but the time is 14:30 which means that the fish needs to be in the boat before 16:00 in extra time. 15:45 & the fish is coming nicely after taking almost all the line off the spool, 15:55 & there is about 50m of line still to come in with the fish taking no line.. But with so little time left Heini had to put the drag up to try & get the fish in the boat faster, which proved to be just to much for the 10kg line to handle with the line breaking at 15:58
Fish Tales is at-least on the board with a hefty catch of longfin. 530.41 points
Day three – Team Gauteng
Almost immediately after putting our backlines in we hook up to two longfin tuna & get them in the boat. At 12:00 I leave our chumline that was just producing sharks & move to another area to make new chumline.
Just before 13:00 we hook up to our first yellowfin & the angler makes quick work to get the fish of 39KG into the boat. At last, we have a yellowfin in the boat!
14:00 & we hook onto another yellowfin which takes us into overtime once again! But this fish has a different idea & is not even close to cooperative. After breaking the surface a few times the angler is once again forced to push up the drag to try & get the fish in before overtime… what happens at 15:55? You guessed it, the line pops!
Fish Tales – Top Boat for day 3 with 569.82 points
Day four – Team SADSAA
Team SADSAA is on the boat, in a sense the best of the best… adding pressure on me as the skipper to produce the fish!
After getting info that the Tuna Pole fleet has moved a bit South I set course for that area (the Tuna Pole fleet is commercial tuna fishing boats). Almost immediately after lines in we hook up to our first longfin, then it slows down for a bit until we get a 4 up on longfin of which 2 fish came onto the boat. Right, chumline! Again, first the sharks, then the longfin & yes – the yellowfin! Longfin after longfin gets caught with the bigger fish sitting at 40m. The guys change tactics & drop a spinner to 40m & almost immediately goes tight. A couple more longfin & something much bigger keeping Daniel very busy while the others load the longies. After a while his hook pulls but after a few casts he is onto something big again that keeps him entertained for hours.
While he is busy battling a big fish on 10 KG line the Yellowfin & the Longfin came right into our chumline giving Chris & Marius the opportunity to choose the fish they wanted to catch.
With the sharks being pesty they then decide to start casting poppers at them.
First Chris catches a nice yellowfin on the popper & then Marius catches a big eye on the popper (in record time, I may add. He had the fish in the boat under 1min!)
After more than 3 hours Daniel’s line pops after a reel failure & he joins in on the longfin action, boating a few more longies.
Fish Tales – Top Boat day 4 with 2139.02 points
With the Tuna Nationals coming to an end the guys from North West decides that they need to go & catch a few tuna on 80pnd tackle with me the next day. What a joy! Heini makes quick work of a 86kg yellowfin to get it into the boat in under 50min. We also caught another of about 40kg & plenty of longfin!
What a week this was. I caught my personal best of 103.8kg on Monday. Endured heartbreak watching the guys break line after line after line in the Nationals. Saw fish eating chum literally meters from the boat. Had some of the best weather at sea that any fisherman could ask for. And to top it all, I came in 2nd place for Top Boat / Skipper in the SADSAA Tuna Nationals after getting no points on day one.
Tuna Nationals results:
1st – SADSAA
2nd – Southern Cape
3rd – Western Province
4th – North West
Top Boat results:
1st – Atlantis
2nd – Fish Tales (fitted with Raymarine Electronics)
3rd – Major Tom
4th – Blue Diamond
Special thanks to Cape Boat and Skiboat club for hosting a great SADSAA Tuna Nationals 2016 – see you in 2017!
My note to self taken away from this past week: Everyday is different with the conditions changing & the fish reacting differently. One needs to adapt quickly as you can never catch yesterday’s fish, today. The fishing might be good on the backlines today but tomorrow they are just not interested in the backlines. One colour works today, tomorrow a completely different colour works. If the fish have fed well for a few days, catching them on bait becomes more difficult & you will frustrate yourself with fish swimming in the chum but not taking a baitline, when this occurs, rather try & generate a instinctive strike on a lure. When the fish are fussy, eating chum but not baitlines, use thinner fluro & small hooks. Both the 86kg & the 103kg Yellowfin was caught on 80lbs fluro.
Its important to be able to read your Fish Finder properly. On my Raymarine Fish Finder, In chirp mode I can tell the guys how deep their spinners are dropping & if they are reaching the fish, I can easily distinguish between yellowfin tuna & longfin tuna, this is one of the greatest weapons in any skipper’s arsenal.