Southern Bluefin Tuna
Sponsored Angler & Fishing Personality
Luke has been a Warrnambool (Vic) local for 13 years and although he has fished all over the country he loves nothing more than to fish close to home. In recent years the advances in boats and the recuperation of Southern Bluefin Tuna stocks have made this species a genuine target for recreational anglers. Luke has 5 years experience as a deck hand on tuna charter boats out of Portland and 8 years in the tackle industry – experience that enables him to share plenty of secrets for anyone interested in targeting SBT!
Luke’s Top Tips For Southern Bluefin Tuna
- Trolling for southern bluefin tuna in Southwest Victoria can turn up anything from school fish starting at 10kg to barrels of well over 100kg. In recent years it’s become more common for fish to school relatively close to the coastline, making it possible for small boat owners to troll, cast to, or baitfish for tuna.
- Tuna move fast, so networking with people who are on the water regularly can help pinpoint where they are. Social media has helped people find the fish but can also be “old news”. There’s no substitute for putting in the hours to figure out the patterns.
- Sometimes when fish aren’t where you’d think they would be it can pay to drive around on the plane, covering water and watching for bait, birds, current lines, temperature gradients etc until you locate the fish.
- On tough days, mix the lures up, try different depths, troll at different speeds. Keep mixing it up until you find what’s working.
- The champagne, glassed-out days are pleasant for anglers but not great for catching Southern Bluefin Tuna. Overcast days with 10-15 knots of wind are best for targeting tuna and aren’t too uncomfortable for the angler.
- May-June is a consistent time to target both barrels and school sized fish. School fish tend to move on around end of June. Barrels (fish over 100kg) can be found from February through to December.
- Fishing around the full moon tends to be unproductive. Fish will sometimes be active around dawn and occasionally after 4pm at these times. A few days before the full moon and a few days after the full moon are Luke’s preferred lunar periods. A tide change is often a bite window.
- When you hook one or two fish trolling, keep motoring for 100 or so metres and you’re likely to end up with a 3, 4 or 5 way hookup. If you think more fish are present but don’t get more strikes. Drop the boat into neutral, wait a few seconds and then move off again. This will often result in further hook-ups.
Luke’s Preferred Tackle For Southern Bluefin Tuna
- The tackle that is used depends on the target. 30 or 50 wide overhead game reels are preferred for the larger fish. A Shimano Talica 30 Wide reel loaded with 24kg braid, a nylon topshot and couples with a matching rod is a good compromise. This outfit is not too heavy or bulky when school fish are present, but has the line capacity and drag required when a barrel takes the lure.
- For targeting school fish it’s possible to go much lighter. Standard snapper and gummy fishing rods with 20lb braid will do the job if you just take the time to play the fish out.
- When casting to school fish a 7-8’ rod with a light tip capable of casting small stickbaits and paired with a 4000-6000 size spin reel and 20lb braid is perfect.
- For leaders, Luke ties a 1-4m double in the mainline using a plait, a 150-300lb wind on leader is joined to the double using a cats paw. To the end of the wind on leader Luke crimps a swivel, followed by another short leader to the lure. If you’re not going to be changing lures too often the lure can be attached direct to the wind-on leader without the swivel and subsequent short leader.
- For school fish it’s ok to simply attach a 3-4m leader of 50lb direct to the braided mainline.
Luke’s Best Southern Bluefin Tuna Lures
- The Halco Laser Pro 190mm Double Deep is a great hard bodied bibbed lure option for school tuna. It runs well at relatively fast speeds and stays about 1-2m below the surface and don’t blow out. The pilchard and king brown colours are Luke preference and he recommends replacing the trebles with inline single hooks for safety when a fish is landed.
- The handmade Tornado Lures T6 is a cup faced skirted trolling lure that runs well at various locations in the spread and takes plenty of barrel tuna. The redbait, evil and bleeding mackerel colours are Luke’s preference, but being handmade it’s possible to have whatever colour combinations you like.
- 110mm Hooker Sinking Stickbait from Fish Inc is a great casting lure for schoolies. During the summer months if the fish aren’t actively feeding, make a long cast and retrieve with the typical GT long sweeps. After a few casts the fish will often start to follow and with successive casts they’ll get more eager until you start hooking fish.