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Posted 14th April 2023

How to Catch Yellowfin Tuna

How to Catch Yellowfin Tuna
How to Catch Yellowfin Tuna

By Sam Gilchrist

There are two species I studied obsessively as a young fella, trawling through countless fishing magazines from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, while admiring countless fishing video productions, the likes of Land Based Addiction and Marlin Off the Rocks being my personal favourites. 

The two species were the mighty yellowtail kingfish and the elusive yellowfin tuna (YFT), Seemingly accessible to those with trailer boats or larger game vessels, the YFT seemed an impossible target. That is a fish over 50kg, rats to 10kg a plentiful along the East Coast, though those trophy YFT just seemed a stretch too far.

Seemingly Impossible, Becomes Very Possible!

Technological advances combined with new techniques, suddenly made this impossible task appear to be within reach.

Oceanic chart technology became available to recreational anglers who, through trial and error, began to decipher the overwhelming vastness of the ocean beyond the continental shelf. When you’re out there and all you can see it open water and very little sea life it can be a very daunting prospect to find fish.

Traditional Methods

The original techniques used to target YFT were primarily focused on trolling lures and cubing.

Trolling Lures- Anglers head out to the grounds that hold yellowfin and deploy a range of skirted, hardbody or profidgie style lures, ripping them along at 6-8 knots in hope of a YFT strike. More often that not YFT caught using the trolling method would be captured as a welcome by-catch to billfish.

Certainly not the most exciting method and not always the most productive, though trolling certainly has its place in your YFT arsenal.

Equipment

* Saltiga LD 60

* Daiwa Tournament Game 24kg

* Daiwa 24kg J-Braid Hollow

* 24kg Mono Topshot

* 100lb Saltiga Nylon Leader

Cubing- (similar to float or stray-lining) commonly saw anglers head out to temperature breaks in depths between 80-600m (*a temperature break is a distinct change in water temperature) and begin to burley the water with a steady flow of ‘cubes’. Anglers would ‘cube-up’ pilchards, slimey mackerel and yellowtail scad, distributing small chunks or cubes into the water column to entice the yellowfin within reach of the boat.

Once the trail is well established a carefully presented cube, hook inserted, would enter the trail, the angler would free-spool and feed line to the cube until it was inhaled by a hungry yellowfin. Mayhem follows as the angler feeds the bait to the tuna, while preventing the spool from over-running and setting the hook!

Equipment

* Saltiga LD 60

* Daiwa Tournament Game 24kg

* Daiwa 24kg Hollow-Core

* 24kg Mono Topshot

* 100lb Saltiga Nylon Leader

Fight times using these methods can last from 45 minutes to over 2 hours depending on the size of the tuna and the skill of the skippers when manoeuvring the boat to best support the angler.

The New – Topwater!

The most exciting method by far and a method that I dedicate 95% of my fishing time too for a variety of salt and freshwater species.

Some of the tuna principles listed above are applied to topwatering YFT, you still need to know where the fish are. Understanding charts is important, though reading the conditions while at sea is the most important of all.

Birds… sea birds are your tell for tuna. Understand the sea birds and what their behaviour tells you. Learn this and the birds will take you to your quarry. And trust me, when you see 30kg to 80kg, maybe even 100kg barrels launching into the air you’ll not believe your eyes. Then when one crushes your stickbait off the top you’ll be consumed by the rush that is chasing large YFT on surface lures.

Fight times are significantly shorter using topwater equipment. A fight that lasts beyond 30 minutes is very rare. Fish under 30kg will not pull a lot of line, once over 50kg they become a different prospect. The first run will light you up, after that you apply a bit of pressure and grit, they’ll be yours.

It's a very effective technique to catch fish and we recommend that organise your set-up so you safely release fish boat-side without the need of removing the fish from the water. A single rear-single hook approach is highly recommended, you do not want a treble in your hand when releasing a YFT and the YFT still be attached to the lure. That would be disastrous!

Equipment

* Rod – Spartan s85

* Reel – 20 Saltiga or Certate SW 14000

* Line – 65lb or 80lb J-Braid Grand

* Leader – Saltiga Leader Type-F 100lb to 150lb

* Lures – Long stickbaits and medium poppers.

Final word… Be prepared to stare at the horizon, the deep blue and the petrol bowser for a long time…. But when it all comes together it’s one of the greatest angling experiences you’ll ever have!

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