Finally winter has disappeared and along the south eastern coastline of QLD our summer species are arriving. One of the most sought after species for inshore/offshore sportfishos are northern bluefin tuna or as we like to call them longtails. Growing to over 35kg they are commonly caught around 8 – 12 kg, early season fish like late September to November are usually bigger roed up fish that can average 20kg in the northern end of hervey and moreton bay.
As a sportfish there is nothing much harder to catch than a big longtail, often caught in mixed schools with mac tuna they fight way harder, mac tuna of the same size have a harder opening run but give in pretty quickly after that, longtails on the other hand have much greater stamina and fight times can be double or triple that of the old mac!
It would be fair to say that a longtail tuna would be the first big sportfish for many anglers in qld, especially the south east. I know it was mine many years ago on the inside of fraser island down at ungowa, we were fishing for grunter with bait just on daylight when these big fish erupted around the boat, the old abu toby lure (now a collectable) done the job and it was a 8kg longtail! I think this was the fish that got me hooked on lure fishing.
Early days metal slugs were the go to lure, easy to cast and wind like mad was the technique that worked, heavy ugly stick spin rods and American reels that got the job done but required constant maintenance. Now things are a little different. Modern day spin reels have forged ahead in leaps and bounds, I have been using a 4000 daiwa freams and a 4000 ballistic with 20 and 30 pound j braid, matched onto black label 7’ and 7’6” spin rods these are a very capable mid range outfits that can be used offshore one day and in the estuaries barra fishing the next!
These outfits will cast lighter lures and jigheads out of sight, remember always approach tuna schools from upwind, the wind helps casting distance and a boat approaching with the waves is much quieter than one slapping into waves! 4 and 6 inch plastic jerkbaits rigged in ½ ounce jigheads in white,pink or natural colours will get a bite if cast into a school, fast retrieves get the bite, make the lure look like it’s getting away!
My preferred method of catching longtails is with surface lures and the Daiwa stickbaits are my favourite. These things cast like a bullet and look so lifelike they always get a bite. The ‘over there’ and the ‘dorado slider’ in the 110 and 140 mm size are perfect. Some of the surface strikes are awesome and the occasional Spaniard, queenfish , marlin and cobia eat them as well around the tuna schools.
Only yesterday I took my 13 year old son up the top of fraser, he was casting a 180 mm daiwa stickbait around and it exploded right next to the boat, scaring the hell out of me….funny. Lucky he was using my Saltiga 4500 on a Saltist 762 Extreme rod with 40 pound J-braid, my go to big longtail rod. The fish ended up estimated at 18kg!