Six Club members, including two from the inaugural trip made four years ago, headed to Portland for a weekend of specialist light tackle game fishing for Southern Bluefin Tuna. Reports indicated school fish in the ranges of 10 to15 kg and 18 to 24 kg where in numbers, but often took awhile to be located. With an underlying aim to fish 4kg and 6 kg line classes, hopes were high we could snag a record. And as it turned out we broke one of the biggest!
Day one saw a mixed weather report – a rising swell, with freshening winds and rain. Rain wet our way as we boarded our charter, Matthew Hunt's MV Regina, but as it turned out the weather gods yielded and gave us very fishable conditions (albeit a little sloppy). And our fishing gods gave us some reasonable opportunities to play some SBTs. After plying our trade close to shore amongst good bait schools without luck (like many other boats), we made a quick dash to wider grounds.
Success followed with Scott Gowland landing his first ever SBT and the first for the trip. Estimated at about 10 kg, it was quickly given a tag and returned to hopefully become a barrel one day. Yet on 6kg, the good news for Scott was it was at least better than line class. Pete Dunlop then stepped up to the plate with a very similar sized fish which also went back with a bright yellow tag in its back.
Meanwhile the call on the radio was the spot we had persisted with for most of the morning was firing. So we made a quick decision to scoot back and try our luck there again. And it didn't let us down. It wasn't long before we found ourselves in a hot bite. Rods started to zing with Tuna-a-plenty. This time Julien Newton Brown was hooked up. For those who don't know JB, he's currently the Club's oldest living member. When the call went out for members to give interest on joining this trip, JB was the first to reach out. Julien has had a long and successful fishing history, making plenty of notable captures and fishing with many well known fishing identities. However his capture list, revealed on the trip, did not include the mighty Southern Bluefin Tuna. But he changed all that, at the youthful age of 86 and 20 years since he'd last hit the water for a days game fishing. In sloppy conditions, on 6 kg, a fish estimated at 10 kg was a great result. All on board remarked in private conversations, we hoped we'd be on the sea snagging game fish when we are in our 80s.
After Julien's fish, we continued to tag and release a few more. Scott and his father Allen Gowland where the lucky anglers, making it five for the day. However, as quick as the bite started it was over. Soon we were off to home, calling it day. Yet the highlight was two Club members' scoring their very first SBTs, and more notably one breaking an 86 year drought and a twenty year gap between game fish!
Day two opened with a splash. Under the cliffs of the local light lighthouse a pair of humpback whales put on a show. Our skipper had never seen this before and aptly shared it to his social media followers. The weather had improved from yesterday and the sea was teaming with life. Gannets diving, dolphins playing and seals sunning gave the crew plenty of hope. We had also added another member to the crew, Club secretary, Andrew Pennisi.
Again we trolled our spread of Pakula lures on 6 kg spooled Talica's fitted to Shimano T-Curves. Chris Baty (Club president) and Andrew had kindly brought along this beautiful range of instruments for us to fish with. They did a stunning job of making a fair fight on the small sized tuna we came across.
As we had found the day before the fish were slow to reveal themselves. Skipper Matty was working hard, and a call to make a dash to spot nearby proved it's worth. Again an hour of fast paced fishing saw us land six fish and drop a few more. JB was able to add too his first SBT from yesterday as part of a four way hook up which yielded two fish. A pair of these were iced for Tuna steaks while the rest were returned to the sea. Although we continued to ply our trade for the rest of the day, we couldn't get a reel to unload. It was a slow end to a great trip as we made many firsts and all anglers throughly enjoyed a great trip away.
Special thanks goes to Club president Chris and former president Allen Gowland for organising our charter and accommodation and to Matthew Hunt Fishing Services for skippering our party. We sincerely hope the next trip is not far away and highly recommend members to join in the fun next time around.