What better way to celebrate World Tuna Day than with a story about our Tasmanian Project Officer, Kate Ward, chasing ‘Barrel Bluefin Tuna’ off Eaglehawk Neck with the legendary Tuna Champion ambassador , Jonah Yick.
I’ve just started out in the Tassie Project Officer role and only made the big move down to the beautiful Apple Isle less than a month ago. I didn’t know a single soul here when I first stepped off the Spirit (the only way to travel to Tasmania in my opinion) but luckily the OzFish crew had plenty of hook ups for me to reach out to, with Jonah Yick being the first cab off the rank.
By day, Jonah works for the Inland Fisheries Service, leading their incredibly successful Carp Management Program. By night (or whenever he can get out on the salt water), Jonah is a mad keen game fisher who has come has close as one can get to working out the fish they call ‘barrels’ (an affectionate nick name for big southern bluefin tuna around and above the 100kg mark!).
When Jonah invited me along for my first taste of game fishing, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. He made it very clear that it was going to be a big day and he seemed a little nervous that I was going to either a) not have fun or b) get very seasick. Luckily, neither of those things happened and I’m hooked, literally.
We started out bright and early, well more like dark and early. At 3.30am on Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way over to Jonah’s place. Upon arrival, I was gobsmacked at all of the preparation that had gone into the trip so far. Talk about tackle!
We were joined by two of Jonah’s fishing mates and started the drive down to the world-renowned fishing spot: Eaglehawk Neck. Thanks to our early start, we were the first boat out on the water which was glorious. Watching the sun rise over the sparkling sea was a great start to the adventure.
When we made it out to ‘The Rock’, there was already exciting action underway. The ocean was bubbling with bait fish, the sky full of seabirds, and the boat full of anticipation; we knew we were in the right spot.
After a short while trolling, ZING!! Two of the reels started spinning madly and we flew into action. I got to try my hand at reeling in one of the heavy duty gamefishing rods (without a fish on the end to get a feel for the rig). After a short battle we managed to land the first fish for the day, a small 10kg bluefin tuna, but unfortunatelylost the other fish. We were off to a good start!
When it came to my turn to try and wind in a fish, it was all systems go. I don’t think my arm has ever ached so much. Jonah and the crew jumped into action and helped me with the harness and the technique… and then I lost it. But I wasn’t too disappointed, I absolutely loved all of the teamwork involved in game fishing and I couldn’t have asked for a better crew.
Next it was Wesley’s turn and once he started reeling in the fish, my very experienced fishing companions knew that we were on to a winner. Twenty minutes later we had the fish of the day on the boat, a beautiful 60kg southern bluefin tuna.
Jonah has been chasing southern bluefin tuna for as long as he can remember and is a Tuna Champions ambassador. It’s a great program and I learnt a lot from him about the best fishing practices for SBT. For example how to handle a fish carefully to give them the best chance of survival after release, but if you are keeping a fish, how to prepare it appropriately so the whole fish is utilised and there is minimal wastage.
Tuna Champions are recreational fishers who:
- fish for the athletic southern bluefin tuna
- respect the fish and are willing to adopt better ways of fishing
- value the fish by learning how to prepare the meat well
- encourage their fishing mates to do the right thing.
Tuna Champions use the best fishing practices for southern bluefin tuna (SBT).
All in all, it was a brilliant day and I can’t wait to get back out on the water with everyone again.