Bluefin tuna aren’t always the easiest fish to catch. Based on our experience we’ve added some tips below if you choose to go out on a boat yourself.
The Bluefin tuna is a migratory fish so they are only present around Australia during March-July each year. You have a better chance of catching them if you fish during the height of the season. Based on our experience this is usually around April-June each year. Depending on your lattitude you want to make sure the main school is around when you are there. They migrate from West to East. Check fishing reports around Port Macdonnell, Portland, Port Fairy, Warnambool etc.
While you can catch Big Eye Tuna, Bonito and Albacore closer to the shore, Bluefin are a deeper diving fish and for this reason they are more easily caught offshore. We can travel up to 50NM offshore to find the schools. This is not to say you wont’ catch the occasional fish closer to the shore given the right conditions (e.g. southerly winds or currents pushing bait towards the shore will attract schooling fish). In fact, some of the largest tuna caught in Portland have been caught close to the shore.
Some days the school can be at reasonably deep depths, where as other days they can be almost breaking the surface as they feed. Good fishermen will vary the depth of their rigs and mix it up in order to test what is working and what isn’t on any particular day. Tuna will swim to the surface in pursuit of the fish they feed on. Look out for schools of bait fish and place your lines close to them if you can.
The natural prey gives you a good indication of what bait to use or replicate using lures. Squid, sprat, pilchards and other bait fish are at the top of a Bluefin Tuna’s menu list. We use a combination of weighted hooked natural bait and artificial squid-like trolling lures depending on the day. Mix it up for maximum results but you definitely want to be trolling for tuna not standing still.
We have caught massive tuna on reasonably bad weather days. Don’t assume that a day free from clouds will mean the fish are biting. Like any fish, high wind and extremely rough seas can hamper fish feeding and thus the chance of catching fish.
Look for birds such as ‘Terns’ diving into the water in chase of the bait fish. If there’s a school of bait fish, more often then not there are circling flocks of birds diving into the water and the tuna will be swimming up from the mid layer of water to feed on the bait fish. Troll along side the school and then cut in front of the school so your lures intermingle with the bait fish without running over the school and disturbing its formation. Repeat, repeat and repeat.