Bluefin fever

Reflecting on last year, floods caused havoc, closing schools. While civil defence tidied up the region, the weather on the coast was golden for a spot of fishing. My husband and youngest son were off, first time launching out of Greymouth bound for the Hokitika Trench. The story about Dylan’s stellar bluenose resulted and along with the dream of landing bluefin tuna.

This August the weather on the coast beckoned once again, planning commenced. There was a fluster of phonecalls and talk of ‘daisy chains’ and ‘flippy-floppies,’ hard to believe this was big game fishing! The weather window was confirmed, crew confirmed, gear loaned and plenty of learning about technical aspects of setting game rods correctly. The fabulous friends that surround us openly shared advice and tips, helped with prep and eagerly awaited to hear the result. Last details of fuelling up and collecting volumes of ice, then on the road to meet crew from Christchurch.

Crossing the bar in the early hours of morning opened up to a glorious day with settled sea, glassy in places. The long haul to the ground where the trawlers were working was filled in with excited chat and banter. Once on location, about 70 kilometres offshore, gear was sorted, teasers and lures arranged and outriggers deployed. Following the trawlers, each run lasted about a kilometre, up and down the trench. After about two hours, coming across the bow of the trawler as it turned, the magic unfolded – fish on! The excitement was short lived as a rookie mistake and a tangle with another line broke this fish to freedom. Needless to say amidst the extremely tense atmoshere a few choice words were barked!

Back to routine, up and down the trench and within half an hour it was game on for another chance. This time an epic fight ensued with the battle lasting over an hour.

The dream was finally becoming reality, a bluefin tuna was slowly circling up underneath our boat! First time trying to land such a magnificent beast was a messy debacle, plenty of ways to work more efficiently for the next fish.

It’s not the best plan to bring a tuna on board hot and unbled. The photos are exciting, the grins contagious!

The tuna were feeding hard, opportunists around the hoki trawlers. A second tuna was hooked, this time my son on the rod. He’s not the biggest lad, as much as the rods were tied in it was a relief to see extra hands holding his harness as the fish pulled away, he braced with his whole body, gripping hard on the gunwales! This second landing was easier, bled overboard this fish was slightly calmer on the deck. The photos didn’t do justice to the girth of this enormous creature. The third tuna was caught while daylight faded and in a maddening moment of ‘gaffing gone wrong,’ it was ‘released’ to live another day.

As night drew in, Dylan hit the hay and the adult crew started pitch baiting with plenty of fresh chum. Dinner was in the oven as the fourth tuna hooked up, completing the sequence of each crew member fighting a tuna. This was the quickest fight, the now expert angler dominated the fish in style having learnt from the previous episodes! With three tuna on board, things were starting to get cramped. Dylan was awoken at midnight for a good feed, but straight back to sleep until dawn. Probably due to the massive surge of adrenaline that coursed through his entire being and subsequent recovery required from such physical intensity!

The dawn was breaking as the crew had breakfast and headed for bluenose to finish off the trip. Thankfully the third tuna was gifted to a boat that hadn’t had any luck leaving two to be divied up. One headed to Christchurch and one came home. The excitement of landing these fish is only a fraction of the detail and having the right tools for the job has improved for each trip. De-heading and tailing with a boning knife was hard work, even for a butcher! The vast amount of ice, iceytek bins, kai coolers and effort to accommodate the volume of meat is another whole chapter. Processing and packing this incredible delicacy, cleaning down all the gear and boat took another whole day. Sharing this catch was epic – we packed chiller boxes to send down south, friends and family feasted for days. We called up the good buggers in our fishing club to drop around for some fresh tuna. The satisfaction of sharing premium product in it’s finest form was incredibly rewarding.

Since this first venture there have been two more, each time refining techniques and learning more tips and tricks. The third trip was different, tuna were no longer in the location and the trawlers had departed. The sea was rougher, but a tuna was landed just before calling it a day and heading for home. Over the course of a month, seven anglers landed their first bluefin tuna. Bring on August 2024 and a chance to utilise our tagging kit.

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