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Blue Fin Tuna   Print 

April 2006 - Portland?s awesome Southern Blue Fin Tuna. And Continue into 2007.





Common names: SBT, Bluefin  Tuna.               

Size Limit: no limit

Combined possession limit: 2 including any bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

* Daily bag limits have been removed and replaced by a personal limit.


Appearance: Moderately long muscular body with small scales covering the skin. Color is bluish black along the back and silvery white below.  Near the tail keels are present and colored yellow in juveniles and black in adults.


Traditionally Southern blue fin tuna have been caught in Portland waters for more than 40 years in depths of 100 to 140 meters in the tuna season which is from April till the second week of July. These tuna are highly migratory and have been actively targeted by amateurs trolling large lures or whole fish baits.


Tuna appear to have a sensitive feel to temperature ?curtains? in the water and seem to hang close to these where the water changes slightly in temperature.



Local records which have been kept for over 30 years and show that yellowfin tuna rarely ?fire up? at Narooma, when Portland has a good season with blue fin tuna in the 140 metre water and viseversa, so one would assume that both currents don?t favor the same times.


Records show that tuna ?come in close? on a 3 year cycle every 6 to 7 years if the water temperature is suitable for the mako shark, krill, blue whale, killer whale, pilot whale, leatherback turtle, tuna birds and the El Nino current.


Records also show that some of the albacore caught this year are bigger than the old Victorian southern blue fin tuna record weighing in excess of 40kg and measuring 1050mm with a 325mm girth.

I used to think that the broadbill that came off the trawlers here, were too big for anglers to handle, but after checking some of the fishing gear lately we may get a surprise in the future.



A lot of large tuna caught recently have had large torpedo squid in their stomach content proving that some days they do feed hundreds of metres down under and are not always top feeding as the trawling anglers would favor.

When a group of trawlers are working the area, this favors the angler because it berleys the food chain by attracting albacore and tuna from the deep waters to the surface. With the overflow of net rubbish at the rear of the trawler, brings the feeding baits such as squid, red bait and small bait feeding fish along with bird life joining the feeding cycle.




According to facts SBT can grow to over 2metres in length and over 220kg in weight.

This year, we?ve noted some juvenile spasms of tuna with weights in the10kg mark, moving through with big tuna. Most average sized tuna have been: 17kg, 19kg, 26kg and the state record of 33kg has stood for 27 years.

Over the years SBT have been as big as ? 44 gallon drums,? chasing sari baits jumping out of the water, yet you never see anybody catch these big ones. Most tuna fishermen used 10kg or less line class therefore you?d never know what was hooked as it?d only be smoked off anyway.


The Port Fairy boys fishing the shelf for Hapuka saw tuna and trawled for them obtaining two hook ups and lost one four hours later.



Most presentation of lures appears to be the size of bait rather than color, to the feeding tuna. 

This year, large rapala CD bibbed lures have been a good taker with normal size tuna but the big tuna have done a good job by destroying these lures so it?s a good idea to use skirted lures with marlin hooks. 



This year, a group of fishermen were treated to a rare episode of killer whales ?smashing? into and feeding off a large school of tuna on the shelf and turning the water into a mess, proving that tuna have some predators to cope with.


SBT caught locally in Portland waters.

In Portlfairy, Ken Heinz landed an 85kg Southern blue fin tuna which exposed the run to some traditional tuna fishermen including Brett Wakely who came in with his largest tuna weighing 90kg, some smaller ones and a good size albacore out of Portland.

These catches encouraged a few of us to go fishing and we caught two tuna weighing 83kg. Rocket Harris lost a tuna after 3 hrs fighting, Tim Otter landed a small one weighing 83kg and these tuna were caught in 160 metres of water near the shelf.

The next day, Leigh Dyson caught a tuna weighing 86kg.


All these tuna were hauled in from a combined crew effort as one person would never handle a tuna of this size to the gaffe stage and bringing it aboard the boat.  Many tuna have been lost at the side of the boat as Kevin Dark can vouch for and that is after 2.5 hrs fighting the tuna. So who ever claims the tuna has had a crew effort to have captured the awesome tuna.

These tuna took our 24kg reels, to the steel even when motoring on them for 20 minutes.


As word spread to Melbourne and surrounds of these large tuna catches, fishermen with their expert marlin gear came and caught some tuna ranging in weight up to the 110 kg mark, using 80kg gear stepped up from their 37kg gear and were still being smoked away to every bodies surprise.


Rob Znevych landed the biggest recognized tuna weighing 120.7 kg, measuring 2050mm long with a girth of 520mm.  Plenty of tuna ranging from 80kg to 110 kg were caught but many tuna released themselves by there shear awsome power .  Some of the 37kg and 80kg tuna gear required fighting times of two, three, five and even eight hours but a few were still lost although the gear was traditionally set up for large marlin.


Most of the gear used was marlin lures, hooks, leaders, rods but not many had game fishing chairs! How they put the tuna in the boat is another story as when back at the weighing gantry the fishermen could not lift the tuna out of their boats even with help so they would have to be lifted into the boat by ?Adrenaline?.


One day ?with the pressure on?, approximately 50 tuna weighing between 80 to 108kg were brought in with  many big tuna out mussling the anglers and being lost.  Luckily this was a one off exposure as most other good days about 6 to 12 tuna with plenty of ?tuna line smoking? off the anglers gear by the large tuna that out muscled a lot of anglers.


This is just the tip of tuna game fishing in Victoria and on the cutting edge of technique. In time, the angler will start to cube, as the east coast fishermen do and they?ll catch tuna more often, when these fish are not on the top to take skirted lures.  The broadbill will then be exposed in daylight the same as around the east coast or Narooma.


Pelagic fish in depths of 1000 metres may only surface for lures some days for 7% of their feeding time and that?s why cubing is so successful, by attracting them from several hundred metres to the rear of the fishing boat.  In the future, the shelf will expose some unusual surprises.


Portland waters also boast some awesome mako shark weighing well over the 400kg mark as proven by the trawlers that work these waters


Continental shelf

The continental shelf is approximately 36 miles/58km off the mainland and the closest shelf water is 18 miles/30km off Bridgewater, is in the region of 1000 to more than 2000 metres deep and is normally not fished for tuna but has taken a pounding in the last few months.

It was in 1993 whilst trawling this area that local trawlers noted big tuna on the shelf.

History from Naroma and Portland tells us that there seems to be a connection to shelf timing and the feeding of tuna, as all boats in a large spread out area appear to hook up at the same time in a two to three hour window of opportunity in 12 hour cycles starting from 10.30am to 2.30 pm depending on tide timing and shelf lift.


Over previous years nobody would fish the shelf country as it was too far from land. If the tuna were not exposed at this size none of us would have ventured to the shelf as the normal tuna were always caught in the 140 metre water. Albacore were always known as ?shelf tuna? and nobody was that interested in them because of traveling distance.


Portland, Port MacDonald and Portfairy are all within 25 miles/40km of the same shelf water but locally we have better access because of good weather protection from the land outcrop and return to harbour in bad weather and swelly conditions.

Melbourne has no continental shelf but down south at Lakes Entrance it has shelf water as does Portland as the land mass was not joint to Tasmania as was Melbournes land mass.

Bonnies krill uplift on the canyons at Bridgewater is renowned for the food chain they bring in and this is where the broadbill, giant squid and unusual oceanic creatures come in off the trawlers.  

Most of these large southern blue fin tuna from 80 to120+ kg have been caught on shelf country whilst trawling using marlin skirted lures on 24, 37, 80 and now 160kg gear at a speed of 8 knots. The shelf country is approx 34 miles/55km from Portland harbor and one needs to have good boat skills, appropriate boat size, sea skill expertise, extra fuel, safety gear and weather knowledge up to the task, else stay in the traditional water of 140 metres at 6miles/3.6km behind Lawrence Rock and fish in this area as you will catch the traditional 20kg Tuna .

Portland seas can be some of the roughest ocean in the world and is not to be confused with the east coast shelf country of Narooma or Bermagui.  

This shelf country is renowned for 10 metre and beyond swell but other days it can be like glass.



C.S.I.R.O. has documented the migration path of marlin and yellow fin through this area. In the early 60?s Portland had a tuna factory Safcol, which used to can tuna and the local boats would catch tuna outside the harbor in front of whaler?s reef.


Over recent years the stocks of SBT have declined dramatically to the point where strict management controls have been placed upon the fishery in an attempt to allow stocks to recover.


Since the sixties netting desecrated tuna world wide and nearly put the tuna on the edge of extinction but now these endangered tuna are world protected and managed by quotas. Victorian anglers have a quota of 25 ton allocation, under management which this year has possibly been exceeded, and may cause some regulation changes next year with the big unexpected southern blue fin tuna catches as the allocation was for normal 20kg tuna.


A season ago, I hooked a big tuna on 24kg gear and it took us 8 mile/13km out to sea from 140 metre water over 1.5 hrs and busted off, yet you could see it in the swell which would have been one of those fellows.



In the late 90?s as a member and permanent recreational observer for A.N.S.A I attended federal meetings for the SBT Management Board (Tuna Mac), which gave us a global insight into the world management of these endangered tuna.

I had a fair input for recreational anglers as a voice for A.N.S.A. when at one stage they were going to have a ?no take? regulation for recreational anglers for all states so we are lucky to have a 2 personal limit.


As yellow fin tuna are not endangered and on the decline at the east coast you would have to assume some voluntary ethics need to be put into place by recreational anglers regarding the big SBT to take one or two per boat only once then release the others in good condition, as these are the breeders preserving future stocks.

Small tuna up to 30 kg are not as important as the large breeding ones and it?s more feasible for the angler to take bag numbers while you are still allowed these awesome tuna.


Ethics for the future remains in the anglers hands. Two years ago these tuna were nearly listed as world heritage and ?nil take? was listed for amateurs so we are still presently allowed to enjoy these truly magnificent sports fish. These tuna have to face the rest of the world fishing pressures and have so far survived.

There is a black market temptation for these tuna as they are worth more than abalone per kg, so this should make all fishermen keep their eyes open and aware of this so these small minority groups don?t destroy our sportfishing.






The Portland Sport and Game Fishing Club have records going back 20 years regarding tagging of the traditional tuna which documents some being tagged here then caught at the bottom of South Africa six months later.

It?s amazing that these federally funded scientific departments haven?t researched this rare exposure of tuna when most of the research data that is checked out contradicts some of the facts in listings and could easily have been checked out by D.N.A. samples etc. Some state that these tuna grow to 2 metres yet we have measured them at 2 metres 50mm long and these tuna are not fully grown by weight and some say that they live to 20 years yet others say they have a life cycle of 40 years and don?t start breeding until 8 to 12 years of age.  


Preparation of tuna for eating

If the SBT is killed, bled and cleaned shortly after capture the flesh is good for eating.

Tuna steaks are preferred by local fishers but most is used as sashimi (raw fish).

If these tuna are not killed and cooled quickly following capture their internal body temperature can rise to such an extent that the flesh literally cooks itself. This process detracts from the taste and gives the flesh a very unappealing burnt muddy taste.



These tuna have records and history that date back with lots of information which some of us acquire or learn from our pioneers. Tuna information comes from many sources such as Sport & Game Fishing Clubs, fishermen, fishing authors/writers such as Geoff Wilson, Steve Cooper, Rex Hunt and the like whose information has been shared with many a fishermen.

Nobody cuts into new frontiers by individual effort alone but by an advised effort from a majority of fishermen who share their experiences and information with each other.


Victoria has been well exposed as an excellent game fishing area including highlighting Portland this year and has initiated a lot of people to think seriously about the sport fishing future.


In the future, the legends will be writing some interesting articles on Victorian Game Fishing   hopefully spilling their knowledge on fishing this area.


 Information supplied by Bob McPherson.


* * * * * * * *

125Kg.S.B.Tuna coming to boat.




Aprox area map for tuna



Some more Southern Bluefin photos.


Try the 110kg and 83kg mark of Southern Bluefin Tuna.



Still in 110kg Southern Bluefin Tuna mark.



Looks tell the storie.



Onthe water.


This photo was taken in Portland harbour of these large Bluefin tuna 3 weeks before the big ones started to be caught.



Ken Heinz 1st 85kg Tuna and Brett Wakleys was the 2nd large Bluefin tuna caught here. 


80kg and 160kg gear being used on the large S.B.Tuna now.


Giant Blue fin of the Bahamas banks and what  used to be available to the anglers.




Try this one at 720kg



Try this tuna on 4kg bait.




Recent rare giant Bluefin Tuna catch.aprox Arores Bank.




Yellowfin Tuna. 





Giant Bluefin Tuna.

Sight for sore eyes.

Mutton birds,tuna birds on bait with Tuna under them.