Yellowfin tuna off Port Edward

When the ocean is dead and there is no action, we will put a few lures out and go in search of “something different”

Yellowfin tuna have been caught on the lower south coast of KZN for as long as I can remember but have become more abundant over the past five years and can now be targeted from any one of the 6 launch sites on the Hibiscus coast.

When I was younger, I remember yellowfin tuna being maligned by the old timers as an undesirable catch, often being dumped or used as dog food. This has changed dramatically with the popularity of sashimi, sushi and the realization that if the meat is looked after and cooked appropriately it is one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. Add to this the fact the tuna is a great sport fish that puts up a mammoth fight, makes it a great fish to target on the lower south coast.

These fish are now found year-round along the coast, and whereas in the past most catches were recorded off the Protea Banks [Shelley Beach] the abundance has up to Hibberdene and down to Port Edward and into the southern Transkei southern Transkei. Found from backline to the continental shelf and beyond, this pelagic species off Port Edward seems to have code that we are slowly but surely starting to crack.

This pelagic species off Port Edward seems to have code that we are slowly but surely starting to crack

Dean Pretorius

The Port Edward bay is extremely sheltered and hosts a multitude of bait mixed bait fish [red eyes, mackerel, cigar scads and mozzies], although they can be found throughout the year they start shoaling in abundance from around late February – May or just before the sardines arrive. This seems to coincide with the influx of Tuna in the area and makes sense that the fish are there for the food.

In saying this however these fish do stick around even after the bait has subsided, possibly because some bait does still hang around and there are always shad off one of the many reefs in the area.

BAIT SHOALS

It may seem that it is as easy as finding a bait ball, trolling or putting a live bait out and viola! Unfortunately this is not the case and often huge shoals of bait that seem to be getting smashed will produce nothing, what we are learning when chasing these shoals of bait is to be on the lookout for an isolated ,tightly packed shoal of bait. No matter what depth of water, you will find that this shoal has generally been herded and will hold fish. Obviously one should be on the lookout for tuna busting the surface and bait fish being chased and smashed as well, you have got to be sharp as these smashes tend to dissipate quickly. Trolling live mackerel around these isolated shoals or throwing a lure or popper at the smashing fish seems to produce best results.

TROLLING LURES

When there is not much bait around or while travelling between spots or in search of “Something Different “ we often put out lures and a daisy chain as we go. Many tunas landed off Port Edward are caught trolling lures. There is specific depth range and magic area that we have found, although fish have caught outside of this as well

We find that the 26m – 29 m line between splash rock and Spiros point seems to produce a vast number of fish, with the lighthouse area being the veritable hotspot. My lure of choice is without a doubt the blue kingfisher rattler – – this lure outperforms all others. We have also had success on the ice cream rattler [pink]. Anglers with bigger rigs have also had success with a few bigger fish going deep off port Edward trolling konas – my little 14’6 does go there so I reserve comment for those who have!

DOLPHINS

Off Durban anglers have good success finding pods of dolphins and pitching live baits or throwing poppers around them. It seems that the bigger tuna hang under dolphins and scavenge for scraps. Anglers have had limited success in our area trying this tactic, but it is worth a try. The Halco Roosta popper [TOFFEE APPLE OR PINK] is my favorite and the Star walker stick bait can also be trolled around the pods slowly.

“SOMETHING DIFFERENT”

When the ocean is dead and there is no action, we will put a few lures out and go in search of “something different “This maybe in the form of a color line, temperature change, current line, upwelling, flotsam or working seabirds. All of these may hold fish and are worth a look.

TACKLE AND TACTICS 

Although tuna are caught while targeting couta using wire traces, if you are specifically targeting tuna, I would suggest fish as light and as invisible as possible – I fish maximum 0.70 mm Fluro snoot and a 6/0 Mustad tuna circle or 7/0 demon fine

In calm, clean conditions we will go down to 0.55 Fluro snoot – I use a no 3 Mustad fastach clip on my leader for quick change from bait to lure when necessary. 

Live baits I rig with a single circle hook using a bridle made of heavy braid and a clear cable tie, attaching a bass rattle and small lump of Inova bead above the hook really Increases the hit rate especially when you have few baits out.

If we are drifting with live baits we often cut up old bait or spare cigar scads or red eyes into small chunks and chum the fish in – this has also proven to be highly effective when this are slow .Often while drifting a dead bait will also get the bite before the live bait we have had lots of success on dead red eye.

CATCH AND COOK

Tuna is a pelagic species so is generally a sustainable fish to catch and cook. This fish is extremely versatile, tasty and healthy and the average size in us ranges from 5 – 30 kg which are perfect for home consumption. Sashimi, sushi, seared, braaied, smoked, curried and even pickled are my no one ways of eating this tasty fish. Here is my Pickled Tuna video and recipe.   

CONCLUSION

Without a doubt my no one species to target off the boat in our area, the increased abundance is positive. The fact that anglers are losing very few tunas to sharks in our area is a huge plus. Hopefully some of these bigger fish will make this area home so we can do battle in the future. Please remember to “limit your catch don’t catch your limit “

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