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Some large tuna being caught at Pedra Branca

by Carl Hyland 19 Nov 2018 09:47 UTC
Pedra Branca, a archipelago of islands to the South East of Tasmania © Carl Hyland

Recently, reports have been filtering in of some large tuna being caught at Pedra Branca, a archipelago of islands to the South East of Tasmania. Obviously, there is an abundance of not only fish life in the area, but also bird life and seals which in turn, provide a bounty for all manner of creatures.

Pedra Branca is known for its inaccessibility, rich marine wildlife, wet and windy weather, interesting geology and large waves. With an area of 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres), the island is small enough to provide an example of an outcrop that lies on the border between being a rock or islet and an island.

The geology features three breccia cones of dolerite and sandstone and together with the nearby Eddystone and Sidmouth Rock the island constitutes the two-hectare (five-acre) Pedra Branca Important Bird Area (IBA), identified as such by BirdLife International because it supports over 1% of the world populations of shy albatrosses and Australasian gannets.

More importantly, it is also home to some of the largest Bluefin tuna in the world and captures by Tasmanian anglers in the past and more recently, have proven just that. A local angler Rob Bessell and his crew managed such a giant specimen last week and just this last weekend, another two two were landed by anglers setting forth from location's along the South East. Here's a brief report of Rob's capture: After checking the forecast a few days out, then yesterday and a final check at 5am, we set off.

The captain decided to put in at Gordon instead of hiking down to Researche Bay. The wind was northerly in the morning and changing to a southerly for the ride home. Perfect for us. Two hours later, we arrived at Pedra. Greeted by a couple of whales and a heap of birdlife and seals. Though the seals looked like pups and not very large.

Got straight into bottom fishing this didn't go all that well initially. The northerly was still blowing and was a bit stronger than predicted. We caught a few gurnard then moved into the lee of pedra where we continued to fish. Within the hour, the wind dropped off and it started to glass off. Magical!

Found a patch of stripe's, with one being hooked and lost half way up. Caught a great fish a short time later and I followed up with a just size fish. The gurnard were still biting but the stripe's turned off as quick as they came on.

We started to get a bit bored and decided to have a crack for some tuna. Heard that a 97kg and a 60kg fish had been recently caught at the edge of the white water at the rear of pedra, so we started there. Covered that fairly quickly and I saw a flock of birds hovering at the front of the rock. Called out to head over and less than 1 minute later and within five minutes of beginning, a rod went off.

And by off, I mean the biggest blistering run I have ever seen. I grabbed the rod and held on, watching as my line was disappearing off the reel. I reckon 200m went within 30 seconds. The fish stayed up top and we quickly regained some line. That was until the fish woke up again and more line was stripped off. Managed to get the fish into sight fairly quickly and we saw our biggest tuna ever hooked. We didn't know how big, but knew it was bigger than our previous boat record of about 40kg.

The fish blasted off again, and then the worst thing happened.

The line went slack. Completely slack. I wound as quickly as I could, but saw the obvious sign of the wind on skipping along the surface back towards the boat.

My heart sunk....Continued winding only to see a dark shape in front of the leader, the fish was swimming directly to us and at a massive rate of knots. My line rapidly tightened and almost sent me flying over the edge. But backed the drag off and let the fish get clear of the boat. By this stage i was harnessed up and got into it. Well i thought i was, but the fish had other ideas.

The fish went deep. And stayed there. I had about a 10 minute section where the fish was just down and I could not move him, and could not turn the handle due to the tension. Back breaking stuff. Finally managed to get the fish moving and eventually got the fish back to the wind on leader. But again, the fish just kept at it. Stripping line at leisure.

Pushed the drag to almost sunset and immediately felt the pain of the stand-up setup. The fish didn't care and kept pulling.

A thought crossed my mind that we weren't going to win and I seriously thought about cutting the line! Haha. But we knew the fish was tiring as the runs were getting shorter each time. But the fact that the fish was still on was a miracle in my eyes. We had narrowly avoided the outboard on many occasions. The fish came up again to the leader but could not get him near the boat and the battle continued.

We were well past the hour and I was thinking of the nice days of catching salmon from the shore with minimal effort, or flicking flies at trout. Anything to get over the sweat and tears I was suffering through! But things were starting to come together. We were keeping the fish where we wanted, the boat manoeuvring was becoming predictable with the fish movements and we had two gaffs ready to go. The fish came up and I swear it grew in kilograms as it neared the boat. The wind on was grabbed, the fish was gaffed and the second gaff went in.

Oh my god! It was huge. Bigger than we could have ever imagined. We have seen photos of barrels but never came close to landing one. We have had suspected encounters but have always been showed up! Could it be an actual barrel of 100kg or could it be bigger? So the next issue was bringing it into the boat. We tried our 20kg tuna technique only to move the fish a few inches in the water. Right.

Plan B was to tie a tail rope around the fish and drag it over backwards....

All four of us then got together and using the gaffs and the rope, we pulled the big beast into the boat. There was a moment of silence as we just looked at what we accomplished. This was followed by high fives all around.

Never contemplated putting the lures back in. This fish had wrecked all of us. I was cramping in places i have never felt cramp before.So we pulled the pin and set off for home.

But I cannot take this as an individual win. The ONLY reason we got this fish was due to teamwork and the fine tuning we have put in over the years playing with 20kg fish.

Were we lucky, but we also showed a bit of skill in actually hooking and landing this fish. Part of the skill is in the setup prior to hooking the fish. And we had no weak links!

Back to the fish.114.9kg!!!!

A true barrel, our record by 74.9kg.

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