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It's tuna time: On the shores of Tasmanian waters

by Carl Hyland 10 Feb 09:41 UTC
Paper tuna © Carl Hyland

'It's Tuna time' a catch phrase, I and others love to hear. Albacore and even some jumbo Bluefin are finally on the shores of Tasmanian waters and now, even anglers in smaller tinnies are reaping the rewards.

Close inshore out of Fortescue Bay in the South, and St Helens in the East plus Mussleroe, anglers have been telling me of bag limits being filled on albacore, some of a good size too and they appear to be biting at just about anything.

Smaller, pilchard type lures seem to be the most successful as I'm told that the fish are full of pilchards. Skirted lures in silver, blue and even black are also accounting for many fish. Apparently, 'bust-up's' are occurring alongside boats and if lures aren't taken, I'd be trying a soft plastic in a pillie pattern or even baiting with small pieces of blue bait.

During the frenzied action of tuna in amongst bait schools, albies only have eyes for wounded or injured fish or something that has an erratic action, so as you could imagine, a soft plastic retrieved spasmodically would be just the ticket.

One angler I spoke to told of trolling from his small tinnie and as soon as one fish was caught and landed and the line thrown back in, another hook-up occurred and this went on for 10 fish, they were that thick. Of course the bag limit for albacore per boat is five per person which you would think, would be more than enough per outing.

For those who don't know, albacore are known as the "white meat tuna" and "chicken of the sea", the albacore (Thunnus alalunga) is one of the world's most widely distributed tunas. Female tuna deposit some 160,000 to 1.6million eggs at spawning time and summer is the time it all happens. Although they taste great, health authorities in most parts of the northern hemisphere recommend limiting intake of albacore due to health concerns, as this species tends to accumulate higher levels of mercury than other types of tuna.

In fact, testing indicates that around 80 per cent of albacore in the northern hemisphere exceed food safety guidelines for human consumption due to high levels of mercury in the flesh.

For those who are wondering, the vast majority of mercury that finds its way into top level predatory fish comes from the burning of coal from coal-fired power stations.

The mercury is vaporised during the combustion process, enters the atmosphere then converts to methyl mercury upon contact with water, with the heavy metal subsequently accumulating in aquatic animals and concentrating up the food chain.

What do they taste like? Here are a few pointers:
Colour: from light pink to a pale red, turning ivory or creamy white when cooked.
Texture: raw fillets are very soft and fall apart easily in large flakes, but firm up on cooking, forming a dense steak.
Flavour: a rich, but mild taste thanks to its high fat content.
Perfect serve: Thanks to quite high fat content, albacore is excellent grilled or barbequed. Alternate large chunks of fresh tuna with vegetables on a kebab stick.

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