Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash announced in April that a new bag limit of one southern bluefin tuna per person per day would apply to the recreational catch nationwide, effective on 1 June.
The Council originally submitted for a two-bag limit to account for the smaller fish in the South Island, but the Ministry and commercial interests sought more stringent measures that we support.
Southern bluefin tuna turned up off Cape Runaway/East Cape in the second week of June, even though the water is still reasonably warm. The Council and Waihau Bay Sports Fishing Club continue to contribute to monitoring of catches from the eastern Bay of Plenty and collection of otoliths for ageing. LegaSea has produced a FishCare guide to help people keep landed bluefin in top condition or have the best chance of survival if they are released. More people are processing their fish at sea and these are not being weighed and recorded. It is important that the Council can report the total number of southern bluefin tuna caught by private fishers with some confidence. See legasea.co.nz, nzsportfishing.co.nz or join your local Ocean Sports Club.
By Fred Christensen
The Southern Blue Fin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)
In recent years, fishing forsouthern blue fin tuna has created huge excitement for anglers. Unlike their cousins the Yellow Fin Tuna the Southern Blue Fin Tuna, it likes cooler water and in the mid winter months, commercial fleets have for many years set long lines and caught these for domestic and international markets off the East Cape.
With modern boat technology, recreational anglers venture up to 50 nautical miles to the East Cape of the North Island to Ranfurly Banks where huge kingfish 40kg-plus and hapuka 50kg-plus are also found. Add high tech Fish Finders, GPS and social media intel.
From Whangamata it's 100 nautical miles direct to Waihau bay. The Launch Norty Forty cruising at 25 knots is there in four hours in comfort. By road Waihau Bay is 320km — five hours-plus with a trailer boat.
Waihau Bay is a sleepy coastal village and when the tuna are running there's no accommodation. Many crews will drive through the night to be at the launch ramp at 4am.
With first light, it is all on as boats head out to Spot X. Some will use the local VHF channel to chat for intel. In the water and big game fishing gear set, 50-plus 80 wide reels on powerful rods with at least four lures running then becomes an 'in the right place at the right time' for anglers.
With tuna swimming in packs, often multiple lures will get smashed as they compete for food. Double and triple strikes on gear with big powerful fish almost create panic.
Fish get busted off, gear breaks and after 30 minutes to two hours you might just get one of these beauties. Then it's iki, bleed and chill the fish as quickly as possible.