REPORT: Tuna season hits top gear

THE Autumn southern bluefin tuna run in south-western Victoria is in full swing and providing consistent catches for recreational anglers for the sixth season in a row.

While the larger fish have been more elusive than in previous seasons, the abundance of school sized fish from 10-20kg has been well received. Only a few "barrels" have been landed over the past month with one fish of 70kg fish landed out of Portland and a
116kg fish landed on 20lb braid in 50m water off Warrnambool. There have also been a few empty spools and sad stories from a few anglers.

The good run of albacore usually experienced near the shelf during the early part of the season has failed to eventuate with only spasmodic catches reported, but this has been made up for with a good run of school bluefin tuna in close to shore - and when I mean close, schools of fish have now been consistently caught in water as shallow as 10m from the ports of Port Fairy and Warrnambool to the east of Portland. Apollo Bay has also
had its share of tuna from the back of the Cape Otway lighthouse out to the well renound "Big Reef".

This has provide some exceptional fishing to anglers in smaller trailer boats with some of last week's hot action a little more than a kilometre from the boat ramp. Last week I found the fish busting up on the back of Griffith Island at Port Fairy amoungst the cray pot
lines in only 12m of water, and some local anglers from Warrnambool found them in Lady Bay, Warrnambool in 10m of water!

For those travelling a bit further a 15km trip out to the 50m water has really been as far as you need to go. Most days iits just been a matter of heading out for a couple of hours
finding the birds and getting straight into the fish. With the fine autumn weather and the fish getting a little boat shy I've had plenty of success pulling upwind of the fish and casting stickbaits and small poppers into the feeding frenzy. It's just like fishing for longtails up north - except for the three layers of clothing as the mornings are
pretty crisp!

Some nice dolphin fish have also turned up in the past week from out near the shelf to as close as 50m of water, with a 14kg specimen landed yesterday, which is as good a specimen as you'd find anywhere in the country. Matt Hunt from Matt Hunt Fishing Services had a six-way hookup on dolphin fish last week, so it just goes to show that these fish are
a viable option amoungst the bluefin tuna, albacore and stripies. A good mate even had a 96kg mako shark eat a trolled X-Rap a couple of weeks back while chasing tuna.

With at least two months of fishing before the weather closes down and the prospects of some big barrels to come in the southwest there is still plenty of time to get out and enjoy some of the best game fishing you will find anywhere in the country.

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