NewsNew bluefin tuna marks setHadley Greenhalgh landed this pending national record 81.8kg southern bluefin tuna, fishing 10kg tackle aboard Western Break out from Waihau Bay in late July.There have been some great southern bluefin tuna catches this winter in both size and volume.

One of the better fish weighed a tad over 160kg, but unfortunately the leader measured too long. In the excitement and anticipation of chasing and hooking these great sportfish, the basics can be overlooked. It pays to always check, especially if taking the likes of wind-on leaders straight out of the packet.

One angler who got it all right was Hadley Greenhalgh, who caught a pending 10kg line class record with an 81.8kg tuna on July 30.

Hadley was fishing with world bluefin record holder and Red Gill lure maker Nathan Adams aboard Nathan’s trailerboat Western Break with Alan Langdon as crew when on the last day of a five-day excursion to Waihau Bay, they hooked the last of their 10 tuna for the trip.

It had smashed an RG1 Kohe before peeling off a heap of line on its initial run and then doing the normal tuna thing – heading deep.

“For a lot of the time, it had its head down and was circling in its comfort zone. They are hard to do anything with when they dig in like this; it was just a matter of patience and trusting your gear,” Nathan says.

Slowly they worked the fish towards the boat, winning more line than Hadley was losing. 
Finally, at just under three hours, Alan had the leader and the fish was secured.

“We were obviously pretty pleased with the effort and on consulting the NZ Sport Fishing Council’s records, we thought we had not only a national but a world record on the deck. Unfortunately, the records had not been updated as last season an Aussie angler caught one over 100kg on 10kg tackle, but it was still a national claim and a neat fish.”

At the time of writing, the bluefin were on their way up the coast. Mercury Bay club angler Markus Wunderlich and his good buddy Ben Taylor went to the 1250m mark east of the Alderman Knoll in Marcus’ trailer boat Mercy. Ben nailed a 60kg tuna on 37kg tackle while Markus’ 35.42kg fish on 15kg tackle is a pending club pin fish and line-class record. They are waiting for another break in the weather before heading back out there for another shot.

In 2017, thanks to a couple of commercial fishermen sharing their knowledge, there was something of a ‘tuna rush’ to the East Cape region, centred on Waihau Bay. It was madness and for an almost three-month period, what is normally a sleepy holiday hollow became a hub of angling activity as a huge trailerboat fleet descended on the region.

Prior to that period, the annual catch could be counted on fingers and toes, but the 2017 season saw the estimated recreational catch possibly exceeding 30 tonnes. Southern bluefin tuna come under the auspices of the international regulatory body Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT).

In 2019 Fisheries NZ imposed, from June 1, a one fish per day per recreational angler bag limit. The Total Allowable (TAC) catch from New Zealand waters is now 1088 tonnes of which Commercial are allocated 1046 tonnes (TACC), Customary two tonnes and Recreational 20 tonnes.

A conservation ethic has been promoted by the NZ Sport Fishing Council through its member clubs and the fishing media, and many lessons were learned from the 2017 watershed season regarding how the fish, the environment and the host community should be respected.

A typical southern bluefin tuna, this one caught by Ben Taylor aboard Mercy out from the Alderman Islands.The good news around the southern bluefin fishery is that it has extended this country’s gamefishing options.

A typical southern bluefin tuna, this one caught by Ben Taylor aboard Mercy out from the Alderman Islands.
A growing number of anglers are now working the spring bigeye tuna run of the upper North Island’s east coast, thanks in part to commercial fishers sharing their knowledge with the recreational sector and more readily available and accurate SST and other charts on the internet.

For the very keen and well-prepared, there is a gamefishing species available almost every month of the year.

For more on southern bluefin tuna fishing, check out Matt Cranswick’s feature Singing the Birthday Blues and Hayden Speed’s Young Yarns column elsewhere in this edition. 

- GRANT DIXON