Here in mid December in the south-west we have just had our first solid reports of tuna for the season, off Portland and Port Fairy. Within a few weeks these fish will have spread right across our Victorian coastline and will make for some exciting fishing, just like last summer. Tuna are a fish many anglers still struggle to target and find, so let’s take a look at the top three tactics employed for summer tuna.

Casting Stickbaits

Stickbaiting has really grown in popularity to the point where it’s the most popular summer tuna tactic today. During winter you can certainly run larger lures of 120mm-180mm, but during summer the fish are much shyer and feeding on smaller bait so the lure size needs to drop. Stickbaits between 90-120mm are perfect. Look for sinking stickbaits- floating stickbaits in this size rarely have enough weight to cast on tuna weight tackle.  Any colour will work, with natural sardine patterns being the number one standout in most lures. Run a reel of 3000-8000, with a rod of at least 7′ to suit, and braid to match (20-60lb). The lighter the combo, the smaller  your lures can be, and more bites can come. Light flurocarbon leader is preferred. During summer, often the fish aren’t busting up and are simply sunning on the surface. You’ll be looking for dark shapes cruising on the top, often with fins out. Calm days make this much easier. Do not race up to the fish- be quiet. The quieter you are, the less flighty the fish. Electric motors make this much easier than a loud two stroke. If you manage to get into close range without spooking the fish- cast quickly! Try a few different retrieves and lures as often the fish will be very fussy and will only fire up on one lure.

Top three lures:

  • Nomad Riptide 105
  • Nomad Madscad 115
  • Fish Inc Flanker 115

Trolling Skirts 

Skirts are normally looked on as more of a winter option- but down sized skirts can be very effective in summer, especially on rougher days when the fish are less spooky and can be hard to cast to. Trolling offers the advantage of being able to present to fish that may not show on the surface and won’t be seen. Light overheads are popular for this style of fishing- no more than 15kg tackle is needed. When finding area to troll, look for bait on the sounder, areas known to have been producing tuna, areas with good bird numbers, or fish on the surface.  Spreader bars are a useful tool only being used in the last season, which will draw fish in from a long way, and will also fire up inactive fish like nothing else. A spreader bar is highly recommended for any tuna troller, including on school fish.

Top three lures:

  • Black Pete 4″ Pirate Skirt
  • Pakula Uzi
  • Black Magic Jetsetter

Micro Jigging

Micro jigging for tuna still hasn’t taken off big time- but is certainly effective when the fish are down deep. A sounder is vital for this kind of fishing, the opposite to casting. Looking for bait and tuna on the sounder will be your best bet as tuna don’t tend to hang around reef or rocks like your bottom fish. Keep a close eye on that sounder- the fish can move very quickly before you notice. A proper micro jig rod is recommended to get the most action from your jig, and be the most comfortable when fighting fish from above. A fast retrieve is needed from the jig, which is why a slender jig is needed. Slender jigs can be worked at a faster pace which excites the tuna. Micro Jigging tuna also has the added benefit of kingfish as a highly likely by-catch. When selecting a jig, try match roughly one gram per metre as any fish. However it may pay to add a little extra weight, as typically you want that jig to reach the fish as soon as possible before they move on. If you have got a 20g jig that may take 20 seconds to reach the moving fish, and your mate has a 60g jig that takes 8 seconds- guess who’s on the fish first and most likely to hook up.

Top three lures:

  • Storm Koika 60g
  • Nomad Streaker 60g
  • Nomad Gyspy 20g (for shallow water)

Don’t forget to limit your kill, not kill your limit. Tuna taste much better when placed straight on ice after bleeding- don’t let them roll around the boat dying. It’s better for the fish but the taste difference is quite significant.