BLUEFIN in ITALY. A friend and I have just returned from a trip to Ancona - about halfway up Italy’s (East) Adriatic coast - targeting juvenile Bluefin Tuna on heavy popping gear. For two days the ‘weather gods’ conspired against us but, on the Friday, we got offshore and a result - I got a Tuna around 35kgs. I have to admit though it was, paraphrasing the words of that Beatles song, ‘I got by with a little help from my friend’. Thank you Peter!
Right now to the detail, but first:
The prime months to encounter them using extreme spinning techniques is during April and September. Obviously that’s slightly flexible. Another Club member I believe caught his in late March and they’re obviously present - in numbers - off Ancona during October with the main aggregations then being targeted, some 60 kilometres North, in November from Pesaro. (Our skipper - Diego Bedetti - relocates his boat there during November.)
Then during July and August they’re targeting the fish - often larger fish up to 200kgs plus - drifting off Ancona using deadbaits and a chum trail of fish fragments. (Not the ‘classic’ sharking mix, although they do encounter the occasional one.)
And it’s during July that they are licensed to take one fish a day. The rest of the year it is strictly a release fishery.
So to our trip.
We fished from an open centre console 23’ Polaris powered by a 150HP four-stroke outboard, and ran 15 or so miles offshore - in around 200’ of water - and started scanning the sea for the birds over the Tuna shoals. They’re, at that time of year, feeding on large Sardines. Once you spot them, and that can be at up to a mile range, it’s the classic “Run ’n’ Gun” and hopefully you arrive before the surface action finishes. Singletons also pop up occasionally.
There was lots of action - some really impressive - but we were never quite there in time! Diego therefore decided to ‘up sticks’ and run some 15 or so miles to the South. And that’s where we encountered a real maelstrom of feeding fish; with fish literally within a few yards of the boat!
(Our guide was very conscious of what he described as the intensity of their ‘activity’ with, on most occasions, him approaching them at low revs and asking for long, accurate casts. They’re evidentially very sensitive to noise.)
But on this occasion nothing was going to spook those fish. I fired out a weighted pink soft bait - you fish it reasonably fast and straight with 2’ sweeps of the rod - whereas Peter was using a popper. And within perhaps 30’ of the boat I got a hook-up. (Our guide likes you to set the hook with three or four short jabbing strikes.)
I really didn’t expect what was to happen next with, rather than the fish running away from the pressure, it shooting backwards past the stern and dragging me, initially, to my knees. You’re fishing with an 8’ rod and the drag on the reel is set to 9 kilos - around 20lbs!
After that initial run, and now with a butt pad on, it was that classic Tuna ‘up and down’ fight with the boat just being manoeuvred to keep the line near to the bow, away from the engine. And I have to admit the pressure started to tell on me, and Peter took over for a while.
(Just some observations here about technique. And yes, hindsight’s a wondrous thing! I was pumping using my forearm, and the lactic acid soon started to build up. I now understand that it’s better to, still keeping a straight back, to use your weight - not too much in my case - and lean back, whilst also using your legs to squat. The other thing, especially when the fish is starting to circle, is to apply maximum pressure by clamping down on the reel’s spool. Don’t ‘up’ the drag unless you fancy a premature ‘ early bath’ if the fish isn’t as tired as you think.)
Any rate with the fish leader Diego used a modified BogaGrip to ‘lip’ the fish and, seeing it had been a relatively short fight - less than 30 minutes - and the fish was healthy, Peter and he lifted it aboard for the requisite photos. It was then quickly back in the water where, gently motoring forward, we allowed the fish to recover - watching for those strong tail beats - before releasing it. Ah yes, Diego inserted a small scientific tag next to its dorsal.
So then it was an excellent lunch of pasta, a beer and some of Diego’s ‘jungle juice’ - a potent coffee liqueur. And of course, during that time, we had several singletons jumping around the boat!
Well we had several more shots in the afternoon, but no further success.
Just one further observation about technique with regards the surface poppers. It was a slower retrieve with the rod held at probably a 70 degree angle with just short ‘pops’. Certainly the birds liked it! You just had to remember that, when with 20 yards or so of the boat, you brought the rod parallel to the surface to maintain those short ‘pops’.
So it was the extreme spin fishing for Tuna that had attracted us but, on the way in, Diego mentioned the Amberjack they caught. His biggest had been over 50kgs! And also the massive Leerfish up to nearly 35kgs. In fact illustrating this we, just outside the harbour, pulled alongside one of his friend’s boats who’d caught a 16kg Leerfish on a small Garfish livebait.