FINLAND June/July 2012
What an amazing trip. It was a totally new experience fishing with a film crew in the remote northern parts of Finland and Norway. Nick and I were lucky to be invited by our good friend Tapani to take part in episode 8 of Arctic waters, a 9 part series due to be released early November on Finnish TV. For more info please see their face book page.
Coming from the southern hemisphere 34 degrees south and traveling for two days including a 8 hour overlay in Istanbul we finally reached our destination - a log cabin built from 100 year old Russian Pine trees situated on the banks of the Teno river on the border between Finland and Norway. We were now almost 70 degrees North and apart from now being upside down we also had to contend with the midnight sun as being summer the sun did not set - no not at all. So for the uninitiated it felt like one long continuous day.
So not feeling tired at all for the first 5 days we fished till we could fish no more and only slept about 7 hours finally crashing day 6 for a 12 hour sleep catch up session. What we did find out is that catching Salmon is not as easy as we thought it would be.
The Atlantic Salmon conditions at sea feeding on small fish and largely shrimp awaiting summer, a few month window in the harsh arctic tundra when the frozen rivers melt after a winter characterised by no sun and temperatures dropping t0 -50 degrees C. Over a period of a few weeks the land transforms from a totally white snow and ice landscape and as the water melts the frozen “icebergs” are washed down river towards the sea. It is after the big melt that the Salmon run the river back to their original spawning holes where they were first spawned in the head waters of the river. It is here that they will again spawn.
What makes the fly fishing difficult is that the Salmon do not eat while in the river, they condition before the run upriver. So they do not feed at all and the only way to get them to take a fly or lure is through an aggressive response when you pass the fly in front of them. I think Nick and I lost count after about 60 hours of fly casting, one thing I can can say is that we did get some good casting practice, hooking the salmon was another story with only6 takes and one salmon landed on fly
Sushi has fast become a modern trend in the westernized world, but few diners actually consider catching tuna sashimi themselves. With the help of Two Oceans Sport Fishing Charters, Kayleigh Roos braved the rough oceans 78 kilometres out from Cape Town’s shores, to find out that there is more to fishing than she’d previously thought.
Learn the Lingo!
‘Trolling’ – artificial lures are fastened to the back of the boat, trailing behind as the boat moves forward.
‘Chumming’ – bait, such as pilchards, are attached to the line and dumped into the water in order to lure the fish towards the boat.
‘Trawlers’ – Large, commercial fishing vessels that provide good fishing vicinity for leisure and sport fishermen.
I was woken from a deep daydream with a sudden fright. It was like walking into an overcrowded nightclub from an abandoned side-street; chaos. At the slightest sound of a moving reel, Dave’s body shot from one end of the boat to the other, screaming all kinds of fishing terms I could hardly understand. “Reel in, REEL IN!” Dave shouted repeatedly, pushing a man out of his way so that he could take over. I immediately noticed the passion this skipper had for the sport of fishing. He’ll say, or do, anything to make sure the fish on the other side of the line gets into the ice-box under his boat that is appropriately named Obsession. The three other men on board scrambled to the remaining rods, reeling them in as fast as they could, so that the one with a fish on the end didn’t get tangled. It was the first time I’d been on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, fiercely bobbing up and down, while nobody held the steering-wheel. I was anxious, but the adrenalin on board kept me alert. While I sat and watched the first longfin tuna of the day get reeled in, hooked off the line, and thrown into the ice-box, I thought to myself, “Wow, fishing truly is extreme”.
I’d always thought of fishing as a leisure activity; a hobby, or something to pass the time while catching a tan. I watched fishing programmes on television and laughed at its classification as sport. How could fishing possibly be considered a sport? I was soon to find out.
Finding my sea-legs
It was five o’clock in the morning and the darkness made it hard for me to find my way around the Hout Bay Harbour. I walked across a gravel yard towards the sound of men chatting atop a smallish boat that was loaded onto a trailer. I was glad the wind from the previous night had dropped to a small breeze and a nervous type of excitement resonated from within my stomach. Dave had asked me whether I suffered from sea-sickness and although I replied, “Not at all,” I wasn’t completely sure. A man met me half way across the gravel yard, the darkness preventing me from seeing his face. “Good morning Kayleigh, I’m Nick” he said, and after introducing me to two more guests, we were on our way out to sea before the sun began to rise.
The smooth cruise out of the harbour was abruptly interrupted with the introduction of large swell that sent the boat swaying from side-to-side – a motion that would not end until back on shore, twelve hours later. After ten minutes of travelling out towards the continental shelf, I had learned that I was certainly not one to suffer from sea-sickness. The deep sea motion was new to me, and although I spent the first half hour imagining the boat capsizing, I began to realize that trust was the only way one could overcome their fear of the rough ocean. Dave proved himself an excellent driver and whenever I expected a crash landing, his experience, and synch with his boat, would create a smoother return to the surface than expected - every time. The place where we were headed was about 78 kilometres out and it took us an hour and a half to get there. During the trip I grew a pair of newly found sea-legs and was relieved that I had not brought bananas or boiled eggs along for lunch when Dave mentioned the fact that these items of food are considered bad luck to fishermen.
By the time the first rays of sun peered over the horizon, all traces of land had disappeared and the sight of light reflecting over the ocean provided a warm and welcoming beginning to my first trip into the deep; it was nothing like a sunrise seen from the land. Despite the constant bobbing of the boat and the roar of the engines pushing us along, I was in a state of peacefulness and it wasn’t long until a multitude of bird species, dominated by seven types of Albatross, circled our boat and swept across the seas surrounding us. The sight and feeling of that early morning, solitary bonding with nature, overwhelmed me. I sat on the deck and clicked away at my camera, capturing shots of the large Albatross at flight; I felt like a bird enthusiast, and although I’d never had much interest in birding before, being a part of thousands of birds searching for fish, far out at sea, made me want to know more about these interesting species. Dave explained that the majority of the deep sea birds we saw bred on the coast of Australia and, otherwise, stayed out at sea searching for food most of their life. I relaxed into my seat, watching the birds as I dozed off into a daydream.
On some days, deep sea fishing allows for long periods of solitude and reflection. One can never know whether it’ll be a trip filled with constant activity, or a quiet day waiting. You could return to shore with ten tuna, or you could return with just one; it’s a chance you take when booking a charter, but Dave and his crew at Two Oceans Sport Fishing Charters boast an excellent catch record, so you can be certain that your money will be well spent and worth the trip.
As I sat, patiently waiting, I focused my attention on the six rods ‘trolling’ off the back of the boat. As the minutes flew by, I noticed the incredible way in which man and nature were mutually working together in search of fish. I had never seen anything like it before; commercial trawler vessels release large nets kilometres down into the depths of the ocean, monitoring the weight of its drag. When the nets are filled, they pull them up to the surface, losing fish during the process, and attracting scores of pelagic birds in search of scraps for feeding. Deeper down, tuna swim in large schools, after the same prize as the birds. “They love the sound of the trawlers” Dave explained, “and they also come in search of feeding opportunities… Let’s hope this is our lucky trawler!” I stared in awe at the scene in front of me; the bluest blue of oceans I’d ever ‘bobbed’ upon, reflected the warm rays of the morning sun, while all kinds of birds dodged and darted around, following the large trawler in front of them. Seals dove in and out of the waves, competing with the birds for fish, while we interjected their process to use their food as bait for our target catch; the yellowfin tuna, the largest species of tuna found off the coast of Cape Town. It was not long until my thoughts were interrupted… “Reel in! REEL IN!” It seemed as if we’d hooked something.
A change of mind
As I watched the team of men pulling and releasing the rod, in synch with the boat’s sway, my perspective of fishing completely changed. What I had previously considered to be the simple task of hooking a fish, proved to be a sport of great strength, skill and accuracy. I marvelled at the perfection with which Dave and his crew handled the first catch of the day and gasped at the size and beauty of the fish as they brought it on board. I learnt that this was a reasonably small tuna, the longfin, and after catching three more, Dave turned to me and announced, “It’s your turn next!”
As the day progressed, the fishing slowed to a halt and it seemed as if we weren’t going to see another fish. We chased trawlers back and fourth, ‘chummed’ until we could chum no more, and stopped to eat lunch in low spirits. When one of the rods bent over as the line went stiff, we were all brought out of our misery. Everybody reeled in with high hopes, only to find we had caught a blue shark. I was delighted, but the rest were not. Two Oceans Sport Fishing Charters practice catch and release on blue and mako sharks, and although it is always of interest to one who hasn’t seen a shark up close before, they tangle the line and waste the bait, so another longfin tuna would have been preferable for all but myself. Twice more, we caught a mako shark, which was released back into the ocean and later, Dave fought for ages against what we all thought would be the giant yellowfin of the day – it turned out to be a seal.
Interested? Book yourself a charter!
Deep sea tuna fishing season starts in October and runs until mid-December. But don’t worry, if you don’t have the time this summer, season picks up again between the months of March and May.
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When we decided to give up and head back to shore, we wound down with a beer in hand, while Dave cleaned and filleted the fish as courtesy for his customers to take home and enjoy. It was then that I learnt (and witnessed) another tradition of the deep sea fisherman; a man must eat the heart of the first fish he catches. So, as I watched this tradition being obeyed, I thought to myself how fortunate I was to have not caught a fish.
As I set foot on land, I felt as if I were still bobbing out at sea. I’d hardly been back on solid ground, yet I was already yearning to return to the deep sea in search of more tuna. The experience that Dave and his team had allowed me to partake in was one that had changed my perception of fishing forever. As well as being an adrenalin pumping, extreme and testing sport, it allows the human being to become a part of a circle of life that only exists beyond the borders of the land we live on. My eyes were opened to a new kind of sport, a new kind of wildlife and a new kind of fun; although fishing is a difficult and skilful sport, with the help of professional charters, it is definitely an alternative to hiking and a different way of getting in touch with nature, for all types of people – except the seasick.
I returned home with a large fillet of fresh tuna, chopped up a dish of sashimi and ended the day with a traditionally South African fish braai. A week later, I received a phone call from Dave, inviting me back on board for another trip. I accepted without hesitation. This time the boys on board caught a yellowfin tuna that weighed in at about 85 kilograms. It was an exquisite fish, and as it fought endlessly near the surface, I marvelled at its metallic blue body and bright yellow fins as they dazzled in the sunlit water next to the boat. It took a long and exhausting thirty minutes to get the fish out of the water, but when they did, the smiles on board were endless.
I now consider fishing to be one of the most satisfying of extreme sports.
For your info this WR application to IGFA was not accepted due to the fact that my custom rod had a moveable reel seat which can slide up and down the handle ( the reason for this is that I have anglers fishing with me of different heights and shorter anglers have a problem with the fly reel not clearing the gunnel - in these circumstances having the moveable reel seat assists with clearing the gunnel) and IGFA were not convinced that the reel was not more than 6 inches from the butt - a requirement in their rules… So even though I did land the fish and had two witnesses onboard, its back to the drawing board… next time I need to make sure the real seat is fixed… I will be building another rod this time with a fixed real seat and hope to have another try at the record this coming season with a bigger yellowfin, the fish below was a smaller yellow than the average we normally get… So lets hold thumbs for the next attempt.
PENDING IGFA WORLD RECORD Yellowfin Tuna 51.58kg taken on fly on the 17/5/2011 by David Christie fishing 10kg tippet onboard his own boat Obsession launched from Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.
Having had a busy charter season again ( I own and run Two Oceans Sport Fishing Charters www.tosf.co.za) with little time for chasing after records we welcomed the opportunity presented to us : a great weather forecast with no charter and the promise of some good tuna as we have been catching good yellowfin the whole season. A”day off “ is quite a rare occurrence for us and of course on our days off from charter we also go fishing! It actually ended up not being a proper “day off” as Bill phoned me that evening asking to join a trip and I said he was welcome to join us for the day but that I did want to have a go at a tuna on fly during the day.
So it was an early start as usual with alarms going off around 4am to get down to the boat in time for an early start. At this point I must mention my lucky porcupine which greeted me at my front gate on its way to the wetlands one block away from my house. As a very shy nocturnal creature I have only seen porcupines on the odd occasion and they have always brought us good luck on the day with a good tuna catch. So the dice were thrown and I was in a good mood.
The mornings fishing proved very slow with a full moon the night before and it was only around midday when we managed to tease up a school of large longfin (albacore) tuna. I was quite excited as I wanted to catch one of these large longfin tuna on fly to go for the world record as well as a yellowfin tuna. So I grabbed the fly rod out and slowly drifted my chum fly out with the current. After a frustrating two drops with several longfin in view and no takes my Tibor Pacific fly reel was suddenly slammed into motion and the spectra braid backing I was using began peeling off the reel at an incredible rate.
Having caught several yellowfin tuna on fly up to 76kgs on 25kg tippet and a 45.4kg on 10 kg tippet last year (frustratingly close to the record), from experience I knew what I was in for but at that point I was still convinced that I had hooked a huge longfin tuna as this was the tuna we were seeing milling around the boat. I soon began to doubt whether it was a longfin as the backing continued to fly off the reel. It was at this point in the fight that you make it or break it. If your knots and light 10kg tippet hold then you are in for a chance, if not its a broken tippet and back to the drawing board to re tie the knots and remeasure the lengths…
I was in luck with my knots having held and with a positive hook up I knew my circle hook had done its job and hooked the tuna in the corner of the mouth giving my 10 kg tippet a lowly 12 inches breathing distance from the small but sharp tuna’s teeth.
About 40 minutes into the fight the tuna came up to the surface and swam around for a while about 100 metres off the bow showing off its yellow sickle. It was at this point that I knew for sure that I had in fact hooked into a yellowfin tuna and that it was very close to 50 kgs and very possibly a record breaking fish.
The yellowfin dived and resurfaced several times during the fight but after about an hour and 15 minutes I realised I had it beat, although it was still about 30 to 40 metres straight under the boat, with short pumps I managed to lift its head and slowy bring it up to the boat where my pro deckie Nick was waiting on gaff. We gaffed and boated the tuna amoungst great excitement and at an estimated 50 kgs it was going to be close for us to beat the current record of 48.6kgs.
It was on finally hoisting the yellowfin up to scale and looking up, that the numbers 51.58kg jumped out at me and I then knew that I had accomplished a dream I have had for many years of the world record yellowfin tuna taken on 10kg tippet. Thanks to my pro deckie Nick for nerves of steel with the gaff. Capt. Dave
Below Captain Dave on the front cover of the September/ October 2009 Inwater Magazine.
Article page 10. The Seasons Tips for Cape YELLOWFIN by David Christie
Cape Town is blessed with what can only be described as one of the best yellowfin tuna fisheries in the world. Yellowfin tuna are seasonal in our waters arriving in March and departing early June and then again arriving end September, early October and departing early January. There are no fixed dates when they come and go, rather their movements are governed by the seasonal wind variations ultimately driving the ocean currents and governing their passage.
Why are yellowfin tuna only around for about 6 months of the year? Where do they go to for the rest of the year? What we do know from world tagging efforts is that the tuna migrate to the equator to spawn and then move to areas of high food concentration to feed and condition where after they move back to the equator to spawn again repeating the cycle. Because of a heat exchange system between their core muscle and the rest of their body, yellowfin are capable of maintaining their core body temperature much higher than the ambient water temperature. This means that can feed in cold water and maintain fast speeds which gives them an edge on their prey. This is also one of the reasons that they are such powerful fighters on the end of a line.
No conclusive tagging studies have been conducted on the local yellowfin schools that have shown if they move up the east or west coast of South Africa when they move back to the equator to spawn. We do know that yellowfin are caught off the east coast but are these the same fish caught in the cape? Mostly the yellowfin are smaller off the east coast which points to them not being of the same stock. However this is another topic on its own and I won’t go further into it in this article.
Why are the seas around Cape Town so sought after by the tuna? The answer lies with the summer south easterly winds which are the engine behind the Benguella current ultimately driving upwelling. Upwelling is key as nutrient rich water from depth gets driven to the surface resulting in rapid growth and incredible productivity throughout the food chain. This gives rise to large numbers of bait fish and other prey species which in turn attract the tuna. The west coast of South Africa is governed by fewer species than the east coast, however it makes up for this by its sheer multitudes which rely on the upwelling to sustain them.
Yellowfin prefer warmer water and if you are targeting them is is the first thing to look for. By warmer I mean temperatures above 16 degrees centigrade. I have caught yellowfin in dirty green water of 14 degrees, but this is definitely not the norm and have found that although they still do feed in the warmer temperatures that we get of up to about 24 degrees they tend to be a bit more sluggish. The most common temperatures I catch them in are between 18 and 20 degrees.
Particularly if the south easter has been blowing for a few days the water up against the coast can be very cold between 12 and 14 degrees and dirty green in colour. This is as a result of upwelling. Upwelled water is cold, (12 to 14 degrees) the colour is as a result of the plankton (small plant organisms) in the water. When upwelling occurs it wedges itself between the warm clear ocean water and the coastline, pushing the warmer clean water further out to sea. Depending on how long the south easter blows from the warm water can be anywhere from a few miles offshore to over 30 miles offshore. When traveling offshore one often comes across current lines with marked colour and temperature changes. After passing through these current lines one often hits the warmer water. You can expect to catch yellowfin anywhere from these current lines further out to sea.
Depending on the time in the season and the movements of the tuna you can expect to find them over a very large distance indeed. Sometimes we find the tuna west of Hout Bay, other times they move off into the north and of course they are also often in the south off Cape Point or anywhere in between. It is difficult to predict exactly where the tuna will be and nothing is better than obtaining first hand knowledge from other fishermen. Although most will be reluctant to divulge exactly where they found tuna hopefully some will steer you at least in the right direction.
The commercial tuna pole boats tend to concentrate their efforts along the 500m contour. Most of the bank is about 200 to 250m deep. As you near the edge of the bank the sea bed bed drops off to 500m and then 1000m and further offshore even deeper. The drop off starts around 25 to 35 nautical miles off the coast. This area produces good catches as does the area in the south known as the “canyon”. In this area there is a circular shaped drop off giving the canyon it’s name. You know you are in the correct area near the drop off when you see the larger trawlers pulling demersal nets for hake and kingklip as well as the longliners working. Both these commercial fishers like to fish in up to 600m water depth. The trawlers drag their nets along the muddy seabed trapping hake and the longliners set many different drops each beginning with a bright orange marker buoy indicating the start of the line, they also mainly target hake.
More important than where you are fishing is that you are fishing in suitable tuna water and this is what brings about high success in catches. Conditions are always changing and it is seldom that you find the fish in the same place two days in a row. One needs to look for water with the correct colour and temperature. After that you need to make sure you are pulling suitable lures. Now this opens a can of worms as I think one can safely say that there are just about as many favourite lure patterns as there are anglers. One often only sticks to a few patterns that you know work and they continue to work as they are the only patterns you pull…if you catch my drift…
Tuna predominantly feed on baitfish and squid so any lures resembling these food sources are likely to achieve success. Cutting open the tuna’s stomach to see what it has been feeding on is often a good idea. I have come across garfish, pilchards, squid, some interesting looking fish obviously from very deep down as we don’t know what they are and then of course hake. What is important is to make sure you have decent quality hooks attached to the lures as most of the shop bought lures are supplied with cheap hooks to cut costs. These hooks will often be bent straight by the first yellowfin strike. So be warned, change the hooks. Also make sure you have a piece of thick mono as a bite trace to prevent your catch from sawing through your mainline. Tuna have small teeth but they are sharp and quickly abrade though line that is too thin, Particularly if the tuna is of a decent size.
As a matter of personal preference I usually fish plastic squids as they swim true and I have yet to find a tuna that won’t have a go at one of them. Although many fishermen do use them I find that swimming lures with a lip often do not swim straight especially after catching a fish and having the lip bent a little. What usually happens is that you carefully put out your spread and the very last lure you put in decides to track right across all the other lines tangling in a huge mess, resulting in a waste of time and a lot of cutting and retying. This is the reason I usually swim plastic squids. We also often pull what we term a “bird” which is a wooden teaser with two arms that throws a lot of water when it is trolled and creates quite a commotion. This is particularly effective in enticing the larger yellowfin.
I use the plastic squids to locate tuna or often not at all if I feel the water looks right for tuna and I can see them marking on my echosounder. I then switch to fishing baits and working jigs and spinners. Jigging is a new technique for catching tuna that has become popular throughout the world but has only recently been tried here in the Cape. The technique is effective and we have already caught both yellowfin and longfin on jigs. I must admit having a yellowfin hit your jig when being in direct contact fishing a braid line does give quite a rush!
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