Handlining Giant Bluefin Tuna
The mad fisherman in question is The ITM Fishing Show presenter, Matt Watson, and he has just topped all his previous fishing stunts by landing a Giant Bluefin Tuna from a 4 meter dinghy, 80 kilometers off the west coast of the South Island - and the only tackle used was a hand line!
Giant Bluefin Tuna are sought after by anglers all over the world, but very few ever successfully land one of these powerful giants that patrol the waters of the open ocean.
Before Matt could hook a Giant Bluefin Tuna from his small boat he would first need to find one. The place to go was obvious; last year Matt and his team filmed hundreds of Giant Tuna off the west coast of the South Island, but getting there was going to require careful planning. Matt commissioned Stabi-craft to build a boat that was safe and stable enough to safely complete the mission, and an Evinrude E-tec outboard was the obvious choice to provide the power, reliability and economy to carry out the ambitious journey over the notoriously rough stretch of ocean.
The crew consisted of two camera operators, plus an underwater cameraman, as well as a skipper and a crewman to run the 30ft support vessel. The crew came from all over New Zealand and met in Greymouth, the base for the mission. The tuna migration had started slowly and foul weather had thwarted the launching of the dinghy, so it was decided to go do some reconnaissance in the much larger support vessel. The result was no tuna and a very battered team that returned to Greymouth after a grueling 11 hour trip home through the night in rough seas. The only positive was that Matt wasn't out there in the dinghy as it would have surely ended in disaster.
Whilst sitting out the weather in Greymouth Matt was approached by a group of experienced commercial fishermen who got wind of what he was attempting, it was a stern warning "seriously mate, if you try it you will be killed". The warning was well informed, as he and three other burly fishermen had tried to land a Giant Bluefin on a hand line from their 80 ft boat only the day before. The four of them were unable to hold the fish and it eventually broke free.
The weather cleared a week later and the team assembled again. Taking head of the warning, Matt opted to first try the hand line from the support boat, this way he would have others on hand to cut the line in the event of a tangle that could cause serious injury or death. Just after midday a giant tuna engulfed Matt's bait and after struggling unaided for just 1 hour and 15 minutes, a Giant Tuna estimated at 320kg was brought alongside and tagged before being released. Although tired and a little sore, it was decided that it could be done, so the following day Matt launched his little Stabi-craft at Westport and headed offshore.
The tuna are found following the huge trawlers, eating the fish scraps being discharged over board. After finding a trawler, Matts bait was thrown in time after time until finally just before nightfall his bait was taken. For almost 2 hours Matt battled the fish and fatigue before bringing it alongside and securing it with a gaff at 7.30 pm.
Too big for the small boat, in fact heavier than the boat, it was hauled aboard the support vessel. The work wasn't over yet as the journey had to be made back to Westport in worsening sea conditions. The team arrived back at port just before midnight and the fish was weighed the following morning.
Asked why he would take on such an extreme challenge, Matt responds "just like any fisherman I love the thrill of catching a big fish, but after experiencing so many big fish I have to raise the stakes and make it a little more challenging to get the same sort of thrill I felt when I landed my first big gamefish". "And as a TV producer I'm trying to reach out to more than just keen fishers, so if I get labeled a mad bugger I don't care, so long as I'm inspiring people to get into fishing and enjoy the thrills for themselves - although I wouldn't recommend doing this....I don't think I'll be doing it again any time soon".