Tasmania - 13th Tom Jenkins Memorial Bluefin Tuna Contest 2023.
In January 2023 Skip got a phone call from Mark Watson from the Tuna club of Tasmania “Hey Girls do you want to come down and fish the tuna comp in April? We would love to have you” Of course Skip says “let’s talk” and as usual Skip gets an idea, it grows legs. Skip and Mark together, it was going to happen.
After months of planning, it took shape. There were a few logistics – we were fishing the Gold Coast heavy tackle comp the weekend after, so we didn’t have the time to tow our boat down and drive back. Mark organised the Tasmanian details for us, this man is amazing and pulled everything together from accommodation, a car (Ford Ranger) to use and a charter boat and skipper.
We arrived late on the Wednesday night with Ren flying in from the Gold Coast on the Thursday. Skip, Sharky, and Tracy wanted to have a look around Hobart before heading up to Eagle Hawk Neck for the rest of the trip. We were picked up from the airport by Danny Smith who ended up being the best tour operator in the world. Lauren his wife was due to have a baby in a few weeks, but little Billy came early and was only a few days old when we arrived. These guys were settling in with a new bub and still took time to look after us. We all ended up clucky nanas lol.
Thursday Danny took us on a tour, we saw Hobart through the eyes of a proud tassie resident. First up was the Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge in Australia built in 1825. We visited the Tasman bridge that collapsed in 1975 after the bulk carrier Lake Illawarra crashed into it killing 12 people, remains of the boat and cars are still under the bridge. After lunched we packed up our gear and headed up to Danny’s family shack at Carnarvon Bay, 20 minutes from Eagle Hawk Neck, just down the road from Port Arthur, which was also on our tourist list.
Mark has a place just down the road, so we headed to his place for dinner, OMG so spoilt crayfish, scallops, and Abalone, all harvested by Mark and Danny. Mark did scallops in the air fryer and OMG they were delicious. Friday the Boys were going diving to replenish the seafood supplies, there were a heap of people arriving down for the comp, including Colorato Lure makers Phil and Cherie Dance. Mark asked if we would like to tag along so of course we did.
Tracy Bradbrook: So, after our previous day of sightseeing, thanks to the amazing Danny, our tour guide extraordinaire, where we toured through Hobart, and of course had to visit a couple of tackle shops. We saw an amazing spot called the Remarkable Cave, and the blow hole, and some stunning scenery around Tassie. Including this amazing old bridge, which happens to be the oldest bridge dated 1823.
On Friday, we were lucky enough to be invited out on Mark’s boat, with the help of Danny, and Marks son Jeremy to watch the boys dive for scallops and abalone. Unfortunately, Ren, had to stay behind and work, her misfortune was our gain, (sorry Ren) as it was more scallops for us to eat. If you have never tried a raw scallop straight from the ocean, you have no idea on what you’re missing out on. Something I thought I would never eat, but now I have, WOW. I have never seen scallops that big, trust me they were huge.
Then on our way back in, we were given a tour of the Tasmanian Salmon pens, with Mark’s knowledge around this, it was a great experience to see and hear about how they run, and how they are looked after, and how they need to be protected from the seals. OMG the seal’s what a nuisance they are, but more about them, as you will see with our fishing experience. Speaking off, time to get ready for skipper’s brief.
Skippers brief was packed, there were people everywhere and we were given a mighty warm welcome. It was great to put faces to Facebook friends. The Club has a female president Cherie Dance and she does a awesome job holding it all together. We gathered our tag cards and headed back to the shack for an early night full of excitement.
The alarm went off early and with huge anticipation and expectation we were all up and ready to go. The start was crazy, the famous DASH, all boats headed off from the headland as fast as they could go. You got to love a line up start, the excitement is crazy, you can smell the adrenaline.
We trolled all morning with nothing, we could hear the other boats had hooked up when the scheds came on, but alas nothing for us and it was lunch time. We could see other boats down past Tasman Island and after a call from one of the other crews we headed down to Cape Raoul.
As we got closer, we could see birds working, there was bait fish everywhere but no Tuna under them, we moved down to where the other boats were and at last a hook up. It was 1pm and finally we were on, Renee brought in a nice tuna which was tagged and released, at last we had our first tag in, we were on the board. Half hour later Sharkey was on, a nice fish as well, it again was tagged and released. Yahoo 2 tags in. Just after 2pm Tracy Bradbrook (TB) hooked up and what a fight. This fish was definitely bigger than the others that had been caught, it gave her some curry and after a 20-minute fight she landed a PB at 20kgs. Another tag for Team Justagirl. Not long after that Faye hooked up again, another nice tag and release. That was it for the day 4 tags for us. The skipper decided to start heading home.
The Club rooms are right there on the boat ramp which is handy. We took in our cards and got them replaced, 4 tags for us nothing weighed in, we were hoping for a better result the next day, however the wind was looking like it might get the better of us with the probable event of a reduced grid for Sunday’s fishing.
The club was full of life as we all told our stories of the big ones that got away, the seals that got half the catch, what lures worked the best and where the fish were holding.
Day 2 was another early start and we hoped to have a better day. It started with great anticipation when we hooked up at 7.30 am, Ren was on strike and her very first Albacore hit the deck. The Skipper decided that was going in the eski so no points to count. We had hoped that we would have a better day than the previous, we really wanted to get some tags in and a bigger fish to weigh in.
The further down the coast we went the worse it got and with the grid closed at Tasman Island thats where we spend a lot of our time. At 11am Ren hooked up again and we had our first tag for the day. Just after lunch TB hooked our second points scoring fish. The grid opened later in the day, but the conditions were not great, and the skipper decided to head back into calmer waters.
Once again, the club rooms were full of excitement and there was a heap of fish being weighed in. There had been some big fish caught during the day and to see so many barrels in one place was amazing. With a half day only for the last day of the comp we all headed off early hoping tomorrow was going to be massive for us. Sharky was up first on strike with Skip next in line, the only one not to have caught a fish yet.
We have a couple of cigarette smokers on the team and Monday morning as they were on the deck getting their fix TB shouts out for us all to go and have a look outside. The view in front of us was truly breathtaking, something we never thought we would see. The Aurora southern lights were there, right there. It was mother nature at its best. We were all astounded,no one spoke we just gazed looking up in awe. The drive to the ramp was slow as every corner had a different view of the lights. We could not believe what we were seeing, it’s a truly humbling experience and the guys assured us they put it one especially for us. Tasmanian hospitality as its best
Day 3 The last day of fishing was here, we had 6 tags in total and no weigh ins. The plan was to head out to Hippolyte rocks, they were close to home as we only had a half day. This rock structure is amazing with 100 meters of it under the sea and 65 meters above. The rock (granite) formations are breath taking and if you are down that way well worth seeing from sea. The problem with fishing theses rocks is they are also home to a large seal colonies and guess what, seals love Tuna especially when they are caught for them. Its as if they hear the reels go off and they line up ready for their lunch.
Sharky was on strike and as we were putting the lures out a rod went off. It was fast and loud, yep, we knew this was no ordinary fish. Sharky struggled to get the rod out of the rod holder, this fish was peeling off line quickly.
She gives skip a shout, “I’m going to get spooled” It was time to start backing up and for Sharky to wind as if her life depended on it. The fish ran, Sharky tried to get more line on the spool. We could see the seals hanging around and knew that if they got to it the fish would be disqualified. With IGFA and GFAA game fishing rules nothing can impede or assist the fight. All those rules went to the wayside as Sharky struggled to get this fish in as quickly as possible. She didn’t want to wear the harness, so she really did do it tough. The other thing to remember as well is unlike the Tuna fishing we usually do we didn’t have time to play this fish as the seals where right there waiting for a free feed. Sharky was not wanting that to happen though.
Sharky had been on the fish for over half an hour, Marks boat and crew had been watching and encouraging her, it was decided Mark would jump on board to help us land this fish it was probably going to go 100kg, so we needed a bit of experienced help. Sharky fought the fish and a couple of huge seals hanging off it. Seal don’t bite they throw fish in the air in an attempt to tear it, this fish was too big for that, they had hold of it for dear life fighting Sharky for it. We backed up and Sharky retrieved line. The leader was close, Mark grabbed it. The fish was caught, however didn’t count for several reasons in comp world. This was still an amazing catch, and that fish was very much alive when it hit the deck, Sharky had a PB.
The Skipper wanted to head back early and be one of the first boats back. The club allowed us to hang the fish and get a weight. 83kg bigger than Sharky, at 68 years young that was a massive feat. We took the fish back to the boat and filleted it off, lucky there were plenty of people around that wanted some to take home. There is a lot of meat on a fish that big.
The weight station was busy with a lot of big fish caught that morning. A sword was brough in as well, gee they are amazing fish, so majestic and with our season of bill fishing we were all really interested to talk to the crew about how, when where etc. Looks like a plan was hatching with Skip getting as much info as possible. Thats going to be another story.
Back on the boat we stripped the lines back to how they were prior to us making them all line class, packed up and headed back to the shack to clean up and get ready for presentation night. This was held at the Lufra hotel, there were so many people there that two sittings for dinner was required.
Sharky won the unlucky angler award and received a Simrad Nss7 Evo 3 sounder sponsored by Navico Australia, which is truly amazing the sponsors for this comp dug deep and the prize list was incredible.
We had a slow start to the next day; Ren was heading back to the Gold Coast but the rest of us stayed on for another day to go sightseeing – A day at Port Arthur. This historical sight is so worth a visit, the history has been preserved by a dedicated community and you become immersed in the stories, mostly sad. If you are in Tassie, take a day out to visit.
Sharky says “So my fishing experience in Tasmania was one of great delight from the scenery to the actual catching of tuna .Of course being lucky enough to be on strike the last day with an 83kg tuna who wanted to play. So, I played for 45mins and the tuna was in the boat with the help of Mark Watson. I was absolutely spent of energy as I didn't have a harness on. It was a great privilege to catch that fish ad is one of my highlights from fishing with Team Justagirl
THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO MADE THIS POSSIBLE
The Tuna Club of Tasmania, thank you so much for the invite to come to Tasmania to fish your tournament The 13th Tom Jenkins memorial Bluefin Tuna Contest 2023. We have made lifelong friends and have lifetime memories.
The tournament sponsors. Lewis Marine, Extreme Boats, Navico, Meridian Tackle, Banjo’s Bakery,Billy’s Burgers & Bar, Clennetts Mitre 10, Dulux Trade Centre, KEPT Agencies, Kingston Town Locksmiths, Kingston Town Meats, Legs n Breasts Kingston, Lifestyle Wardrobes & Shower Screens, Mayne’s Marine, Murdunna Store, PA Dance Builders, Personalised Sea Charters, Platypus Line, Port Arthur General Store & Takeaways, Reflect 101 Photography (Aaron), RL Welding, Rod and Range. Sea Master Fishing Supplies, Spot on Fishing Tackle, Sun Valley Eggs, Typeface Printing, Veolia Environmental Services, Whitey’s Shearing Shed, Fisherman Shed, Laurie Loves Tyers and the Lufra Hotel. Without sponsors these events can’t happen.
And our personal Sponsors Pacific Marine, Stress Free marine, Club Marine and Colorato lures for always having our back.