Milford Sound Southern Bluefin Tuna

  • Jody Stow

It was late midday on a Sunday when my phone rang. It was Raymond. He said come to Tui’s right now – there's something important I need to discuss with you. Two bottles of tequila and a bottle of gin later we had a plan: spear one of Fiordland’s infamous bluefin tuna. We started the drive in to Milford Sound at 5am Friday morning. It was a huge effort towing the 3.5 tonne boat loaded with gear over the Milford Pass, but we arrived at the boat ramp just after first light. The skies were clear and the sea was calm – we were off.

We headed straight out wide from the entrance with the aim of finding blue water. The plan was to troll lures until we got a strike from a bluefin. Once a fish struck, two divers would jump over the side with the hope of spearing one of the tuna chasing the lures. We trolled all day with only false starts from albacore hitting the lures. We had a brief attempt at berleying one in but the sea turned rough so we gave up on the tuna and moved in shallow to grab some crays before going in for the night. 

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After a quick dive, we headed to the hut with our tails between our legs. Then all of a sudden, and only a few kilometres from the hut deep in the Fiord, we were surrounded by birds working the area. 30kg bluefin tuna then started launching themselves clean out of the water. It was my turn on the gun, so I jumped off the boat on the edge of the workup. I dove down to about 13 metres and waited. I was about to head up to the surface when a fish caught my eye. Suddenly, I was surrounded by hundreds of bluefin tuna. I shot at the nearest fish, hitting it low broadside. The power was immense, and by the time I reached the surface, the fish had peeled 30 metres of line from my reel, plus my 20-metre float line.

Reaching the surface, I screamed to the boat “TUNAAAAA!!!” But then the line went slack – the shaft had pulled out. I was gutted. After jumping back into the boat, all I could think about was what would've happened if my shaft hadn’t pulled out. I sulked in the corner of the boat all the way to the hut.

The night's sleep was restless with vicious mosquitoes and an unhealthy amount of snoring keeping us up, but morning came and once again we were off early. The day started slow with not even albacore touching the lures. Not long after 2pm we had a strike on the rod and we were on! With divers over the side and other lines cleared, we set about fighting the fish. Sean was on the rod, Tui on the trace and I was on the gaff. The fish came up to the boat and as I gaffed the fish, the line chaffed through and snapped. My shot was bad and the fish went straight down. We were gutted – 0 for 2. A few choice words went round the boat but mainly silence followed.

Tui Tahana earnt cover rights with this pose

The rest of the day was equally quiet – no bites for hours. A change of divers meant it was my turn to suit up. No more than 20 seconds after I was ready, the main rod bent over. We were off. Straight over the side I went into the drink. We were surprised to see a rather large log attached instead of a Tuna. It got even worse when the line wrapped around the prop. It was an eerie feeling sitting on 3000 metres of water while waiting for the boat to unwrap the prop and pick us up.

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Back onboard it wasn't long until the rod bent over again. Expecting it to be another log, we were slow to get in. After a few quick minutes the boat came back to pick us up. The boat pulled alongside and the boys burst out in celebration. We had done it. A 35kg bluefin was onboard with only an hour or two of light left in the day. We were stoked. We made the decision to call it quits and boosted into celebrate the only way we knew how – by drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol at the Te Anau pub.

I'd like to thank everyone that made this trip possible: Campbell for letting us use the work boat, Ian for supplying spearguns the size of me, and finally the boys, Gaymond, Tui, Blake, Haden and Sean.


May 2022 - Jody Stow
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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