An Out-of-Season Yellowfin Surprise

At this time of the year, when game fishers get excited about tuna, it is usually the southern bluefin variety that captures their imagination.

So, you can only imagine the surprise when Phil White and his stepson Kaembal Taylor landed an 83.1kg yellowfin out from Whangaroa on August 14.

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Fishing aboard Phil’s gameboat Predator, the pair were heading toward the Cavalli Seamounts after watching the All Blacks test, with a swordfish uppermost in their minds. They had identified the junior record – Campbell had just four months to go before joining the senior ranks – was ‘doable’, so they had a bait rigged and ready to go.

On the way out, Kaem insisted they run a tuna lure ‘just in case’ a stray southern bluefin was about. Not long after it hit the water, it was nailed. The first call was ‘albacore’, but when it pulled plenty of string, ‘shark’ was the next nominated species.

‘It started nodding and doing tuna-like things, so we thought it might be a southern bluefin,” Phil says. “The fish finally showed itself, and we could see the big sickle fins and only then did we appreciate what we had on.”

With only the two of them aboard, Phil left the boat idling in forward while he grabbed the trace and Kaem then made a deft shot with the gaff to finish it.

“Luckily, the tuna kept going steadily in the same direction as the boat. We might have been in trouble if it had dived under the hull.”

Phil’s first thought was that the fish was just a little bigger than 60kgs, having caught a 54kg yellowfin last season. So, it was quite a surprise when it pulled the Whangaroa club’s scales to 83.1kg – a national junior record claim.

It had taken them about 20 minutes to land the fish, Phil describing the fight as “not great”.

“We were only running light hooks in the tuna lure, so had to back the drag to 8kgs, rather than the normal 12kgs that we run on our usual 37kg set-ups.”

BOISC junior member Kaembal Taylor with his national 11-16 junior yellowfin record claim fish which was weighed at Whangaroa last Sunday.

Phil wasn’t sure what the lure was but described it as: “a yellow and green bullethead, not unlike a Zuker”. The fish was hooked in 400 metres of water, 23 NM off Flat Island. Phil says he hadn’t noticed the water temperature but thought it was about 17-18 degrees Celsius.

“What I did notice was a lot of bait down between a third and halfway to the bottom.”

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If the capture is ratified, Kaem will hold the Men’s 11-16 section’s 37kg and all-tackle records, currently held by Mercury Bay’s Dan Wilson who, in April 2021, landed a 78.6kg fish, and C.Wheeler with a 42.0 tuna from off Red Mercury Island in December 2007, respectively. The heaviest yellowfin tuna to be landed in New Zealand was D.Ireton’s 95.0kg fish way back in February 1984.

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