In Part 1 – This group from Singapore some great GT fishing and some very productive light jigging sessions. Going by the quality and quantity of fish they caught, one would consider their trip a success and completed. But we felt we could do better and focus on one of the primary reasons they were fishing with us in the Andaman Islands i.e., fishing for Yellowfin Tuna on popper.
We had come across pods of dolphins on a daily basis on this trip. Typically, the dolphins, birds and Tuna are after small baitfish and squid that are plentiful during this part of the season. After pouring over sea surface temperature charts and past data logs of Tuna, we decided on a game plan and headed well off shore from Port Blair. Sure enough, we found the dolphin where they were supposed to be and going by their behavior, we knew the Tuna were there.
Once, we found our spot, we were looking at a vista of hundreds of dolphin as far as the eye could see. Understanding their nature and going by their behavior, we were able to identify the dolphins that were chilling in the waters and those that were actively working with the Tuna. Sure enough, we began to see signs of Tuna crashing on the surface as they devoured baitfish. We gunned the boat ahead of the dolphin and Tuna with Andrew and his mates ready to cast.
Just as the boat stopped and our crew yelled ‘CAST’ there was a frenzy on the boat as poppers were launched in to the air.
BANG! We’re on! As the poppers hit the water there was an explosion as the Yellow Fin came up and smashed them. Often poppers were struck four to five times by massive looking fish before one hooked on and another Stella shrieked as line began to fly off the spool.
Casting and hooking YFT are the easy part. Fighting them is another ball game altogether. Very often Tuna hit a lure and don’t realize they are hooked. Some even swim straight up to the boat and anglers think that they have hooked into a small fish and their job is done. It is at this crucial moment when the angler lets his guard down that the fun actually begins. The YFT get their first proper look at the boat, they panic and head straight for the deep with their afterburners on.
Gabriel pinned to the corner of the boat as the big Tuna head straight down. Nothing much he can do except hold on until the Tuna decides to turn.
Tuna, unlike GT, can’t or normally don’t head to the reef. These fish are pretty clean fighters and one needs endurance to ultimately win the fight.
A big Tuna hooked on popper circling under the boat.
Another image of a YFT heading straight for the boat oblivious to the fact that he is hooked. This fish was hooked on a purple Yozuri Bull GT, which is a perfect shape and size for the job at hand.
A YFT refusing to come up the boat and using its body weight to circle underneath it.
Often anglers bump up the drag and this is when hooks pull as Tuna have delicate jaws as compared to a GT. Another thing to keep in mind is that a Tuna will run regardless of a drag setting. With big fish, one needs to go easy at the start and then bump up the pressure once the fish starts tiring.
Bonito and Skipjack Tuna often accompany schools of Yellowfin Tuna. It isn’t rare to have a hooked Bonito or Skipjack taken by a big YFT. In this case, Gabriel got lucky and reeled in a couple of Skipjack on his stick bait.
Russell, Gabriel and MVP pose with smaller Yellowfin all caught on popper and stick bait.
MVP being given a hard time by a Skipjack before he released it. The power of these fish needs to be felt to be understood.
Andrew posing with one of the many YFT he caught.
Russell was pretty happy with this specimen, as it was one of his biggest Yellow Fin Tuna.
Clarence had never caught a YFT on popper before this trip. So he was pretty happy to add this to his list of angling achievements.
Andrew again with a beautifully colored Yellowfin Tuna he hooked on popper. Fish such as this one were the average size we were catching on this particular day.
MVP with another Tuna.
The boys were keeping score of their catches. MVP sure did hook and land many a fish but he missed three times as many. Had they landed every fish hooked the count for the day would have been over 80 fish!!!
After everyone had got more than one picture of themselves with a YFT, we began releasing them while they were still in the water regardless of size. Tuna are a difficult fish to release if they are brought into the boat as mostly they thrash around and knock themselves silly.
A picture of the largest Yellowfin of the day swimming away. This fish estimated to be close to the 50 kilo mark was hooked by Gabriel and released while still in the water.
We decided to call it a day early as no one had the strength or energy even for one last cast after the kind of time we’d had.