I remember as a young boy being out on my father’s first ski boat in Fish Hoek Bay fishing for the giant Southern Bluefin Tuna. A long bamboo pole extended from one of the rod holders. To this pole the Dacron fishing line was tied with a piece of white cotton. The line extended just below the surface where the hook was attached to a large live squid with a hook lightly tucked into its back. The “live bait” stayed just below the surface, food for roaming and hungry Bluefin Tuna.
The other thing I remember about that morning on the ski boat was the large galvanised tank sitting in the middle of the boat. It was filled with “chum” – pilchards and fish oil. My father would take a small bucket, fill it with “chum” and pour it over the side of the boat into the water. I can still smell that heavy fish oil scent on the boat. Fortunately it didn’t make me want to throw up. The “chum” attracted the Bluefin to the boat.
Another interesting part of fishing for giant Bluefin was the anchor rope in the bow. The rope was attached to a big pink bouy. Should a Bluefin strike the “live bait”, one of the crew would go to the bow, release the rope and throw the bouy into the sea. Once a Bluefin was hooked it would start running out of Fish Hoek Bay at an incredibly fast speed. Fighting a Bluefin would take three hours or longer with the fight taking place way out to sea in the middle of False Bay.
I had a light bait line out and was catching mackerel. Suddenly as I was pulling in a mackerel my line ran out, I held on but it snapped. My father told me that a Bluefin must have taken my bait. That’s my only claim to fame with Bluefin. At least I can say I had one at the end of my line.
At that time my father had caught two of the largest Bluefin Tuna from a ski boat in Africa. He was the trophy winner one year catching the largest Southern Bluefin tuna. I can still remember him in his tuxedo going to collect his trophy at the South African Marlin and Tuna Club gala dinner in his honour. For one whole year we had the trophy with a gold Bluefin on a stand in our home. My younger brothers and me would marvel at the trophy and could not even imagine what it must have taken to fight a Bluefin from a tiny skiboat.
In the 1970s and early 1980s my father wrote a series of articles in “SA Boating” magazine, edited by Ted Cautley at the time, that were intended to form part of a book titled “Tales of Tuna”.
Unfortunately many things got in the way and the serialised tales were not completed.
Still, there is enough in those articles to tell much about the epic Bluefin runs of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was a short but highly memorable time in big game fishing in South Africa.
I hope to one day get hold of some of those old “SA Boating” magazines. I’ve got an advert running on Gumtree but no luck yet.
Imagine the excitement of finding those lost “Tales of Tuna”, incredible adventures, gone but not forgotten.