Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Lure fishing for bluefin tuna off the coast of Italy - this is my kind of boat fishing

I can’t believe that I knew so little about this rather awesome sport fishery, and the fact that it’s so relatively close to home just amazes me. I must admit that I had my doubts that we would actually see any bluefin tuna, let alone go and catch some, but holy cow if this isn’t some of the most impressive fishing I have come across in Europe - and my flight from London was a shade under two hours. If you like the kind of boat fishing that is all about spotting feeding fish and then casting lures at the boiling tuna that have driven shoals of baitfish close to the surface, then this might well be for you - and when you hook one of these tuna, well let’s just say that pound for pound they fight so hard it’s almost a joke, although it’s not that much of a joke when these tuna work you over and your back’s starting to creak………

The main aim of this short trip was for Matt from Fiiish to test out some ways of rigging their Crazy Sandeel especially with larger and stronger hooks for fish like these tuna. Fiiish’s thoroughly nice Italian distributor Giuseppe Castiglioni set this whole jaunt up together with a skipper he works with in Ancona, Diego Bedetti of Hot Spot Fishing Adventure. For a while now they have been smashing these bluefin tuna on the 220 size Crazy Sandeel in the pink colour especially, but because these soft lures have of course been designed mainly for species such as bass and pollack, the hooks are not really up to the savagery of a bluefin tuna - hence some customised rigging that these Italians have been doing. Matt brought a bunch of different prototype jig heads etc. down, and of course it’s a great way to test stuff out by actually catching the target species, as indeed we did. The prototype jig heads work!!

My first time in Italy, my first time chasing bluefin tuna with my cameras, and what an incredible experience. As I said, I had my doubts that fishing like this really did exist out here in Italy, but when we got out to the tuna grounds as such, Matt and I could not believe just how many tuna we were seeing. All over the place are the telltale signs of birds dropping in on the sardine shoals that have been driven up to the surface by feeding bluefin tuna below them, and when you see the fish themselves boiling, it’s just incredible. I think we released four or five tuna the first day and three the second, with a few fish lost, and I even managed to catch a few myself - in between taking photos of course!!

You see a stack of tuna, but they are no pushover to hook up - they are moving so fast, and almost as you are casting at feeding fish they are on the move and away from your lure. You’re watching and waiting and almost trying to predict where they are heading for, and then you try to put the Crazy Sandeel in front of them and fish it shallow with a fast kind of jerk-style retrieve. Most hits are out as far as you can cast, but I did see a couple of tuna slashing at my lure on one retrieve, and then I cast at a single fish at one point, and the tuna hooked up and just snorted away just under the surface and went on a long run. As I always say, I love the fishing we’ve got at home, but we don’t have any fish that fight anywhere close to as hard as these tuna do, indeed I like the fact these bluefin out here in Italy aren’t too ridiculously big - they’ve landed them to about 120lbs, and most fish we had were around the 40-70lb mark. Whilst they pull serious string and put you through a proper workout, they are manageable at this size, and unless you fight them very lightly you won’t be there for hours and hours like you might be on those monster bluefin that I am not sure I ever want to actually hook!! Nope, these bluefin out here do me just fine, and their power to weight ratio is just insane.

I reckon this is some world class fishing, and as much as say chucking poppers at big GTs etc. is of course on a lot of lure anglers’ bucket lists, to get at that stuff doesn’t come remotely cheap. How about this tuna fishing then? I love the fact that I can get on a short flight from London to Ancona and take only some fishing clothing, sun cream, my camera gear of course, then there are plenty of hotels and good restaurants, and you can jump on the boat in the morning and there’s Smith Japan (boat) lure casting rods, Quantum Cabo spinning reels and all the necessary lures for you to use. OK, so you’re going to have to pay for lost lures and smashed soft plastics (hard lures are rarely lost, but tuna do go through soft plastics - speak to the guys at Hot Spot Fishing Adventure and they can advise you on soft lures to take, with the 220 size Fiiish Crazy Sandeel being at the top of the list, and then pack a bottle of Mend-It to repair torn lures). Autumn is when the tuna really switch on to poppers, and the overall season is a long one. I will be back!! I get back home this evening and then on Tuesday I am heading over to Kerry in Ireland for my first co-guiding trip with John Quinlan (check here). Very, very excited.