In Part 1 we discussed the basic types of fishing methods for yellowtail. In this issue we focus on artificial lure fishing and the execution thereof, including the tackle required and how to go about fishing by this method.
Once you receive a good report indicating that there are some yellowtail about, what tackle should you pack?
4 bungees with two pink and one brown and one green yamashitas (if you do not have trolling rods)
6 x 6’ trolling rods with TLD25s or Torruim 20 or 30s or TLD20/40 or TLD15/30 or Daiwa 30s, loaded with 24kg line – 4 rods will be trolled flat while the other two will be trolled in an upright position.
2 x 8’ spinning rods, with 5000-8000 size fixed spool reels loaded with 30–50lb braid
Finding the fish
This is the most important part, and exactly the same applies as for snoek: call up your local tackle shop, check
the fishing forums, speak to your fishing buddies, and so on. It takes some practice, but you will soon learn which weather patterns produce fish, and in which areas.
Generally, yellowtail prefer warm water, with 16°C to 19°C being considered ideal. However, I have caught yellowtail and yellowfin tuna in water as cold as 13°C – nothing is set in stone, so use this merely as a guideline.
Southwesterly winds usually warm up the West Coast, which means Cape Point, Robben Island and Dassen Island. Assuming that you’ve found out that there are fish at a certain spot and have decided to go to sea, I’m going to primarily concentrate on fishing with lures and will cover bait-fishing later.
An early launch is desirable. Run your boat to your designated spot and, as you get closer, start looking for birds working – terns (or ‘sterretjies’, as they’re known) can’t dive into the water, so they hover above schools of yellowtail, waiting for them to chase the bait fish to the surface, so that they can pick up the scraps. Most of the action will be around these birds.
Gannets are the big birds that dive-bomb from great heights into the water. These are generally working on bait fish fairly deep. I don’t bother with them, unless there are a good number of them working together.
Penguins often fool us anglers, when they also chase up bait fish and the terns/sterretjies and the gannets work on them. I have caught yellowtail between the penguins, but most of the time, its only penguins.
HOW FAST, HOW FAR?
The birds generally start working quite a while after sunrise, so you can start trolling while waiting for the birds and the fish to rise.
At what speed? Well, I’ve caught fish at 3kn and I’ve also caught fish at 15kn – there is no set rule, but I generally troll between 5kn and 6kn.
How far do I set out the lines? Different places use different lengths of line. If the fish are skittish, like they usually are on the West Coast, I run my squids 20m to 25m behind the boat.
However, they will often come right up to the boat and will take your lures as close as 5m to the transom! Ideally, anywhere from 15m to 25m behind the boat is where I’d run my surface lures. I will then set the two trolling rods upright, with snake spinners, set quite a bit further behind the last squid. These lures will catch those fish that are very shy or skittish and don’t want to come close to the boat.
The problem with setting your four squids on rods behind the boat is that you can’t get them to be exactly the same distance from the boat. Why is that a problem? Because, if one lure is further behind the others, the chances are good that it’ll be the one to catch the fish.
It will look like a straggler/sick fish that has fallen behind the school of bait fish. The problem with this is that you only catch a single fish each time and you won’t get multiple hook-ups. A trick that I use is to start counting when I let the lure out – let’s say I count to 20. When I set the next rod, I will now also count to 20 and this will allow me to set all my lures at approximately the same distance behind the boat.
Suddenly, the port-side outside rod screams – what now – stop the boat and start reeling in the fish? NO!
Yellowtail travel and feed in schools, so you need to capitalise on that. Try and visualise this: your port-side line goes: immediately turn your boat hard to the port side, increasing your speed slightly. This speeds up the starboard-side lures, mimicking bait fish fleeing. As you turn around, try and go over the same area you got the fish in. Hopefully, now your single strike has turned into a 2–3–4–5 or full house strike! Now you stop the boat and start retrieving fish.
If you did this and still only have the one fish on, stop the boat and start retrieving the fish. At the same time, get an angler to grab a spinning rod
and throw his spinner towards the hooked fish. The school will most likely still be with the hooked fish and a hook-up on the spinning rod is very likely. That pretty much covers trolling.
Sightcasting for yellowtail
Then the birds start to work and you start seeing fish on the surface – what now? If you are the only boat around, try trolling. Try and anticipate which way the school is travelling and try and pass the front of them. Never troll through a school – they will simply sound and disappear.
If trolling in front of a school or two doesn’t work, it’s time to change your tactics. Bring out the spinning rods. My favorite way of catching yellowtail
is sightcasting for them.
Clear all your lines – you’re going to be spinning for them. Watch for where the birds are working and get to them as fast as you can. As you approach the school, slow down and slowly approach them. Even with 4-stroke motors, charging up to close to them will cause the school to sound. You need to get near to them, and then slowly sneak up on them. Always try and approach them, so that the anglers on board will be able to cast with the wind. This is where the 8’ spinning rods work well – they allow you to cast very far with the wind from behind. This means the boat doesn’t have to get too close to the school.
When your spinner hits the water, start retrieving immediately. The strike will normally occur within the first 10 seconds of your spinner hitting
the water. If you get a hook-up, get the other anglers to cast towards your fish. The school will stay with your hooked fish and multiple hook-ups
are quite common.
The trick here is to be the first boat to the school. You’ll soon learn how to watch ‘sterretjies’/terns. Often, you’ll see only one or two terns that find the fish and then, before, long you have more than 20 birds there! Also watch the water surface – often you find fish feeding on the surface without seeing birds. Good eyesight is definitely an advantage here and having a decent set of polarized sunglasses is imperative.
You’ll end up charging around the whole day when yellowtail are like that and that means you will use considerably more fuel. Make sure that you carry extra fuel with you.
The spinning tackle revolution
In the past, the standard spinning tackle for yellowtail consisted of a 7’ to 8’ fibreglass rod with a multiplying reel and 18kg to 24kg monofilament line. The thicker-diameter line is needed to bully the yellowtail away from kelp beds or reefs or any other structure. The big problem is that you will be forced to use large spinners, purely to be able to get a decent cast.
Gradually, tackle has evolved and the 10’ to11’ Shimano Exage coupled with a Trinidad 20 or 30, Daiwa 30s and 50s and similar reels, which offered 6:1 gear ratios, still all with 18kg to 24kg line, became the standard arsenal of the yellowtail angler.
With the advent of braid, the fixed spool reels started evolving into serious fishing machines. The trend was now to go back to 8’ rods, like the Shimano Exage 8’ with a 6000–8000-sized fixed spool, like the Shimano Stradic, loaded with 30lb to 50lb braid. The braid is 60% to 70% thinner than the same breaking strain monofilament line, which allows the angler now to cast further (the thinner line casts further than thicker line because it offers less air resistance) and it now allows anglers to cast smaller spinners.
The biggest advantage, however, is that there are no more birdsnests/overruns. Pure bliss!