Tuna Sunbakers – What are they doing?

Tuna milling in the sun, the source of much frustration

The phenomena that is the inshore summer southern bluefin tuna run from South Australia through Victoria is now widely anticipated and somewhat petulantly expected by many. Almost like clockwork, they start showing up inshore from west to east sometime in December, thickening up into January and beyond as schools push through. These fish spend a lot of time in daylight hours sunbathing in relatively shallow water, rolling on their side, heads into the current and determined to stay up on top even when disturbed, like a magnet they will pop back up soon enough even when driven over with a half a dozen spreader bars turning the surface to foam. Now the frustration part is that whilst they are extremely visible, often they are not one bit interested in feeding a lot of the time. This pattern seems to last until more normal feeding patterns return, and the sunbathing seems to peter out. Inshore tuna are hardly a new thing, bluefin tuna in close in central Bass Strait appears to spans the ages, just look at older texts and reports of tuna in the rip. The difference is now numbers appear good again and more people are onto it, resulting in more sightings and captures, it’s really that simple.

A great cause of frustration are these milling fish and their apparent lockjaw and disdain for anything presented to them, even swimming around lures in an effort to avoid. Questions are asked in pubs, on forums and the ubiquitous bible of fishing information – Facebook groups, regarding what the hell these fish are doing and why they wont eat. Any lure that manages to unlock lips for a lucky angler becomes an immediate hot seller as the secret weapon has surely been found and everyone must have it now.

After discussing this with mate Colby, this has firmed up as my solid opinion (and it’s only an opinion) but here goes. These fish do eat and they eat often enough, perhaps not when you want them to however. Sometimes it may be at night or only around a tide change. At this time when the shallows are warming however, eating is not their priority, they want the sun (or warmth) more than anything. Why? no it’s not digestion, they are using the warmth and possibly even the UV to rid themselves of cold water parasites that have taken home on their skin and gills, a recent examination of a few catches gives this theory a bit of credibility. IMAS are on the case and lets hope for some solid answers in the future, we will report back in due course. Check the two photos below –

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