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Destination Angler written by Dave Lewis is a must read for any Travelling Angler.

Spain BFT August 2014

Whilst fishing for Catfish in Spain last April I was lucky enough to receive an invite from friend and fishing guide Erik Ouwens asking if I fancied joining him for an afternoons Tuna fishing from the nearby Ebro Delta; an offer I couldn’t refuse;

My day started early, fishing on the river Ebro with John “Chalkie” White and Martin Fawcett from Ebro Catfishing.com targeting the Big Wells Cats but the fish had other things on their mind as the recent rise in water temperature had turned on some spawning activity. After a few bite-less hours we called it a day, returned to our villa to drop the gear off and jumped into Martins van for a twenty minute drive down to the Riumar marina.

I was soon reunited with Erik and following introductions, we boarded our vessel, “Sea Fox” to make our way out of the Ebro Delta system into the open sea, no time to waste. The technique was to be “Run and Gun” which can mean long periods of time watching for signs of birds that are working the water, then a run towards them as fast as possible in the hope to get in a cast or two before the disappear. This time however was to be an exception as Erik had spotted some birds before we had even left the Delta, within minutes we were among them. Casting small Stickbaits on medium/heavy Popping rods we tried anxiously to invite a strike but the water was only around 40 to 45metres deep and these fish were really moving too fast. As soon as Erik positioned us to cast they would dive only to re-appear a few seconds later some 300 metres away. After half an hour’s cat and mouse, Erik made the call to move north into deeper water where the fishing had been more productive over the past few days. For the next couple of hours we searched and searched as the afternoon sea breeze picked up but there were no shoals to be seen. This prompted a final move back to the area we had previously seen fish though slightly further out in deeper water when finally we spotted some surface action. Erik put us upwind of the action trying to read into the way the birds were acting as we cast slightly ahead of a few fish and Martins lure was smashed on the surface as he was hard into a Tuna. After around 20minutes of long screaming runs the fish was at the boat and safely brought on board. A nose to tail measurement put the fish around 30kilos, not bad for Martins first ever Blue Fin, so a few quick photos of this magnificent fish then a successful release. In the time we had left on the water Martin once again managed to hook up and this time the fish measured even larger at around 35kilos.

As soon as I was back home to England I was anxious to know more about this quite exceptional Tuna fishing that was not a million miles from home so I did some investigating. These particular Northern BFT are known to migrate from as far away as North Carolina moving into the Gulf of Maine and Nova Scotia before travelling through the North West corner of the Central Atlantic finally entering the Mediterranean to Spawn. This almost inconceivable distance was documented when an adult Southern BFT ironically named “Terry” was tagged and tracked crossing the Pacific three times in 600days travelling a distance of 24,850 miles, this could maybe explain their incredible stamina. The Tuna first arrive in the Med around March/April and fishing for them is more about reading the activity of the birds as the fish tend to swim around in small shoals of just a handful of fish that can be followed by just a few birds. These were the kind of groups we had been chasing in April, they are few and far between but do feed aggressively once found. Around July time the Tuna all but seem to disappear when they move out to spawn though some will still be present. Late July and August the water has warmed up and the bait shoals are in abundance, this is when the Tuna return, and boy do they return with a vengeance as I was to find out. Throughout this time the average Tuna caught are between 20 and 70kilos but there are much larger fish around as many anglers find out to their peril on Stand-up Popping gear. There are many stories of broken lines and broken Rods so these fish are generally targeted by Chumming and caught using heavy 80 or 130lb Big Game Tackle.
 
I had read enough; it was time to arrange a trip and invite three of my regular travelling companions, Andy Matthews, Del Elliot and Ray Jennings to join me. After a short flight from Gatwick the four of us landed at Barcelona, picked up our hire car and headed south for a two hours drive to Riumar. In no time at all we had arrived and soon met up with Erik and his boss Ron where we were greeted with a cold beer and made to feel very welcome. Our Villa was literally 30metres away from Ron’s house so no more travelling necessary. The fishing had recently been very good and the forecast looked promising so hopes were high but before we could do anything it was time for a thorough check of all the tackle to ensure Erik was happy with the setups we had brought with us. We had all taken a light spinning set up as well as a medium and a heavy popping outfit to hopefully cover all eventualities and throughout the week ahead everything was put to the test. After some fine tuning we were ready to go first thing in the morning.

After breakfast it was straight to the marina no more than 5 minutes drive away where we loaded our gear onto the Sea Fox ready for the day ahead. The Sea Fox is a very smart well maintained boat ideal for the run and gun tactics being quite fast and very manoeuvrable but she really is a bit small for four anglers to be all casting safely at the same time so we decided that the best way to tackle this was to pair-up taking turns at alternative Tuna shoals and this seemed to run quite smoothly. Leaving the Delta we headed north into the deeper water in the hope of seeing birds and after about 45minutes we could see what we came for; this time the birds were in present in much larger numbers and could be seen from far away in the clear calm sky. As we approached the first shoal we could see that the fish were Bonito, a smaller Tuna that put up a tremendous fight for their size, in fact if these grew to the size of the Blue Fin they would probably be pound for pound the strongest Tuna of all. First up it was Ray and I using the lighter gear and I was soon into a fish that took my 35g casting jig but this was not a Bonito, instead it turned out to be what Erik called a “Bullet Tuna” so that’s a new species for me and the first fish of the trip albeit rather small. We spent most of the morning searching and running towards shoals that were fairly well scattered but mostly they were the Bonito and we would only have the occasional cast at some slightly larger fish that were either small size BFT or Little Tunny.

 After some boat lunch the afternoon breeze started to pick up as is usual in this area which puts a slight chop on the water and something also seemed to trigger the Tuna into action as we were soon among shoals of much larger BFT that were chasing bait fish all around. Despite numerous casts into predating Tuna our lures were not getting any attention which was highly frustrating but suddenly both Ray and I had consecutive hits and were both into decent fish. Unfortunately BFT don’t follow the rule book and both fish tore off line swimming in totally opposite directions, it was looking likely that one of us could be spooled. As my fish finally slowed under pressure it turned and ran towards me enabling me to recover a lot of line and just as I thought we might have the situation under control it changed and run again, this time so quickly that my 66lb Braid just parted and my fish had gone. Ray on the other hand was still tight on and clearly into a good size fish but something wasn’t right, what was he using? Well Ray won’t mind me saying that sometimes his hearing is shall we say “not so good”, add this to the fact that he was at the bow of the boat during our discussion at the stern to scale down to smaller lures in an attempt to entice a take then he can probably be excused for not hearing the suggestion quite right. Instead Ray thought we meant use the lighter outfit which was already rigged with a smaller sized lure and this was the predicament he suddenly found himself with, being connected to a good size Tuna using a Shimano Stradic 8000 with 30lb Braid and a 4-piece travel Sailfish rod. A good 30 minutes into the fight applying as much pressure as Ray dared the 4-peice rod decided it would become a 5-peice as the top one and a half sections parted company and slid down the line disappearing into the deep blue. The task in hand had just hit a new level and the Tuna was having none of it, as the one hour mark passed Ray had to hand the remaining rod sections over to Andy to complete the battle. Another agonising 20 minutes finally saw the fish boat-side and we could see that the hook was barely into anything at all but Erik was able to hold the fish sufficiently to haul it aboard. After being told to expect the average fish to be in the 20to 35kg range we had to be pleased with this one measured at 40kgs, some feat on such relatively light gear and some very nice pictures for the memory.

Later in the day I managed to boat my first Little Eastern Tunny of 13kgs, another great fight from a fish that grows to 17kgs in this area, and I caught it on a Lurenzo Espertron, a lure designed specifically for fishing here and incidentally the lure I was also using when I hooked up to the fish that snapped my braid. The rest of the day was one of frustration as we just couldn’t get the tuna to take despite constantly changing lures, it just didn’t seem possible. Finally it was time to head back to the Marina Bar for a much appreciated beer or two and some Tapas before going back to our Villa to ponder over the day’s events. The next day panned out much the same seeing a few scattered shoals in the morning with them growing in size in the afternoon but this was not exactly a lucky day for us. Throughout the day it was the story of lost fish as Ray was connected to a fish for 25 minutes before the hook pulled, Andy had the same thing happen and both Andy and I had fish on for a short time when the Braid would suddenly break. My second Braid incident but this was a different reel and 80lb this time, I was beginning to doubt the quality of two brand new spools. The only thing we can assume is that other fish were swimming into our line under pressure causing the braid to break. In all we had lost four good fish so Andy asked Erik if this was usual; his answer was that this does happen with some regularity but we had been extremely unlucky as to lose four meant we should have landed ten.

Our next Tuna day was one to remember as from lunchtime onwards there were huge Tuna shoals, some literally the size of a football pitch, truly a sight to be seen; Tuna of all sizes crashing bait all around us but still reluctant to take a lure. As you retrieved your lure you could see tuna over and under your line, they just would not take. Finally Del strikes lucky and boats a fish of 22kilos, then he is into another one that stays connected for 25minutes before pulling the hook. Now my turn but another hook pulls after 10minutes, unbelievably frustrating. Next as Del`s lure got to within five metres from the boat we watched in awe as it was engulfed by a barrel of a tuna and battle commenced. After one hour twenty minutes Del was all but beaten as this was clearly a large BFT so Erik took over being the only other person able to handle the Stella set up with a left-hand wind. With Andy now at the helm Erik fought the fish for a further fifteen minutes when he decided to tag the rod over to me so it was a quick handle change from left to right mid fight handing the advantage back to the fish at it dived down stripping line with me helpless to do anything about it. With the handle now properly fixed I slowly started to recover the line again before finally handing over to Andy to finish the battle. Eventually after one and three quarter hours the tuna was boat-side and Erik skilfully secured a tail rope so the fish could be carefully hauled aboard. The tuna measured at an incredible 83kilos, the largest Erik had seen this season and all on medium popping tackle. The fish had towed the boat nearly one and three quarter kilometres during this epic battle and after a few quick photos it swam away still strong, their stamina is amazing. We ended the day with a few more Bonito on the light gear before finally heading back to the marina Bar for a well earned celebration beer and Tapas.

On our last day the large shoals were not as abundant as before but we still caught another 13kg Little Tunny, plenty of light tackle Bonito and I managed a smaller BFT of 18kilos. Two of our Dutch friends were out chumming for Tuna on Ron’s other boat and they had caught four in total, the largest a fish of 70kilos. This can be an effective way to catch the Tuna and the most likely way you are able to land the 100kilo plus fish that are around. The weeks fishing had now come to an end and before we left I had ensured our return in 2015 by booking another two weeks straight away and I can’t wait. There is some incredible Tuna action to be had here and you don’t have to travel half way around the world to get it. I would personally like to thank Ron for his hospitality and Erik for his expert guidance and look forward to seeing you next year, thanks for a cracking week.

Terry





Kenyan Amberjack on a 400g Glow Mackerel

Maldives Blue Fin Trevally on a 150g Red Head

Kenyan Black Tip Trevally on a 35g Blue Sardine

Mozambique Jobfish on a 160g Red Head

Mozambique Tuna on a 140g Blue Mackerel

Norway Haddock on a 350g Red Head

Norway Halibut on a 350g Glow Mackerel

Shetland Isles Coalfish on a 400g Pink Mackerel

Shetland Isles Cod on a 350g Glow Mackerel



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