Frank Scholtz who boated a probable world record yellowfin tuna of 106.75kg during the SADSAA Tuna Nationals fishing tournament hosted from Simons Town in May 2012 is probably still celebrating his remarkable catch. Yellowfin Tuna of this size are apparently uncommon off Cape waters although they reach almost 200kg in warmer waters. Frank Scholtz of the Border Fishing Team from Gonubie, East London caught the record breaking yellowfin tuna on 10kg breaking strain line. The fish which was hooked 60km off Cape Point took over 6 hours to subdue and swam almost 7 km during the struggle. It is now in the process of being registered to replace the current world record of 97kg. The current South African record stands at 93.1kg.
A celebratory world record tuna feast was held at the False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town last week and perhaps for once the fish was as big as the fishing stories. This catch surely entrenches Cape Town’s status as an international game fishing destination and the SADSAA Tuna Nationals as the most prestigious game fishing event on the South African fishing calendar. (SADSAA = South African Deep Sea Angling Association). The SADSAA Tuna Nationals took place over 5 days last week, with 6 provincial teams competing for the honours of being crowned the top team in the country. Frank Scholtz’s yellowfin surely places the Border team, and teammates Kevin Bourke and Gary Thompson in a strong position to win.
Yellowfin tuna a ski boat retrospection (extract from the July/August 2005 issue of SKI-BOAT )
A heavily-bent rod, the tortured sound of line being stripped from one’s reel, a sore back and anxious mind — that’s the punishment one has to endure to experience the ultimate angling thrill: catching that first glimpse of an awesome silver, gold and deep-purple fish finally appearing out of the dark depths of the ocean below the boat. No matter how many big yellowfin tuna one has caught, it’s that first glimpse of one’s quarry always gets one’s heart a-pounding. It’s what the sport of yellowfin tuna fishing is all about — a formidable fight, a fish that is strikingly beautiful as it comes to the surface, and a catch that provides an incredible sense of achievement.
Many say that, pound-for-pound, a yellowfin tuna is the strongest fish in the ocean, with only the broadbill swordfish in the same league. Whilst this comparison tends to be largely academic, a tussle with a big yellowfin tuna in heaving seas off Cape Point from a ski-boat must rate as one of the ultimate fishing experiences a deep sea angler can enjoy.
Over the last four decades, the yellowfin and its close relative, the smaller longfin, have made up a fishery in South African waters that is internationally recognised as world class. Indeed, over 20 world records for longfin tuna (albacore) have been landed off Cape Point during the last 30-odd years.
A fishery of this magnitude and status is more than an asset to South Africa — it is a national treasure. It’s a fishery that should be protected and utilised within a framework to ensure that generations to come will be able to experience the unique pleasure of fishing for tuna off the Cape coast.
It was only 40 years ago that the giant of the tuna species, the bluefin, was swimming and foraging in the inshore waters of False Bay. Many a young boy, destined to be a future game fisherman, would stand mesmerised and totally dwarfed by these giants when they were weighed at the jetties in Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay.
However, these behemoths of the ocean disappeared from the waters of the Cape. The debate still rages as to what caused the demise of this mammoth of the tuna species in South African waters. Surely it was not the efforts of the anglers of that time — Mike Stott, who caught the first, Brian Cohen, who caught the last and the biggest, Bruno Mercurio, who caught the most (52, if I am not mistaken — and three in one day on two occasions), or the efforts of other successful anglers like the Hare brothers.
The couple of hundred giant bluefin caught in total in South African waters between 1963 and 1973 did not even dent the stock of millions worldwide. Globally, hundreds of thousands were being caught annually. Sadly, the Cape run petered out and most of the generation of anglers that followed have never had the opportunity to fish for a bluefin. In fact, most have never seen a live one in the water.
Editors PS: From someone who eats fish but is concerned about `humane’ fishing methods and about sustainable fishing, I urge you to look at Paul Cowley’s (a marine biologist and an angler) YouTube video: Many problems, one solution: raising awareness for catch-and-release angling at http://youtu.be/MpLpBQXYf5Y. It is a long video but at low resolution it loads fast. Is this the way to go?