Cape Town Tuna Slam - 4 species on a single day

Ryan Nienaber

Cape Town Tuna Slam

 Greenfish is a family run seafood company founded in 2010. We specialise in high quality, low impact line fish and tuna and supply restaurants and home users in and around Cape Town.

We run a purpose built 28ft Cape Craft powered by 2x 300hp Yamaha engines.  The layout is multi functional to suit tuna, snoek and yellowtail fishing. We change the deck layout according to what we are targeting to optimize fishability and quality control of the fish.  

Friday 19 May 2023 started off like any other fishing morning - leaving the house at 3am, at the factory at 4am, prepping, fueling and icing the boat and getting ready to find the freshest and best quality tuna that Cape Town has to offer.

A 40 minute tow to Hout Bay and we set off to the area some big longfin in the 18-20kg size range had been caught the day before in good numbers.  We take a 35NM run over some windless, big rolling seas with a 3m swell and we were in the right area.

With all the key elements - birds, water colour, bait fish and the temperature jump - lining up just perfectly, we knew we going to go on quickly.

One hour turned into two hours, then it was midday and we only had 1 longfin on board.  How mother nature has a way of crushing your excitement and giving you a reality check that you will only have what Neptune will grant you for the day.

 What is Poling?

Poling is the use of a bamboo pole, with a short piece of line and a weighted skirted hook that you dance on the surface under some water sprayers that are mimicking bait fish.

The longfin then shoot up to the sprayers to eat the chum that you put in the water and take the dancing lure and you pull them in.  If you have ever experienced it, it is highly exciting, fast and a true one on one tug of war with your opponent.

Poling not to be confused with trolling.

Trolling is when you pull a skirted lure behind the boat while you are searching for a school of tuna you choose to bait on.  Once you get a strike you will start baiting in that area with rod and reel.

We use a combination of all 3 techniques on a typical day’s tuna fishing in Cape Town.

1pm came and we had a total of 2 yellowfin and 1 longfin on the boat, and we didn’t know which way to turn or what to do next.

 Then out of nowhere a log drifted past us, and we saw a couple of dorado under it.  Everyone raced for a spinning rod and before we got a cast in one of our bait lines went screaming off, then another and then a third. 

From dying of boredom to full on action fighting 3 fish simultaneously, it was game time.

All the anglers on board are experienced tuna fishermen, but they were moaning and taking longer than normal to get the fish up. 20 minutes quickly turned into 45 minutes and then we saw colour on the first fish as it circled towards the boat. 

I quickly noticed the colour appeared more silver blue and the fish had no sickles.  Jaco, the angler. presented the fish to the gaff and we loaded a beautiful Big Eye tuna of 85kg.  Heaps of excitement ensued as it was the first Big Eye on our new boat.  A couple of photos later and the fish is dressed and into the ice she goes.

What’s that piece missing on top of the tuna's head?

It’s a Japanese technique called Ikejime. This involves the insertion of a spike into the hindbrain, followed by a thin wire that runs into the spinal column to prevent any further muscle movement. This stops the lactic acid build up in the meat. It is fast and considered the most humane method with the greatest respect given to the fish. The result is a higher quality of meat and fresher taste because the flavour and texture is preserved. 

I’m not sure how long passed, but it must have been another 15 minutes or so after this madness had begun when a screech of disappointment from the back deck was let out. The fish had run out all the line on a Tiagra 80w right down to the knot on 12kg of drag. In desperation my brother held on and the line broke on the hook. His heart sank as he wound up the slack line.  But no time to waste - a new line was quickly baited and down and it was on straight away again.

While this was happening, Jan continued to fight his fish, taking extra care - or he may have slowed down from fatigue. It must have been close on an hour when he presented his fish to the boat.  I sank the first gaff in and held on, this was a big fish! All hands came to assist and we hauled this monster on board.  Immediately I said this is a 120kg Big Eye.  Jaco’s few minutes of fame was quickly overshadowed by this absolute beast that laid the entire length of our fish box.

The day had quickly turned around and we started hooking up more and more good size yellowfin tuna in the 70-90kg size range.

Jan was baiting in the bow when his line went, and he though he had a longfin tuna as the run was very different to the yellowfin that we had just been hooking into. Then it woke up and went down, and down and down.  We thought maybe this is another Big Eye?  Everyone carried on working on deck when the call came “I have deep colour”.  As soon as the fish came along side I saw it was a bluefin tuna of around 80kg.

What a turn around for a day but it was not over yet! As the light started to fade and the catches died down Jan hooked a great sized longfin completing the first Cape Town Tuna slam that I have witnessed by a single angler on one day.

A Big Eye of 132kg, Southern Bluefin of 75kg, multiple Yellowfin of 60-80kg and a longfin to top it off of 18kg. 

I have fished Cape Point for many years and had the privilege of catching all these fish many times over, but to get them all in one day in a slam is something extra special.

But Neptune still had one more treasure to share with us for the day.  As the longfin came up I went to the off side of the boat to drop a spinner, and saw this very long needle like object coming past me, it took my brain a few moments to realize what I was seeing as I muttered the words MARLIN out of my mouth.  Quickly everyone jumped over to come have a look, when my brother said “Ryan that’s no marlin that’s a broad bill” a 200 odd kg fish cruised gently pasted the boat on the surface displaying its beauty.

 After that we called it a good day and ran in to be welcomed by the Atlantic Boat Club who kindly weighed the Big Eye for us that tipped the scales at 132kg.

 This is why after I don’t know how many times, I have gone tuna fishing off Cape Point over the last 20 years I’m still too excited to fall asleep the night before as you never know what the day has instore for you.

 I just love fishing.





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