Making Waves is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of trailblazers, adventurers, innovators, pioneers and people who are doing good things in boating, fishing and recreational water sports.
Scott Gray is living the dream in Port Fairy … In between running a highly respected tackle shop, shooting film for fishing media and conducting fisheries research, Scott is an ambassador for a sustainable fishing initiative called Tuna Champions. We caught up with him to find out more about responsible fishing and south west Victoria.
Tell us a bit about how you got into fishing?
My fishing career started when I was three! Apparently, dad took me on a fishing trip to Lake Eildon and I had my head in the bucket all day staring at the big rainbow trout he caught. I then went on to study Aquatic Science and Natural Resource Management at Deakin University in Warrnambool. It’s a brilliant place to be a student because the region offers as much fishing, surfing and diving opportunities as you could ever want. And it’s why I still live here today.
Note: big thanks to Scott Gray and Al McGlashan for the tuna footage used in this video
Let’s talk more about Tuna Champions. What’s it all about?
Tuna Champions is an initiative of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation in collaboration with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. The initiative is designed to raise awareness about how to responsibly fish for southern bluefin tuna. The program helps people understand what gear to use to minimize stress on the fish, how to handle the fish correctly so it swims away in good shape if it’s being released, how to quickly and humanely dispatch the fish and how to prepare the fish for the table so it can be enjoyed as delicious food if it’s being kept. I’ve been a Tuna Champions Ambassador for about year and I’m one of several prominent angling figures involved. Responsible fishing is essential to health of this incredible species and I’m passionate about using my influence to help the recreational angling community do the right thing.
What can we all do to be Tuna Champions?
Things as simple as using single hooks on your lures will do much less damage to the fish’s mouth. Changing the way you drive the boat and reel in the fish when it’s hooked can reduce the fight time and ensure it’s in better shape to survive and swim away. Reducing the airtime when you’re taking the hook out is another simple way you can help the fish return to the ocean in good shape. If you’re keeping the fish, must have the right equipment and knowledge to dispatch the fish quickly. You must bleed the fish soon after capture and then cool it down immediately with ice to ensure you take home the best quality eating fish.
Have you noticed a positive change in angler behaviour since Tuna Champions launched?
Yes. I see more anglers going on trips who are more prepared and taking ice with them to chill their catch soon after capture. There is still plenty more work to do but anglers are keen to learn which is very positive.
Tuna is delicious, what’s your favourite way to enjoy it?
I love eating it as fresh sashimi with traditional Japanese dipping sauces. Seared tuna with Salsa Verde is also fantastic. Most of my friends just enjoy it fresh as steaks cooked on the barbecue with salt and pepper. It’s a very versatile fish so I’d recommend jumping online because there are heaps of great recipes.
What is it about southern bluefin tuna that makes them such an exciting fish to target?
They’re a schooling species that range in size from 5kg to over 150kg in weight. Tuna are speedsters and you can use a whole variety of lures, baits and techniques to catch them. For me, catching them at the surface on stick baits and watching them scream off the reel is an unmatched angling experience. These fish fight hard too. Combine all this with the fact they’re found in our waters almost all year, and you’ve got a world class fishery on the doorstep that certainly gets the bloody pumping!
Do you target other types of fish?
I love fishing in all its forms. One of the best things about south west Victoria is that it offers such diversity. One day you could be fly fishing for big brown trout in the Hopkins or Merri Rivers or dip netting garfish with a spotlight in the shallows, and the next day you could be chasing world class 100 kg plus southern bluefin tuna! This region really is a wonderland when it comes to boating and fishing.
What boat do you use to target tuna with?
My Richardson Marine 2018 Seacruiser ‘Safari’ 6 metre centre console boat. I love casting lures, jigging and spearfishing for tuna and this boat is designed to do all these things. It has a great cast deck up the front, plenty of space to move around and is designed to handle the rough conditions we often get on the southwest Victorian coast.
What’s your favourite boat ramp in Victoria?
My local ramp at Port Fairy. It’s a pretty simple two-lane boat ramp in the Moyne River, but provides a safe launch for passage out to sea. While it gets busy during the holiday season, most of the year it’s easy to use and has good fish cleaning facilities too.
So, what’s your least favourite boat ramp in Victoria?
Warrnambool is an awesome town with a vibrant local recreational and commercial fishing community, but the ramp is hazardous to use. It’s been hard to sit by and watch tourism dollars drive past the town over the last decade as boaters head to better facilities at Portland and Apollo Bay. I’m pleased that the government has kicked started things at Warrnambool by funding the planning and design work needed to start upgrading this ramp.
Every angler has a memory of ‘the one that got away’, what’s yours?
I have so many stories and some of them still hurt. I prefer to think about that magical fish that I haven’t caught yet! Whatever helps you sleep at night, right?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into tuna fishing?
Tuna are readily available along our coastline and there are number of charter operators who offer excellent tours – which is a great option if you don’t want to buy all the gear. Alternatively, going out with someone who knows what they’re doing and has a boat is a great way to learn the ropes. Google and social media are great ways to discover fishing clubs and groups that welcome new members and anglers.
Finally, where can we find more information about being a Tuna Champion.
Just go to: www.tunachampions.com.au it’s a great resource with loads of videos, features and info about how to handle and fish for southern bluefin tuna responsibly.
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