Tuna Handling

Discussion in 'Fish Species and Techniques' started by Eastern Tackle, Oct 18, 2008.

  1. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    Hello everyone, I hope you find this useful.

    On Wednesday we caught some small Tuna's at Oregon Inlet, which was great. I cut the throat latch on all of them to bleed them out, so the handling started right at the time of landing, while the heart still beats involuntarily.

    My issue was that I was not supposed to be home until sometime on Friday or Saturday, so I needed to pack a tuna that would stay good until I could get home and vac pack it.

    I decided just to trunk one. This entails cutting off the tail. You also cut the head off. If you cut around the anus, when you pull off the head, the guts come right along with it.

    This is the standard commercial way of prepping fish for market. Then I packed the tuna belly down in a cooler, so it would drain.

    [​IMG]

    By leaving the skin on, the Tuna meat keeps it's protective coating. Air is the enemy of Tuna meat and the meat is like a sponge. The last thing I wanted was bags of bloody steaks soaking in melted chlorine ice water.

    [​IMG]


    Instead of waterlogged red meat, I still had great looking pink meat when I dressed it out.

    [​IMG]


    When your done, this is all thats left.

    [​IMG]


    So the next time someone asks if you want you fish cleaned, after a long range trip or a big tuna killing, tell them yes. Trunk it!!! The skin comes off easier and you get a higher yield. This will work well on your mahi's also.
     
  2. d-a

    d-a Senior Member

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    I am going to try that in 2 weeks. Thanks for the tip.

    d-a
     

  3. BretABaker

    BretABaker Guest

    my only changes would be cutting the lateral line bleeds them better IMO, but the throat works well too. I know lots of guys spike the fish, but generally i don't unless the thing is really going crazy. Putting a wet cloth other their eyes will subdue them well enough normally.

    If possible sometimes I chill them in icy brine, but normally that's not too easy.

    Anyway, thanks for the pics and explanation :)

    By the way - did you catch it on one of your jigs?
     
  4. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    Bret,
    Conditions were not good for jigging and you won't hear my say that very often. There was a sizable easterly swell, a SE current and a SW breeze. It made boat positioning difficult. Everything seemed to be working against each other.

    To add to that the fish were very, very deep (200ft) in 1300ft of water. We got them using a #24 old salty planer,trolling an inline rig, that was let way out to go really deep.
     
  5. BretABaker

    BretABaker Guest

    ah gotcha. too bad you couldn't jig, but you caught a fish which is all that matters!
    is that some mahi meat in the background?
     
  6. miles

    miles Senior Member

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    Hiya

    Tuna are warm blooded fish. What this means is that when the fish is landed, the core temperature of the fish will be considerabily higher than the water temperature. If a YF is left too long on the deck, on a sunny day, the heat from the sun will cook the flesh from the outside, whilst the heat of the fish will cook the fish from the inside! Its VERY important to get the fish's temperature down, as quickly as possible, for the best quality meat.

    This is the method i use on my boat. I firstly use salt water ice flakes. The reason i use salt water ice flakes over fresh water ice flakes, is because salt water has a lower freezing point, which allows you to have a colder slurry, with-out it freezing up. If you only have access to fresh water ice, throw some salt with it to get the same effect. Once you're ready, i add water until its sloppy. Just enough water, so that a fish will need some assistance to settle into the slurry. Too much water and the slurry will get too warm, as you'll be using sea water, which is generally quite warm. Too much water will also allow your fish to slosh around in the fish box, damaging their meat.

    Pictured below is my slurry box on my old boat, ready for a fish to be put in:
    [​IMG]

    After you've fought the fish, its gaffed in the head, so as to protect the meat. On the smaller boats, we'd then use two small gaff's, maybe 2' long, both inserted through the head, to hold the fish next to the boat.
    Pictured below, short gaffs holding the fish next to the boat:
    [​IMG]

    Once the fish is next to the boat, securely gaffed, you need to bleed the fish. We do this in the water, as its a messy affair. On both sides of the tuna, they have major blood vessels running just under the surface of the skin. I usually just lift the pectoral fin and push a sharp knife, about 10cm's behind the start of the pectoral fin, less than 5cm's into the flesh. Blood will IMMEDIATELY start gushing out. I then do exactly the same for the other side. I've found that this works better than slitting the throat. Quite often when slitting the throat, the cut damages the heart and the fish then does not bleed out properly.
    Pictured below, my 16year old cousin with his first YF, clearly showing the spot behind the pectoral fin, where it was bled:
    [​IMG]

    Once the fish is bled, in the water still, we pith the fish. This entails cutting a chunk of meat out of the tuna's head, which exposes the spinal column. A wire or 400-500lb piece of mono is then pushed down the spinal column. This dispatches the fish instantly. This stops the tuna from damaging itself when it flops around on the deck, as well as stops the bodily functions of the fish, giving a better quality meat. We use to spike the fish first, but on larger tuna spiking is quite difficult, as you often miss the brain or the spike gets lodged in the head and will not come out!! Pithing is quicker, easier and more humane.

    Once its been pithed, we pull our fish aboard and remove the head and entrails as mentioned in the first post. Some anglers FIRST boat their fish, THEN bleed and pith their catch. All depends on how high the gunnels are. By doing it as mentioned above, you will get first grade tuna quality meat!!

    A guide which helped me alot when i started out is:
    On-board handling of sashimi-grade tuna - A practical guide for crew members click the pdf link!!
     
  7. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    ah gotcha. too bad you couldn't jig, but you caught a fish which is all that matters!
    is that some mahi meat in the background?


    Tilefish, but I do have a freezer full of vacuum packed Mahi.:)
     
  8. feeder

    feeder Senior Member

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    Thanks for the sashimi guide Miles. What's the average size of the yellowfin you get in Cape Town?

    I also like the fish bat you've got there (chair leg) :D
     
  9. miles

    miles Senior Member

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    Hiya

    That fish bat, also known as a 'fish priest', was used before we started pithing the YF. Now i use them for albacore and yellowtail.

    We have two distinct seasons for YF tuna. The March to July season's YF average 90-110lb's, with many fish in the 150-170lb's and quite a few fish in the 180-200lb class.

    The second season is October to December. Here, the fish average 110-120lb's+, with many more fish in the 170-200lb class.

    Our fish don't grow as big as those found in say Mexico, ours max out at about 250lb's, but 220lb's fish are considered to be very big for us. Whilst we do have numerous 180-200lb'ers, anything over 200-210lb's is fairly scarce.

    What we lack in size, we make up in quantity!! A good day on my boat, with 2 or 3 anglers fishing, rod and reel, chunking primarily, would be 15-20 YF in the 100-200lb class. A very good day would be 20-30+ YF also of the same size.

    We also have a PHENOMINAL albacore fishery. Our large pole boats taking up to 900 fish off one school!! Average size is 20-30lb's, with many fish going well over 55lb's. 60lb'ers are also fairly common to catch. Because of our spectacular YF fishery, very few recreationals bother targetting albacore. They're not considered a good sports fish, because they're caught on YF tackle, which is really overkill for them.

    Regards
    miles
     
  10. BretABaker

    BretABaker Guest

    wow i need to get down there. jeez.
     
  11. feeder

    feeder Senior Member

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    That fish bat, also known as a 'fish priest', was used before we started pithing the YF.



    lol - I'm guessing you used it to "bless" them.

    15-20 YF in one day is awesome, especially in that weight category. I know we would be happy with getting 2-3 on a trip. At some point in my life I've got to make it down to try fishing there. What species do you fish for in the times between YF seasons?

    -Greg
     
  12. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    15-20 YF in one day is awesome, especially in that weight category.

    -Greg

    Thats what I am thinking. Here in NC, one yellowfin over 100lbs would be awesome. Our biggest might only reach 80lbs.

    But we do have Bluefin that regularly get up to 600lbs to make up for it.
     
  13. miles

    miles Senior Member

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    Hiya

    I've derailed this thread enough now!!

    I have a thread on a few other forums on some of our trips in Cape Town, South Africa. Will post it here, so that you can get a good idea of what its like.

    In the 1970's we also had Giant BF. They were caught 5 minutes outside the marina where my boat is moored!! Nobody knows why they left, but after a number of years, they simply stopped coming to our coast. Every so now and then you hear reports of BIG tuna, breaching on some of the shallower remote reefs, which are no doubt giant BF's. We do get the smaller southern bluefin tuna, about 100nm from land. These are usually 100lb class fish, but too far out for us smaller vessels....
     
  14. Eastern Tackle

    Eastern Tackle Senior Member

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    Hiya

    I've derailed this thread enough now!!



    Don't sweat it. You will find with me, that as long as its helpful and good content, then the more the better.

    I actually appreciated your contributions. Much better than the thread just dieing out and the information being lost. I didn't see it as a derail at all.

    Thanks Bro!

    Cheers,
    Jim