Tuesday 1 November 2022

Warwickshire Avon - Tunnies and Turtlebacks

I've been watching quite a few UK Tuna fishing YouTube videos of late and fancy a dabble myself given the chance. Stunning looking fish they are indeed. Now I caught a species of Tuna many moons ago when I was lucky enough to sail around the British Virgin Islands in a Catamaran. 

It took a good old while to catch one mind you when out of the blue with a mate Steveo at the wheel I saw bait fish jumping out of the water all over the gaff. And sure enough as soon as the lure went through the middle it got hit like a steam train and a fish was on.

Only a nipper though but what a fight on light gear and what a stunning looking fish. If it wasn't for my mates girlfriends " Ewwww it's bleeding a bit, put it back !!!" it would have been on the BBQ with a nice glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. In-fact still to this day I wondered why the heck I didn't show it the priest.   

Now in the first half of the twentieth-century bluefin tuna were relatively common in the North Sea, attracted by the huge shoals of herring which were present there. This led to a big game fishery for tuna being established in the area and North Sea tuna fishing became a fashionable pursuit. 
Rich and famous people of the time came to the area on specially arranged trains from London, while others sailed directly to Scarborough and Whitby in yachts, turning the area into something resembling modern-day Monaco in the summer and early autumn.

The peak years of Scarborough and Whitby North Sea tuna fishing were from the late 1920s until the early 1950s, although this was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Anglers would use wooden greenheart rods, large multiplier reels and thick twine line to target the tuna, fishing from small boats which had been towed out to sea by larger yachts.
When a tuna was hooked it would be allowed to make runs to tire itself out, and on many occasions the tuna would drag the small boat around for a period of time before the angler on board attempted to reel it in.

The size of tuna caught from Scarborough and Whitby was remarkably consistent, with tuna of at least 700lb caught every single summer from the emergence of the big game fishery in the late 1920s until 1939 when the Second World War began and put a halt to the tuna fishing. 

In the post-war years, tuna fishing returned to the region, with notable tuna being caught from Whitby and Scarborough until well into the 1950s.

Apparently well dressed Lorenzo Cecil Vaughan Mitchell-Henry (Great Name) caught a 851lb bluefin tuna when fishing from Whitby in 1933, setting a record which still stands as the biggest-ever fish caught on rod and line in UK waters which is recognised by the The British Record (Rod Caught) Fish Committee, although larger tuna have ben caught and released in more recent times, what an incredible fish that is. 

Now technological advances in electronics spawned by the war made fishing vessels far more effective. Quickly, both the once abundant mackerel and herring stocks of the North Sea were depleted to such a degree that the food supply was much reduced. This lack of food was blamed for the disappearance of the tuna.

The commercial exploitation certainly had its part to play, but weather cycles were also inconsistent at this time and many boats changed fishing techniques away from herring to target cod, hake and haddock and may have missed the tuna altogether. Certainly, the tuna did go AWOL for a while, but I don’t think totally so. 

They were still seen off Ireland and the Orkneys, but the anglers weren’t there to catch them and the industry died in the false belief that the tuna were elsewhere.
Thankfully in these sustainable times catch and release of tuna, catching bluefins is outlawed in British waters, although sport fisheries have obtained licences to tag and release them as part of a study and hopefully this will continue. 

As in the sushi trade, bluefins are famous for their meaty sashimi. At ceremonial new-year fish auctions in Tokyo, they sell for extortionate prices albeit mainly as a marketing stunt. In 2019, a restaurateur paid over 300 million yen (close to £2 million) for a single bluefin. Prices aren’t so sky-high during the rest of the year, but demand has been high enough to drive intensive fishing.

Mick, Jesus get to the fishing !!!

No probs blog readers for this session I headed to a convenient area that has been good to me in the past to try and winkle out a Chevin on my favourited chub bait bread. 

A proper autumnal day this with rain on and off with gusty wind to trouble the English channel RIB frequenters and the Directors and Clearsprings Ready Homes from holding off paying themselves another huge dividend courtesy of the tax payer. I needed a short fishing fix though and chub are probably my favourite species. 

The river was on the rise when I was there so much so the way it is headed I fully imagine it could well be in the fields at the end of the week. Here especially shows the higher levels than any other stretch I fish where its containment amplifies the extra water on.

Anyway with the rain bucketing it down most of the session I managed to winkle out a few small greedy bread snafflers from one swim with a large slack and that was my lot. The water is still very clear indeed and the larger chub here I've found only really show themselves when the light goes. 

I like always have to try and fit in sessions in, and around the ever increasing diary makers. Not to worry though I've a day off Thursday and are heading to a river outside of my comfort zone.

Well I say that, lets just say it's not in Warwickshire !!!


  1. I live in Scarborough and my late Grandad told me of going to the harbour to see the tunny boats coming in . When I was growing up a local museum had the gant Tunny he caught cased up with the Hardy rod and reel he used. After the Museum was closed the tunny has ended up in a basement and out of its case , I have tried to get people interested in preserving it properly.

    1. Fascinating would have liked to have seen that, seems mad to me Tuna were common place but just goes to show, that's a shame on the Tunny out of sight out of mind I suppose.


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