Crew : Ray Holmes, Aaron Styles, Ben Starns
Skipper : Ray Holmes
Vessel : Hard Yards
Location : Cape Runaway, New Zealand
Author : Aaron Styles

I have been fortunate enough to fish with my Father In-law Ray Holmes for the last 11 years, we have become terrific friends spending countless days at sea on his old boat Ecstacy. We have had some very memorable catches over the years and have enjoyed every moment together.

Over the last three to four years, our adventures have slowed due to kids being born and business taking up a lot more of my time. But one thing we have talked about is making the run down to Cape Runaway to try and intercept some of the migrating SBFT which run past the East Cape in June & July. When I heard news of fish being off the Cape, I rang Ray to hatch a plan to travel the 90 nautical miles down to the Cape onboard his new boat Hard Yards, A Riv 34.

The Crew for this trip was Ray, Myself and good friend Ben Starns; Ben and I made our way down from Auckland to the Bay late one Thursday evening picking up supplies on the road -including 50kg of salt ice. We arrived into the Tauranga marina just after midnight and managed to get in a few hours sleep before waking to a 3:45 am alarm and a solid brew of coffee. Ray was not impressed! We did the final checks and made a B line for the back of White Island and then down to the Cape.

We were lucky to get some marks on where fish had been caught the evening before from J.A.F Angler Mark Collins and arrived at the coordinates mid-afternoon. We were welcomed by bait on the sounder and the odd significant red mark which got us very excited, we worked the area till dusk hoping for an evening bite but to no avail.

After spending the evening inside the Cape, it was another early start, heading toward the marks from the day before hoping for a morning bite, the radio was very silent which puts doubt in your mind as lunchtime rolls around. We made our way east after looking out a little deeper and came across a boat hooked up slightly west of our marks. After trolling the area, we moved east again, and as we approached the promising area from our night before, Our Bonze Undertaker on the short rigger was in-hailed by something big. The line was screaming off the reel as sleepy Ben awoke to chaos on the deck.

Ben was quickly on the rod as I cleared the gear, we had lost a lot of line on the first run, so we put the girl in reverse and gained it back pretty quickly. The fish was not putting up too much of a fight, but there was a lot of weight over the tip, the anticipation was overwhelming when a barrel Southern Blue Fin Tuna popped up next to the boat. The boys were over the moon, and the critical task of looking after the fish had just begun.

These SBFT become very hot when under stress and when caught and need to be looked after. Bleed, Gutted Gilled and put on ice or in an ice coffin is key to quality flesh.  After a couple of photos, we gutted & gilled our fish putting bags of ice in the gut cavity and then a couple of bags either side to hold it upright. Then we poured 65L chilly of loose ice over the top of the fish inside a marlin coolie bag. We didn't open the coolie bag again till the following day when we broke down the fish before arriving at Tauranga port.

As we came into the entrance, we were all so happy that we had achieved our goal, I was so glad that Ben had come along on this journey and thankful for him documenting it with these incredible images.  I am also so grateful that I got to achieve it with my old mate Ray, we had already had so many great adventures together and to make the dream of catching a large SBFT together adds more salt to our memories.

PHOTOGRAPHER : @ben.starns