IT'S been a funny old game-fishing season but it all came together last weekend off Port Stephens and Newcastle with the waters thick with yellowfin tuna.
Plenty of boats caught them - fish ranging from 15kg up to 70kg - with reports of unbridled nature worthy of a David Attenborough documentary.
Jason "One For" Nunn, along with his son Pat, Michael Walker and Michael Shepherd joined skipper Luke Stansfield aboard Fifi for a journey 55 miles east into waters approximately 1200 fathoms deep and they were rewarded with stories that will last a lifetime.
Not to mention a number of yellowfin, one which weighed in at 68.5kg.
"Word had been filtering through since last week of fin off the coast and it got us motivated to get the band together, organise the rods and reels and pack the ice," Jason recalled.
"Intel suggested the bite was out off the bay, in about 1000 fathoms, so we headed out Sunday and after passing through some squalls we got to the back of what I guess you'd call the Newcastle canyons and set our gear.
"There were boats around us and a long-liner in the distance so we figured we were in the right spot.
"At one stage we got call from a boat, Why Knot, 20 miles south, saying they had yellowfin blowing up all around, and they dropped their coordinates.
"We toyed with moving but then thought they are up and down along the coast, you just have to be on the spot and sure enough, suddenly we had tuna leaping everywhere and it was on.
"We were surrounded by 50kg tuna smashing baits, birds pulversing water, gannets just coming in one after another going crazy, schools of oceanic gar being smashed up on the surface."
It didn't take long before Michael Walker was on, and that's when the real fun began.
"He's got hands like an octopus," Jason observed and after about an hour and 20 minutes they had a big tuna beside the boat, caught on 24kg line.
"The next trick was getting it on board and I got a bit excited and went for an early shot on the gaff and bloody well nearly went over the side with the gaff.
"That was the only gaff we had and things looked ugly at that stage but we managed to patch up a flying gaff with a few old bits and pieces."
The boys had the tuna at the boat for 35 minutes trying to deal with it.
"Pat tried to grab it by the tail and got ragged over the boat," Jason said.
"It was funny stuff but it became frustrating. While we're fighting this fish the tuna and birds were going crazy around us.
"Up front Michael Shepherd was throwing stick baits and nearly went over the bow. Luke's [skipper Stansfield] yelling from the flybridge and Mick Walker is getting fatigued.
"It was well and truly on, but we eventually got the fish in, without losing any crew, just that gaff."
Jason reports other boats experienced similar tuna tumult, with fish upwards of 40kg estimated.
Later in day the boys aboard Fifi found another patch of smaller tuna and got another four smaller fish in a four-way hook-up.
It took three hours to get back to Swansea and upon arriving around 6.30pm they duly weighed their fish (pictured).
It had been a memorable day and Jason reckons he was pretty beaten up Monday, but it was worth it.
"The last time I saw tuna of that size and in those numbers would have been back in 1998," Jason said.
"It's really got people talking again and one would hope that this is the start of something good."
The interesting thing for Jason were they were weren't just a patch of fish the one size.
"You had fish from 15kg to 70kg all mixed together," Jason said. "They were all eating this double-billed oceanic garfish - I think they call it a king garfish, or a sourie - they were spewing them up all over the deck.
"You see those old footages when the gannets pile into the water one after another.
"That was like what we were seeing. It was unbelievable, a real spectacle."
Snooze you lose
There are lot of guys gearing up to go this weekend, and Saturday and Sunday don't look too bad - about 15 knots of wind, not too rough.
"Often I find you catch a few more fish with a bit of breeze," Jason said.
"But there's no guarantee because these fish have tails and they swim. You need current and temp. We found them in 21.9 degrees and virtually no current in about 1200 fathoms.
"The stick baits worked really well because they virtually replicate these oceanic gar fish.
"But be cautious, it is a fair way out and you need to have a decent boat under your feet and a bit of experience on deck."
Closer to shore, anglers have been jigging kings off the Canyons at Norah Head. The islands off Port Stephens and further south on the Farm are producing some nice snapper and most estuaries are holding bream, tailor and flathead.