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After an absence of over 50 years the mighty Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna (Thunnus thynuss) has returned to UK waters. This majestic pelagic species is certainly one of the most prized big game species world wide and anglers now have the opportunity to fish for these within sight of the UK coastline. This eastern Atlantic population ranges from their spawning grounds in the Mediterranean and migrates as far north as Scandinavia.

The tuna shoals tend to arrive around the Irish, Southwest and Welsh coasts during the middle of the summer and remain well into the new year period. As the year progresses the fish tend to drift east up the English Channel and numerous sightings have been seen as far east as Sussex come the winter months.

The experience of chasing these muscle-bound predators reaches beyond just catching them due to the spectacle of seeing shoals of fish between 60 – 1000lbs bursting as they attack shoals of bait, accompanied by huge gatherings of sea birds, dolphins, sharks and occasionally various species of whales. The whole experience can make you feel like you are in the middle of a Blue Planet documentary watching the frenzy occur right there in front of you with these sight feeding machines causing carnage.

Over the past two years the CHART (CatcH And Release Tagging) programme has given selected licenced charter boats the opportunity to fish for these on a purely catch and release basis in English and Welsh waters. As part of this programme the fish were tagged and measured to provide data for CEFAS and ICCAT studies into population and distribution data. During the 2022 CHART programme nearly 1800 anglers experienced the adrenaline filled thrill of fishing for BFT, resulting in over 1113 fish measured and 1090 of these being tagged.

Another project, THUNNUS UK, a collaborative research project between the University of Exeter, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Tuna Research and Conservation Centre of Stanford University, USA has been tagging BFT for 4 years using satellite tags to give an insight into migratory routes and to strengthen our understanding of the ecology of the tuna in waters of the British Isles.

Currently, the only legal route to fish for these magnificent creatures is via one of the 25 CHART licenced charter boats in England and 5 boats in the CHART Cymru project. Details of many of these boats can be found HERE.

Currently anglers are restricted to trolling squid bars, lures or using dead baits on a minimum of 80lb class tackle. Whilst this may feel restrictive to many, there is no loss of thrill whilst watching tuna smash into the squid bars or the reel bursting into life as a trolled dead bait is taken. These creatures can test both this tackle, and angler, to its absolute limit and, at times, 80lb class can feel to light as the fish takes another 100m of line from the reel in a few seconds.


With the average size of fish increasing year on year, most fish caught are between 200 – 450lbs with many fish far larger than this landed each season. If the stars align on a red letter day boats have had nearly 20 fish hooked in a day but as with every form of fishing there are as many lows where getting a single opportunity is a huge result, even when seeing lots of fish activity. So, a knowledgeable crew, quality tackle and a pinch of luck can truly create a day to remember for so many reasons.  

One thing is for certain, the opportunity to fish for Tuna, that fight harder than any other species in the UK, is an experience that any angler should grasp and hopefully you will be connected to a fish that tests every ounce of your strength and will power to land.

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