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Port Lincoln Tuna Tour

  July 23, 2010

Next time I go back to Port Lincoln, I am determined to get a great shot of a tuna.

During my trip to South Australia last month, mentioned in my 'Whyalla adventures' blog, Natalie and I also drove from Whyalla to Port Lincoln for a day.

We had booked to go out with Adventure Bay Charters, which runs daily trips to its own aquaculture net which holds a few hundred southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), which are farmed by a handful of companies in and around Boston Bay.

I had been out to some of the commercial nets in fairly rough conditions during my last visit to Port Lincoln in January so I was keen to see what the tourist operation was like.

Of course, they had a convenient set up for getting in and out of the ring with a pontoon from which visitors can feed the tuna by hand or with barbecue tongs.

Natalie feeding the tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

There is also an underwater viewing platform but I was keen to get images of the tuna taking the bait so Natalie and I jumped in the water straight away.

It was amazing how quickly the hour went by.

I definitely underestimated how hard it would be to get a good image of a tuna with its mouth open, about to take the bait.

Even when the tour guides held the bait right in front of me, the tuna moved so fast and came from so many directions that I couldn't predict when they would strike.

Matt of Adventure Bay Charters took this photo of me trying to shoot the tuna 

Eventually I found that my best bet was to have the camera on "continuous" and start shooting before I saw a tuna come into view.

The issue with this, though, was that my strobes only fired in one of every three shots. It was an overcast day so there wasn't enough sun to get a sharp shot without the strobes.

The other issue was that when the tuna come to take the bait they roll on their side and there's a lot of splashing. Being so close to the action, this mean each splash sprayed fresh bubbles across the surface of my eight-inch dome port.

Another photo Matt took of me in the water as I'm getting ready to take a shot

I had to remember to wipe the bubbles off with my hand before the next baitfish was lowered into the water.

Upon our guide Matt's advice, Natalie and I grabbed a bucket of bait and swam over to the edge of the net. This would limit the number of directions the tuna could approach the bait from and I had more success, or less wasted shots anyway, this way.

I also found it easier when Natalie released a handful of bait into the water so that I could continuously shoot as several tuna came to take the bait.

On my next visit, I'll really need to crank up the ISO and hopefully get a sunny day.

Another option would be to borrow one of my cave diving friends' high powered torches and use that for light instead of my strobes, which would allow me to have consistent light while shooting continuously.

It was still good fun trying to get a good shot and I didn't even notice the cold despite being in the water for an hour on a rainy winter's day.

If you're heading down to Port Lincoln, check out Adventure Bay Charters. In summer they also do snorkeling with sea lion tours, which I'll definitely be doing on my next visit.

Here are my best shots from the day:

Split shot but too much stuff in the water

just a split second too late, it's already swallowed the bait

this one almost hit the dome port...

I don't mind the fish being blurred in this pic since the bait is sharp


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