Jigging in Southern Japan

Straight after our Sea Bass adventure we jumped on to another ferry and headed west to seek some accommodation for the night. The soft bed in the heated hotel room was like heaven after our rough night sleep in the car on Hirasime Island the night before. We stuffed ourselves at a local restaurant before crashing out, exhausted.

Waking early once again we headed back east to the ferry terminal and loaded the car for a 2 hour trip to the mainland. Travelling on the ferry there was so much to look at; endless islands being pounded by strong current, birds working current lines looking for bait and the odd splash in the distance to get the casting arm twitching. You could spend half a lifetime exploring all these areas and it is easy to see why the Japanese have such an obsession with both fish and the art of fishing.

Arriving on the mainland we drove up and down winding roads for a couple of hours to get to a little harbour. Upon arrival at the marina there was a boat and crew of keen fisherman ready and waiting to head out for the afternoon. The crew consisted of a few of Tsurusaki sans fishing friends which included as Tsurusaki san described “The Prince of Tuna” & “The Prince of Jigging”.

Driving out to sea we passed some of the best looking water we have ever seen but continued straight past in search of fish. After about a 40 minute run from the marina we dropped some jigs and cast some stickbaits around a small island that came straight up out of 70m. After about 10 minutes with no action the captain called lines up and we motored out through rough seas for another hour.

On arrival, we were greeted with a fleet of pro boats working the area for big bluefin tuna as well as a few other charter boats chasing flocks of birds. The area varied in depth from 80m all the way up to 35m and was covered with bait, which looked very promising on the sounder.

Not long after the first drop The Prince of Jigging was folded over the gunnel fighting a nice size hiramasa (kingfish) on a FCL VM270 jig. It was pretty clear how he got his nickname!! Soon after the first fish was landed the fishing got a little quiet besides from a few bumps from noncommittal fish.

Many lure changes later Tsurusaki san cracked the pattern and managed to get some solid hiramasa and amberjack on a 130g Evergreen Wolfram jig. This compact tungsten lure has a very small profile in the water which seemed to get the fishes attention. By this stage light was getting low and the fish really started to turn on with a flurry of fish coming on board including a blue eye trevella and a hirame (halibut) which was fooled with a slow pitch retrieve.

As it got darker, the fish started biting with a little more aggression and a switch back to longer jigs were needed to get the attention of the hiramasa and amberjacks. After receiving a few tips from the captain he gave me a FCL FT220 to tie on and next drop I set the hooks on my first Japanese hiramasa. The hiramasa are short and stocky in comparison to our Australian kingfish and have a much higher fat content making them a highly prized eating fish which is most commonly served as sashimi.

A big cold snap had rolled in from the north west a couple of days previously, Prior to that, Bluefin of 50+kg were regularly hitting squid imitation stickbaits. 10 casting rods on the boat, all rigged with FCL Squidpens, gave the game away as to the favoured lure. Unfortunately the tuna didn’t want to play today, A few diving birds and splashes indicated their presence at times, but like fussy Moreton Bay longtails, they were not to be tempted by stickbaits or jigs. Even the Prince of Tuna gave it away, and he had travelled over five hours to come on the charter.

The sun went down and the cold really started to bite. Nonetheless we jigged into darkness but did not have any more luck. We then packed up and started the long trip back to the marina. On the way, we passed several hundred squid boats with their dazzling bright lights shining into the water. The sight was quite spectacular with the boats spread horizon to horizon like an ocean of giant bobbing lanterns.

It was another great experience in Japan and was a great way to finish off the fishing stage of the trip.