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Understanding Dogtooth, Inside Andrea’s Black Book

So here’s the deal, dogtooth tuna are torpedo shaped, blisteringly fast powerhouses that grow to an immense size and fight like an angry pitbull. (apologies to any dog owners for that one). They are an apex predator, voracious feeders and will eat night and day.

They’ll smash metal jigs worked fast & deep, raise to surface poppers & stickbaits, plus hit a range of trolling lures. Doggies will gobble a soft plastic presented on light tackle and they can’t resist a sizeable live or dead bait downrigged in the zone, so rainbow runners, jellybean yellowfin tuna, even smaller dogtooth get chomped (as you’ll read below)..

Nothing this good comes easy however, they move around a lot and at times can be hard to tempt. To further put the odds in their favour they are armed with some nasty dentures and when hooked instinctively will find any sharp rock, outcrop or bommie available to wrap your line leader and lure around. So hooking them isn’t often the problem, landing them is. An encounter with a decent sized doggie, regardless of outcome, often leaves anglers in mystical awe. For many, including us, they are the ultimate sportfish.

Born and raised in Vanuatu, Ocean Blue’s Andrea Traverso and his team are passionate about dogtooth tuna, well obsessed is the more accurate term. As a professional guide he’s a great resource and understands their habits, patterns and locations. “No weak links” is his motto when targeting them, as dogtooth tuna more so than any other species he’s encountered, magnify and exploit any weakness or error of an angler (or skipper), such as slack line, late strike, angle of line, drag settings etc and find their freedom.

Andrea confirms the Vanuatu islands are a unique & rich fishery for them, in both numbers and size! The reason is, doggies do come in shallow, but need to be close to deep water. Vanuatu islands are dormant volcanoes (a few still active), the marine charts & seabed shows current fed pinnacles, seamounts, reefs and drop offs beside steep islands that rise steeply out of deep cobalt water, perfect hunting environment for packs of apex predator ‘Gymnosarda Unicolor’ also known as the dogtooth tuna.

Get him talking on the subject and you’ll hear it in his voice, see it in his eyes and learn how to use brains aswell as muscle to find & land that next Vanuatu 100kg plus dogtooth.

In Andrea’s own understated words, here are his top 2 personal encounters.

#1. I had a lot of “big ones that got away” but there is two that would have been well over the world record. One that ate a smaller 15kg dogtooth that was hooked and was fighting on the line, only about 10m away from the boat when the monster fish took it. It started stripping line really fast under heavy drag. Our angler couldn’t hold the rod so I took over but then nobody was driving anymore so after a 250m run on a locked up Saltiga Maverick and my hand on the spool to put more drag (with only about 50m of line left in the reel) the line snapped.

#2. Second one I had a group from Trees & Fishes lodge, this fish ate a small mackerel on the drift, gear used was a Tiagra 80w. After a 15 min fight at sunset we got the fish close to the boat and saw how big it was, then it just did a second big run and 10min later found cover and broke us off.

There many stories of 100kgs plus caught here in Vanuatu, but the main ones are:

-100kg doggy caught at Hat Island at lunch time on a trolled mackerel on 80lb
-102 kg doggy speared in the main harbour of Port Vila next to the marker bouys on a baby speargun of about 80cm and 2m of line.
– Monster one caught at a local seamount by some locals while deep dropping for ruby snapper. As big as a 200lt fuel drum.
– 96 kg and 126 kg caught at Monument rock on the same day, by the same guy!
– And the most amazing one goes for my best friend that is one of Vanuatu best spearfisherman and that has speared quite a few doggys in his life including a 58kg with no floats. He saw the same doggy for about 7 months and he estimates it at about 150 to 180kgs. They decided not to spear it, so for those 7 month they just feed him as close as 2-3 m away from them as he was coming and swallow the small reef fishes they were giving him.

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Understanding Dogtooth, Inside Andrea’s Black Book

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