The Big Eye Tuna or 'Patudo' is the backbone of the Madeiran commercial tuna fishery. The island's tuna-boat fishermen range far and wide in pursuit of these elusive and valuable pelagic fish, which they attract with live bait and secure by the ancient means of pole and line.
The first tuna schools can arrive within striking distance of Madeiran sportfishing boats as early as January. April and May normally see the best tuna action with fewer, but larger fish being encountered as spring progresses. The largest Big Eye Tuna are often caught in the summer months.
These fish will often exceed 80 kgs (160 lbs) and are very strong fighters even on heavy tackle.
All tuna species can range over enormous distances in their never-ending quest for food. The movements and migrations of tuna schools are dictated by a complex and ever-changing interplay of ocean currents and the presence of baitfish. Tuna are also intensively hunted by commercial fishermen of many nations. Today, it is rare indeed to see the acres of busting tuna that were once so common in Madeiran waters. Nonetheless, the sportsman that visits the island at the right time still has a good chance of having his arms stretched by the power of one of these living torpedoes.
Big Eye Tuna are, of course, a highly prized gourmet delicacy, and a grilled tuna steak or a plate of finely sliced sashimi is a great way to finish off a day on the water.