The Game’s Not Over Yet!
  |  First Published: July 2011

Reports regarding the death of the Coffs coast game fishing season appear to be a little premature, and I wouldn’t be rushing to put the game rods in mothballs just yet.

Yes, it’s dark and cold in the mornings, and those Winter sou’-westers are pretty brisk first thing, but pick the weather right and there are fish out there to reward the keen.

Speaking of the weather, some of the BOM predictions have been so appallingly inaccurate lately you’d be forgiven for thinking they were talking about a different State.

Unfortunately, this cuts both ways: the predicted good days are terrible and the bad days can develop into gems. You decide to go for a look, stumble out to 50 fathoms, get bashed to bits, turn around and come home and then by 1pm it’s a near glass-out. Very frustrating.

Blue marlin are still lingering but have been a little bit doughy about their attacks on lures, which has been an annoying feature of their behaviour this season.

Ben Gately aboard On Business, sorted out a 130kg specimen in late May but unfortunately it couldn’t be counted towards the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club pointscore because it tangled around another line on its first run.

As the water starts to cool further, striped marlin should displace the blues and this can make for some exhilarating fishing. Sometimes whole pods will be raised to a lure spread but staying connected to a multiple hook-up can be difficult.

After an absence of a couple of months that coincided with increasing water temperatures and the Spanish and spotted mackerel arriving, the slimy mackerel have made a welcome return to the wide bait grounds and now it doesn’t take too long to fill the bait tank. This could prove useful for Winter tuna hunters.


The yellowfin tuna have been spasmodic but an encouraging number of fish have been caught — it’s a matter of being on the water when they decide to bite.

To date they’ve all been caught on the troll but as we slip into Winter there is some merit in having half a bucket of pilchard cubes sitting in the cockpit ready to start throwing about when the troll rods load up.

It doesn’t always hold the school but at least you know you’re fishing in the right area.

The longliners continue to unload some impressive yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which game fishers would no doubt have mixed feelings about, but it at least proves the fish are out there (or were).

So far, most of the activity has been up off Byron Bay and outside the 154°E line, which at 45 miles, is a bit too wide for most of us. But keeping an eye on the sea surface temperature charts and being ready to down tools and go when the water is right could produce a tuna bonanza.

In late May Troy Boulton and fellow NSWFM columnist Dale Johnson decked a nice 32kg yellowfin and had similar-sized fish busting up all round the boat while it was being fought.

They also had the mako shark from hell check out Troy’s 15’ centre console. Troy described it as being as big as the boat.

Aside from a bit of interest during the annual game comp and a few small hammerheads that eat bridled slimy mackerel intended for black marlin during the Summer, sharks tend to fly under the game fishing radar around Coffs.

There are sure to be plenty of big tigers, whalers and other bities lurking around the outer reefs for those who are keen to give it a go.

There has been a nest of mean little whalers up to 1.5m long lurking between Tuckers Rock and the Bellinger River mouth lately. They are a pain when chasing snapper but are spirited fighters.

Looked after properly – gutted, gilled and finned once safe to remove that ammonia taint – they are pretty good eating, although maybe you need to be an ex-Victorian like me to appreciate the culinary merits of ‘flake’!


On a final note, it’s great to see the new Government live up to its pre-election promise and overturn the rezoning of the Solitary Islands Marine Park that the former Labor government railroaded through in a desperate attempt to buy votes, and despite vehement opposition from commercial and recreational angling groups.

No doubt there is a lot more to be said about this issue in the coming months and years. You can bet your last pilchard the green groups aren’t going to take this reversal of fortune lying down, but it is a win for commonsense.

The old zoning was by no means perfect and the new one certainly had a couple of good aspects to it. For instance, if we could incorporate more easily understood and navigated square boundaries around prominent locations instead of circular ones, recreational anglers might start to see marine parks in a better light.

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