The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s area of operations stretches from Ballina to South West Rocks, which covers some of the best fishing country Australia has to offer.
One of the club’s most northern boats, Pheel the Bite, took advantage of the sightly better conditions after mid-Winter’s horrific rain and wind and found a honey hole of billfish activity on the continental shelf out from Ballina.
First up, they lost a small striped marlin as they hit the 100-fathom line but soon made amends with Andrew McQuade connecting with an exceptionally large striped. After a one hour and 40 minute fight and a couple of near-disasters at the boat, the fish was successfully tagged and measured out at a short length (tip of lower jaw to tail fork) of 2.8m. This puts it up around 150kg, which is an incredible catch on just 15kg tackle and possibly one of the biggest stripes ever caught on the North Coast.
While this is ostensibly a game column, snapper, pearl perch, tuskfish and teraglin do occupy a lot of my fishing time in the Winter.
Consequently, a shortage of game fishing crew and a chronic lack of table fish at home saw me anchored up off Sawtell in early July. A good fish-a-cast session on the snapper quickly addressed the empty fridge issue, including a PB red of 9.2kg which is destined for the office wall.
Another Solitary Islands club boat, Steakout, was fishing soft plastics just inside of me and as I was packing up I called them in and suggested they do a few drifts through the area as the snapper were most likely still there.
This produced a pair of nice fish on plastics, and they coughed up a heap of prawn and crab shells when landed— no prizes for guessing where they came from.
After this, Steakout’s threadline outfits were replaced with 24kg game rods and they ran east to the 30-fathom line and set a spread for striped marlin. Just as they hit the 40-fathom contour, a nice stripy barrelled the black and purple MoldCraft on the ’rigger and after a spirited fight, skipper Jeremy David had christened his new boat with a 60kg fish.
A couple of nice reds and then you just chug out wide and snare a marlin — nothing to it, really! It’s the sheer variety of fishing options that makes the Coffs coast such a great place for a keen fisho to live.
The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s first comp for the new season produced a reasonable amount of fishing activity and given that it was mid-Winter, to get eight boats on the water wasn’t a bad effort.
Gannets and albatross were busily working pilchard and slimy mackerel schools and while the water colour inside and over the shelf was well short of the cobalt blue we’ve been spoiled with over the warmer months, it was of sufficient quality to have a few different game species lurking in it.
John Stafford, who featured in these pages a few months ago with his first yellowfin tuna, was fishing aboard Foreign Exchange and he and skipper Rick O’Ferrall were watching a group of gannets circling high above them eyeballing something in the water. Then the long ’rigger lure went off with a typical marlin-like crash.
Given the time of the year, they automatically assumed it was a striped, but the fight was of a standard that would have any striped marlin being asked to submit to mandatory drug testing.
The marlin was successfully tagged, and subsequent examination of the boat-side photos revealed that their 100kg striped was in fact a nice little blue.
Now whether this makes it a late season fish or an early season fish is immaterial, but what’s encouraging about it is that a blue was caught off Coffs in the dead of Winter, in cool green water, with little or no current.
Blackfin and On Business also had striped marlin encounters but, as is often the way with these moody, excitable fish, neither stayed connected for long. No wonder they’re so skinny!
Local charter boat Black and Blue fished north and they too had a striped marlin give their lure spread the once-over without connecting, but the sashimi connoisseurs had something to drool over later in the day when Luke James plucked a 38.5kg yellowfin tuna out of a surface feeding school.
A couple of nice-sized yellowfin were seen jumping by other boats, but they showed a complete lack of interest in their lures, which has been a frustrating aspect of the tuna’s behaviour this year. Who knows – it might be time to give cubing and live baits a go. If you can pick the weather, there’s certainly enough activity to warrant a trip wide.Reads: 2025