Marlin season ramps up
  |  First Published: December 2011

When listen to fishing mates down the coast during Winter and Spring bemoaning the lack of game fish other than blue and mako sharks, and their inshore grounds jammed with barracouta and sundry cold-water nasties, I’m so relieved that I now live in Coffs Harbour!

As reported last issue, the game fishing season has started well here and despite the odd fluctuation (usually caused by pulling the wrong rein and fishing north instead of south), continues to gather pace.

We’re probably only weeks off from seeing the first serious pulse of blue marlin hitting Coffs waters and reports from the Gold Coast suggest that there are a few good fish heading our way. They’re likely to be accompanied some long-absent yellowfin tuna and more frequent mahi mahi around 15kg, so it’ll be game on pretty soon.

Deciding to ride our luck after such a good start to the season with Matt McEwan’s solid blue, a mid-week outing was deemed in order. It was an uneventful day but just before last drinks Mark Mikkelsen found himself hooked up to a nice striped marlin at the Sawtell Canyons.

Unfortunately, a camera malfunction meant all the fish photos were overexposed but a marlin’s still a marlin, pics or not.


The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s second day for the season was on the following weekend and a reasonably hot striped marlin bite raged from Sawtell to Nambucca. Most of the eight boats that logged on encountered fish.

The morning’s 20-knot sou’-easter made for a less than pleasant trip down there though and we even had a Deadliest Catch-size wave crash into the cockpit while setting out the gear. By lunchtime, however, the wind had dropped to almost nothing.

There were numerous hits and misses recorded, which is typical of stripes, and Seaborn even hooked a mako shark on a lure — not unheard of but not common, either.

We had three bites, including one from the smallest striped marlin I’d ever seen in Australian waters, with Matt McEwan subduing a 70kg fish in a far shorter time than his last marlin hook-up, which he was very relieved about.

Secret Men’s Business managed to find a nice blue in among the stripes but the fish sniffed out the only 24kg outfit in the spread and after 90 minutes they got to see the bottom of the reel’s spool and that was that.

A fortnight later, we were all out there doing it again (everyone’s loving these two-day-a-month club days when there’s marlin to be had) and nine boats were soon prowling about looking for that elusive hook-up.

There were a few billfish about but unlike the previous comp day, they were scattered.

Aboard Roughy, Terry Flynn set the standard with his first-ever marlin – a striped –in 70 fathoms out from the South Solitary Light. Somewhat wider in 2000 fathoms, Tim McQuade on Black and Blue caught what all on board assumed was your run-of-the-mill blue marlin but when they brought it alongside for tagging, were amazed to see it was a massive striped of almost 140kg.


There was the odd genuine blue marlin about, though, and again Secret Men’s Business, with Doug Sinclair at the helm, showed us the way. After a vigorous 50-minute fight, Scott Summerhill joined the first marlin club with a lovely 180kg fish.

The crew almost had the leader in hand after just 10 minutes, but it remained agonisingly out of reach. After four more attempts the tag was finally in.

This blue ran so hard and fast that the softhead lure it ate ended up jumping the eyelet on the end of the leader and was jammed on the snap swivel and needed pliers to remove it.

Having not seen a marlin, we decided that a ‘practice day’ was in order the following weekend. The decision was made to push wide for a look-see and after a few hours’ trolling we encountered a giant patch of mutton birds shadowing a feeding tuna school in 400 fathoms.

They turned out to be stripies, which in turn were feeding on bellows fish, and despite tracking them for nine miles and having the tuna feeding all around us, we never saw even a sign of a marlin. The stripies, however, will make excellent snapper bait for use at a later date.

Looking at our GPS track, they were travelling north-east, and I suddenly wondered how wide we were. Putting the cursor back on Coffs, I was surprised to discover that we were 35 miles out and that was probably far enough offshore without needing a passport.

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