Hot start to new season
  |  First Published: November 2011

The Winter game fishing doldrums were emphatically blown away with the opening of the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s new season.

Slick, calm conditions greeted the 11 boats that fished and most had a billfish encounter of some description to talk about and for those that didn’t there were scores of whales and dolphins out there to break the monotony.

Just five minutes into the new season, the big red cat Gemini got things off to a flying start with a marlin hook-up in 90 fathoms. It didn’t take long to clear the lines either, as they’d only had time to put two out!

Accordingly, they were back on the fish in super-quick time and Dean Szabo made short work of the 50kg striped marlin on 24kg line.

Looking for bluer pastures, I’d kept the throttle down at lines in but the water was so nice when we hit 100 fathoms that I decided this was as good a place to start as any.

We’d only just set up the spread and were fine-tuning the lure positions when the short ’rigger outfit screamed. Within a matter of seconds the mono top-shot was in the water and soon we were well into the Dacron backing.

Whatever was on the other end didn’t jump, it just made sizzling surface runs that left a rooster tail where the Dacron cut the surface.

Junior angler Matt McEwan was on the rod and at the hour mark we’d got back onto the mono but the fish was still calling the shots. The drag lever was gradually inched over the strike button, then all the way to sunset (14.5kg of drag when measured over scales that night) and Matt was starting to feel the strain.

We’d driven off the fish, sat over the top of it, driven off some more, but nothing seemed to work. Then suddenly we had more mono on the reel than previously and the fish was coming, albeit slowly.

At the two-hour mark, a hell of a nice blue marlin bobbed to the surface, tail-wrapped and hooked below the dorsal fin, which explained the strange fight.

After we tagged and towed it for a bit it swam off, tired but alive.

The successful lure was a Marlin Magic Tube that I’d never used before, despite having owned it for over 20 years. Clearly, it had had two decades to plan how it was going to make its mark when it finally got a swim.

As someone drily observed later, imagine how many fish it would have caught if I’d been using it all that time? So many lures, so little time…


Thanks to the repeater on VHF channel 81, the Solitary Islands club members can fish as far south as South West Rocks and as far north as Ballina and still be part of the two-hourly radio skeds.

Pheel The Bite fished out of its home port of Ballina and jumped off two nice blues of 150kg and 250kg and raised another that wouldn’t eat, so the marlin were certainly well spread along the coast.

Aboard Triton, two newcomers to game fishing, the father-and-son team of Chris Cherry and Kevin Cherry, popped their game fishing cherries with a nice spearfish for Chris and an 85kg striped marlin on 37kg stand-up for Kevin. Nothing to this game fishing lark, eh boys?

Another vessel that had a spearfish encounter was a new boat to the club, Kikino. They’d run 48 miles offshore to a patch of good water that the SSTs had highlighted and the fuel burn certainly paid off.

Angler Shane Panton caught a spearfish and lost another, and then caught a striped marlin and lost a striped marlin to get into the first marlin club in a most convincing manner.

Alcatraz had a day of mixed fortunes. Notwithstanding engine and high-water alarm problems, they had four striped marlin up, hooked three, jumped two of them off, and had the third one escape when the wind-on leader pulled apart.

All fish were encountered within a square mile of each other in 180 to 250 fathoms south-east of Coffs.


The day after the club pointscore, Wayne Steel went jigging for kings in 90 fathoms off Nambucca Heads and found the bandits to be in a fairly co-operative frame of mind.

Shannon Danby hooked a king and got it 20 fathoms off the bottom when it suddenly raced to the surface at a very un-king-like speed and morphed into a striped marlin.

Now jigging gear isn’t really ideal for marlin and after a short fight it snapped the 100kg leader.

Not to be outdone, Dylan Steel also hooked up and his kingfish turned into a striped marlin as well, which he played for a while before it regurgitated the hapless kingie it had eaten.

Stripes do seem to have an affinity for heavy metal at times and these weren’t the first ones Wayne’s caught on this spot, either – but you just wish they were on more suitable tackle.

To make the most of the better fishing (and weather), this season the club is fishing two days a month during Spring and Summer and having the Winter off, so we’ve got another pointscore day coming up very soon. Consequently, those of us afflicted with marlin fever are finding it just a tad hard to concentrate on work at the moment!

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