After last month’s upbeat report about the game activity off the Coffs coast, it’s disappointing to say that we’ve slumped back into the fishing doldrums again.
There has been the odd bright moment when the moons and stars have aligned, but generally speaking the marlin fishing has hardly been worth the fuel burn lately.
What makes it especially frustrating is that the Gold Coast and Port Stephens continue to enjoy stellar fishing. Oh, sure, there has been the odd marlin caught here but it’s more a case of running over one, rather than working any specific piece of country.
The crew of Kikino opened their presents early, tagging two blues on Christmas Eve, including one to 13-year-old Ryan Marshall.
Just after the New Year, Rick O’Ferrell on Foreign Exchange struck a purple patch and went 9/4/3 on a mix of blacks and blues, with the smaller, more timid blacks falling off and the aggressive blues staying attached.
His new crew of David Poulter and Ib Mortensen must just think this game fishing caper is so easy, having caught three and two marlin respectively in the past month. Don’t worry, boys; it’s an unfortunate fact of game fishing life that the statistics will catch up with you sooner or later!
The big difference between the pre-Christmas and New Year bite is the strength of the current. It’s leaped up from a gentle half to one knot to a raging three knots.
That makes it hard to fish a particular location, be it a reef, canyon or drop-off, and if you choose to fish north it can take all day to get there.
Throw in a southerly breeze where the wind opposes the current and the sea can really stand up.
The water remains a magnificent colour, as good as you’ll see, in fact, and the temperature’s ideal at 25° to 27°, but the marlin are either scattered or travelling deep.
On the most recent Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s comp day eight boats logged on for just two marlin bites, both from super-wide. The majority of the fleet recorded zeroes for the day.
We actually did better than most, snagging a 6kg mahi mahi for Jarred Flynn, a dozen striped tuna on the cord line for future snapper bait, and had a sizeable yellowfin explode over the long corner lure but fail to connect.
We spent something like five hours in total with striped tuna working all around us for not a single marlin bite.
The tuna were really motoring, too, and I had to shovel on more coal just to keep up, so bridling one up to fish live really wasn’t an option.
The food source that created all the activity was juvenile flying fish to start with, then arrow squid about 12cm long. The poor old flying fish were really copping a pasting; they’d take to the air to escape the stripies, then get machine-gunned from above by the muttonbirds.
With the exception of around the Coffs FAD, mahi mahi remain relatively scarce, but maybe our exceptional season last year has coloured our memories of how things usually are.
On sighting a log or a piece of floating rubbish during Winter, an oft-made comment on my boat is, “Gee I’d like to come across that during Summer!”
I figured we’d found mahi mahi Nirvana during a mid-week fish, first discovering some sort of serious-looking buoy, possibly a current measuring device, and later a 6m-long strip of rubber. Covered in gooseneck barnacles, both had been in the water for a considerable period and given the temperature and purple-blue water, you’d expect ech to be loaded with those tasty blue and yellow fish.
Unfortunately, there was nobody at home.
Over the inshore reefs, there have been reasonable numbers of spotted mackerel and a few Spanish travelling with them to liven things up for the light tackle anglers, but once again the juvenile blacks have failed to show.Reads: 1380