After looking back over recent columns and talking to some of the Coffs Coast’s game fishing stalwarts who have lived here longer than me, it seems the 2011/2012 season has arguably been one of the best for blue marlin on record.
What’s more, we probably have another month or more to go, but you can catch blues here every month of the year provided the water is warm and blue.
Granted, we have struck some slow patches, especially when the current picked up after Christmas, and the odd day when the water has turned over, but overall it’s been a cracker of a season.
Most times you head out and hope to see a blue; this season you could go out safe in the knowledge that you probably will see one or more.
The bite has ranged from just north of the North Coffs Canyons (the newly-designated Blue Marlin Car Park) south to the Nambucca Canyons – but straight out the front and to the north has been the most consistent. This makes for an easy day’s fishing, not to mention substantial fuel savings.
The fish are still aggregating on and inside the shelf region and as shallow as 60 fathoms at times, with very few reports coming from out wide. The exceptions came from Black and Blue and Foreign Exchange who found a mass of rope floating in 800 fathoms and were rewarded with the sort of action blue-water trollers dream of.
Black and Blue got a 10kg and a 14kg mahi mahi and a 20kg and a 30kg yellowfin along with two marlin bites, while Foreign Exchange boated a pair of 20kg yellowfin from the melee.
Rob Lang, skipper of Black and Blue had Jason Kennedy from the Fishin’ Trip cable television series on board, and they got some great footage of this and other elements of Coffs Harbour game fishing during their extended visit.
Bait has been thick along the shelf but the predominant species fluctuates almost daily. Sometimes it’s squadrons of flying fish, other times it’s jellybean to watermelon-sized skipjack tuna and clouds of slimy mackerel have been blanking out the top layers and rippling on the surface. On the truly great days it’s a heady mix of all three!
Usually the blues are chock-full of the angry pills, attacking lures with typical aggression, while on other days they’ve been very circumspect and content just to give them a light tap and paddle along behind.
Whether this striped marlin-like behaviour is linked to the moon cycle or an abundance of food nobody’s sure, but when they’re in this frame of mind it doesn’t do the conversion rate statistics much good at all.
An interesting feature this season has been the number of double hook-ups –at least six by my reckoning – with four boats successfully tagging both fish. Blues are hard enough when they come in singles, let alone pairs, and double-headers present all manner of headaches for skipper, anglers and crew.
After being somewhat scarce for most of the season, big mahi mahi have finally appeared, with a couple of rippers topping 20kg. These equate to plenty of brownie points on the home front and are far tastier than tag cards.
Aboard Wicked Weasel we’ve enjoyed some mixed days and had a few tragedies but got tags in enough fish to keep everybody happy (except the skipper, that is). Lynette ‘Scooter Girl’ Robb caught her first blue and boyfriend David McMaster caught his first marlin of any species the same day.
Steve ‘Snake Man’ McEwan scored a long-awaited blue in mid-March and son Matt landed a dollie that bottomed out the scales and fed three families for a couple of nights.
The new team aboard Gameful Employment continue to find the fish and tagged a 140kg blue from multiple bites, while the same day Doug Sinclair’s Secret Men’s Business waltzed out the front after lunch and tagged three!
A dead sperm whale was an interesting encounter for a couple of boats fishing the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club pointscore day in early March. With only a mako, a small tiger and some mahi mahi in attendance when it was first discovered, by the afternoon it had drifted well south and some tigers over 250kg had joined the party and things were getting pretty nasty. It’s little wonder that dead whales lure sharks in from far and wide because boy, did it stink!
Inshore, there have been enough Spanish and spotted mackerel to keep the purists happy and the odd sailfish and a few wahoo up at South Solitary Island.
The catch of the month award definitely goes to Mick Delolmo, who snared the wahoo pictured hereabouts without actually putting a hook in it.
It had been lost earlier in the day by a nearby boat that had a huge bird’s nest when the reel collapsed.
Some time later, Mick’s slimy raced off but when they got it to the boat there was no fish to be seen, only some mono wrapped around the bottom hook. Quite clearly there was a fish on the other end, so skipper John Dwyer hurriedly donned some gloves and started handlining the mystery fish in, while Mick cut off his mackerel rig, joined the two lines, and proceeded to catch a free wahoo!
What’s more, back at the ramp they were able to give the unlucky first angler his mackerel rig back. It seems that some fish are just meant to be caught.Reads: 900