Game fishing hits the bottom
  |  First Published: September 2012

Over Winter game fishing is largely on the back burner around here, but the inshore fishing has been about as good as it gets lately.

If you can pick a weather window between southerlies, there is some excellent fishing for snapper, trag, parrot and pearlies to be had.

Whales continue to make their way north, shadowed by more than a few sharks. A couple of anglers in a 5m Seafarer had a close encounter with a ‘great fright’ — described to me as being in the ‘scary monster’ class — down Bundagen way in July.

It took malicious delight in bumping the boat a couple of times before the crew decided there were a lot of safer reefs to fish than this particular one!

Speaking of Bundagen, there is any number of whaler sharks lurking down there at present. Around a metre long, they go pretty well on light snapper gear but it’s disappointing when that big knobby-headed red comes to the surface and turns into a brown shape with cat-like eyes and teeth.

Ordinarily they’d bite you off but gang hooks fished in pillies are resulting in quite a few being caught.

For those in need of a big fish fix during the cooler months, a bit of serious berleying might turn up all sorts of interesting creatures down there, plus a fair chance of snaring a feed of table fish into the bargain.

One ‘shark’ that I caught while snapper fishing recently happily morphed into a 15kg cobia as it approached the boat. It then swam around the other lines and bent my landing net out of shape before trashing the cockpit once aboard. Man, they’re tough fish!

The question then was, tag or table? I don’t rate cobia much as a food fish but those I’ve kept in the past were caught out of warm Summer waters, so I thought I’d give this one a go.

The final verdict was – not too bad. It was hardly in the pearl perch or tusk fish class, but more than acceptable.


Meanwhile, down-season boat and tackle maintenance continues and we watch and wait in envious hope for the southern bluefin tuna to make it up this far.

About eight years ago some jumbos reached Smoky Cape and one longliner thought he’d struck bigeye gold. This was until he unloaded them back at Coffs and was told they were all southern bluefin, for which he didn’t have any quota – d’oh!

The various fishing forums and YouTube have well documented the mind-boggling numbers of fish that have been on the chew from Eden to Sydney but the downside is people fishing to the bag limit — and sometimes exceeding it.

This obsession with ‘bagging out’, especially with a contentious, heavily-fished commercial species like SBT, is going to see quotas imposed on recreational anglers if we’re not careful.

Seriously, how much tuna can you eat? Unless they’re properly looked after (bled, gilled, gutted and iced), they’re going to be in pretty ordinary condition by the time they reach the filleting table, even in this cool weather.

For fishing’s sake, get some tags from NSW Fisheries and let the fish go. Just catch-and-release is fine, too.

That said, it’s hard to see how the ‘endangered’ tag really fits SBT any more but maybe this is a cyclical thing where the schools are closer to the coast (and therefore more accessible) than usual.

Back when I was a young ’un, each Winter we’d get a pretty reliable southern bluefin bite at Portland in western Victoria. Then in about the mid-1980s they failed to show and remained absent for a number of decades.

We never saw fish over 25kg in that time, either, yet these days jumbos are sufficiently commonplace to make the light tackle we used to fish back then a real gamble.


The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club celebrated its second year of existence at a whizz-bang presentation dinner.

Champion boat overall and in hours went to Wicked Weasel, while champion boat out of hours went to Kikino. Doug Sinclair was champion tag and release angler, champion in hours male was Matt McEwan, champion female in hours was Karen Goodwin, while Nic Edwards and Zac Danby were champion junior and small fry anglers.

The club is always looking for new members, so if you think you’d like to expand your fishing horizons to include game fishing, drop by the bar at the yacht club on a Friday night and meet some of the crew. Just take their stories regarding their fishing prowess with a grain of salt!

Further details about the club can be found at: www.solitaryislandsgamefishingclub.com

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