Baby black fever grips
  |  First Published: February 2013

Baby black marlin fever is gripping the Coffs Coast and while we haven’t been blessed with the sort of numbers the Gold Coast and ports further north are reporting, with each passing day tailing fish, free jumpers and hook-ups are becoming more numerous.

Barring the traditional Mid North Coast Summer floods, we should be in for a fabulous inshore marlin season.

Fair dinkum, though, we’ve been made to wait. It took members of the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club until mid-December to record the club’s first official in-hours and out-of-hours marlin tags, with Sultan Linjawi finding a small black at Whitmore Shoal – usually better known as a mackerel haunt – and Steve Marshall following suit the next day outside the Wide Bait Ground.

Over the past few months we’ve put up with dead black water, screaming current, no current, howling southerlies, howling northerlies and tiny half-day weather windows, usually mid-week.

And, as usual, the Bureau of Meteorology got their predictions wrong more times than not. Fingers crossed for some degree of normalcy to return.

Bait is really starting to stack up, top to bottom at times, anywhere from South Solitary to Nambucca Heads. Those little black eating machines won’t have to look far for a feed.

The menu presently consists of yellowtail, frogmouth pilchards and pencil-sized slimy mackerel.

Because they’re found so close to shore, even on rough days it’s still possible to chase baby blacks for half a day at least.

The hardest part is getting your head around trolling in green water. The little fish don’t mind as long as it’s clear, but the arrival of blue water can produce red-hot fishing and also throws wahoo and mahi mahi into the mix.


A lot of people are going to catch their first-ever marlin this season and it won’t necessarily be on regulation game fishing tackle. The baby blacks will be scoffing floating pilchards, platey snapper and reef fish, mackerel baits rigged on wire, Christmas trees, soft plastics, bait jigs, you name it.

Basically, if it’s in the water it’s a chance of getting eaten!

As a table fish, black marlin aren’t much chop so rather than whacking one, take a pic of the fish in the water (lifting them out for a happy snap does them no favours at all), set it free – whether tagged or not – and get in touch with fish caster Scott Ward about a fibreglass replica of that momentous catch.

Scott’s got a compendium of fish species, from snapper to marlin, in a variety of different sizes and his prices are more than reasonable. As you can see by the pic hereabouts, he does really nice work. Give him a shout on 0438 693 221 for an exciting wall mount.

It’s amazing what lengths people will go to catch a fish when black marlin fever strikes. Rob Lang, skipper of local game fishing charter boat Black and Blue, took Jason Kennedy from Fishin’ Trip down to South West Rocks after somewhat better marlin reports from down that way.

Bypassing rippling surface schools of slimy mackerel at Nambucca Heads, they were determined to stick to the plan and didn’t stop until they reached the Jail Grounds.

First drop with the bait jig produced a trag and two flathead, then more flathead, leatherjackets, and finally a couple of yellowtail and a lone slimy mackerel. The slimy went deep on the downrigger, with a yakka on the surface.

The mackerel was quickly eaten by a black that was hooked below the dorsal fin but aside from two bites on lures, it was just one of those days when the Rocks didn’t fire.

To top it off, they then had a 33-mile run back up the coast into a 20-25-knot nor’-easter. When it comes to rough weather, it’s hard to beat waterline length but gee, that’s a tough day at the office.

Just to prove that the action isn’t all inshore at present, the crew fished the Nambucca Canyons a couple of days later and got a 140kg blue to perform for the cameras.

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