Santa is out there…
  |  First Published: December 2012

Fair dinkum, it’s like being seven years old again and waiting for Christmas Day to arrive!

There’s some super-hot, undoubtedly fish-filled water off Coffs Harbour at the moment – 23°-25°, in fact – but opportunities to get out to the marlin, yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi riding the current southwards have been few and far between.

Black nor’-easters are quickly replaced by howling southerlies, but there’s usually a weather window of a few hours round about Monday morning (just as everyone is trudging off to work) before it all turns to custard again.

At the time of writing, nobody from the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club has recorded a billfish tag, yet by this time last year a number of stripes and even an early blue had been released.

Before the currents really kicked into gear, Jason Carroll and his crew on The Bear had been keeping an eye on an interesting temperature break in some marginal water up near The Hole and did the pre-dawn dash to be in position at sunrise.

As the sun rose, the ocean came alive with working muttonbirds and leaping yellowfin. They caught six of 30kg-40kg and had fish better than 60kg jumping around the boat as they fought multiple hook-ups on the troll lines.

The scene was also tailor-made for a blue marlin hook-up but they had to be home by lunchtime so the marlin were put off for another day.

Similarly, a few weeks later the crew on Wicked Weasel enjoyed a great day’s tuna fishing out in 1000-1500 fathoms due east of Coffs. A double header of 30kg and 40kg yellowfin started the day off well, followed by a couple of lost fish and some future snapper baits in the form of skipjack tuna on the cord line.

Catching up with the school proved difficult and it was necessary to troll faster than usual and wait for the bait – a mix of small fish, arrow squid and even prickly fanfish – to tire or zigzag off their relentless north-east path to put the lures among the tuna.

Time it right, though, and it was screaming ratchet time. No tuna were marking on the sounder and the only fish seen jumping were skipjacks, but the yellowfin were certainly there.

Another couple of 30kg-40kg fish were returned to their schoolmates with tags, and a striped marlin was briefly attached to the shotgun lure later in the day.


It’s amazing what a difference the correct handling procedure makes. The kept fish were head-gaffed to protect the flesh, brain-cored, bled, gilled and gutted, the gut cavity packed with ice, then slipped into an insulated tuna bag.

Nine days later we were still eating tuna, both as sashimi and cooked, with no appreciable decline in taste or odour. Mopping up any juices that appear on the plate certainly helps with the latter.

Yellowfin tuna is one species that definitely benefits from fridge time, though. Day one it’s nice enough if a little chewy when eaten raw, but from day two and beyond it’s approaching nirvana.

When you’ve had your fill of sashimi, one nice way to cook it is to cut the loins into 25mm steaks, then marinate them in rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, grated ginger and garlic, and cook them on a hot barbie. Remove from the heat when they’re on the rare side of medium rare.

Alternatively, marinate the steaks in whole egg mayonnaise, soy sauce and diced red onion, cooking the same way for the same time span.

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