Many anglers spend thousands of dollars and countless hours in the dream of catching game fish from their trailer boat.
Game fishing is no more difficult than any other form of angling and can actually be easier if you prepare well. Once quite expensive, these days it can be as expensive as you make it.
A $200 Shimano TLD can catch marlin quite easily. I also have many friends that choose $700 reels to catch bream on lures when a $200 reel will catch just as many.
You don’t need that $1000 gold reel to get tuna or marlin. They are nice to use but they will not get you onto the fish – that’s your job!
So let’s look at a few key areas that will help you nail some game fish – the boat set-up, the tackle and some hot locations to begin your quest.
NSW has ample locations well-suited to targeting game fish from a trailer boat and many of these spots also allow you to combine your fishing passion with a great family holiday.
Quite a few of these destinations have prime game fishing reasonably close to shore.
I have done a fair amount of trailer-boat game fishing from my home port of Lake Macquarie, on the Central Coast. It is not ideal. The main canyons can be a two-hour run, meaning less fishing time, added expense and more pain on the body if it gets rough.
My top five NSW selections for the ideal holiday location and best trailer-boat game fishing coast are Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Stephens, Jervis Bay and Bermagui.
At the right time of year all these locations offer very good game fishing relatively close to shore for marlin, yellowfin tuna, kingfish and mahi mahi. They all have ample accommodation options for the whole family, plenty to see and do, fantastic beaches and, most importantly, they all have good boat ramps.
The exception would be South West Rocks, which has one of the most dangerous bar crossings on the NSW coast and a sheltered beach launching ramp at Trial Bay Jail that the National Parks and Wildlife Service closes whenever there’s any more than three tents at the adjoining campground.
I suggest if you are new to game fishing or boating that you leave SWR until you have a few more sea hours.
All these locations have deep canyons, large reefs and productive islands within less than an hour’s travel from land. At times a 10-minute run is enough to have you hooked into your first marlin or yellowfin for the day.
Boat set-up is very important in any form fishing; you want it to be safe and efficient.
Most trailer-boat game fishing boats are 5m-7m long. They are often limited for deck space because they still require a similar amount of game fishing tackle to much larger boats.
The trailer-boat game fisher really needs to make the most of available deck space and storage options. Minimise deck clutter and make sure you have things sorted before you hit the water.
Make sure all your rods can be safely stored out of the way when the boat is on the trailer and when you are out on the water.
Overhead rod holders are a good option when afloat because they allow you to store a good number of rods safely out of harm’s way. The same overhead rack is a complete no-no when driving under low trees!
Live-bait tanks can be very important. A tank on the deck can take up valuable space.
If your boat has an inbuilt live-bait tank, all the better; if not, consider installing one off the transom if there’s space and the weight distribution allows. This means if there is a drama with water flow, it will not flood your cockpit and it keeps the deck clear.
Ice boxes are probably the main cause of deck clutter. Use one that fits up in the cabin area or fix it down somehow and make it double as a seat.
The average trailer boat will generally require 100L-200L of fuel for a day’s game fishing. You may not use this much but it is very important that you carry more than enough to get you home even if the weather turns bad.
Underfloor fuel tanks are a must. I know there are plenty of guys that get by without them but the last thing you want when fighting a 100kg marlin from your 6m boat in 20-knot winds and 2m swell is a bunch of red plastic tanks around your feet.
Other things to consider include ensuring all your gaffs and tag poles are safely put away. These generally clip in under gunwales, allowing them to be stored safely yet reached easily.
Safety equipment such as EPIRBs, fire extinguishers and life jackets all need to be stored in safe, easily accessible locations yet out of the way so they in no risk of being damaged.
Lures might be small and don’t take up too much room but they can be a real problem for many.
Ensure that the ones that have not been used are safely folded up in a lure roll and that those that have been used are put in a bucket or similar after use to keep them out of the way and off the floor.
This way you can easily wash them after the trip and they are not on the floor about to hook one of the crew in the chaos when you hook that fish.
You must research your chosen location because you want your time there to be the best it can. Don’t launch your boat, head out and think, ‘where to now?’.
All of these ports have well-established and very helpful game fishing clubs or at least very helpful tackle shop staff.
You need to have a clear understanding of the target species available at the time of your visit and a good idea of the general area you will be fishing.
For example, if at South West Rocks during the warmer months you can start off at the Jail Grounds trying for marlin, or if you’re down Bermagui way in the cooler months you can hit the Twelve Mile Reef for yellowfin.
Research on any new location is your key to success. The game clubs or tackle stores can often supply club maps which show many GPS marks or at least where the main structures are, such as canyons, the continental shelf line, reefs, islands and the like. These are all key areas on which to concentrate your efforts.
The internet is a great means of research, with the major fishing websites full of reports, tips and discussion. Facebook is very useful and many tackle shops and clubs have great Facebook pages with fresh reports that will certainly help put you on fish.
Remember, whenever you any such location, it is very important to say thanks and support these business or groups that have been so willing to help you.
Now all that is left to do is convince any non-fishing members of the family that that this is a great family holiday and that the chance of a game fishing trip or two is the bonus of visiting such a place!
Very experienced trailer-boat crews may take eight outfits with them for the day but for those anglers just starting out, three or four will be all you need.
I’m not one to push a particular brand but for those wanting a quality combo to get into some great fish without breaking the bank it’s hard to go past something like a Shimano TLD 25 reel and a Shimano backbone 15kg rod.
This combo, and similar ones from other reputable manufacturers, goes for around $300 spooled with 15kg line and is more than capable of getting you into marlin to 100kg, good-sized yellowfin and any mahi mahi you are likely to come across. A word of warning: stick to the reputable brands if you want your gear to last.
If dollars are not an issue then there are plenty of other options but be aware you can be up for $1000 or more for some of these combos.
Lures can generate heated debate among some – this brand copied that brand and this brand does or does not attract fish, and so on.
They may all look the same in your hand but when they are behind the boat in a 15-18-knot chop, the better quality lures come into their own. I think the ranges of pusher-style lures from Pakula, JB Lures, Hollowpoint and Mouldcraft offer value for money.
There are plenty that cost half as much as these but are not worth the hassle and don’t offer the best possible chance of a solid hook-up.