The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club held its third Heavy Tackle Challenge out of Coffs Harbour towards the end of March and it’s an event that continues to go from strength to strength.
This is a game tournament with a twist, in that there are only boat prizes – no individual angler awards – and a nice wad of cash for first and second places.
There are bonus points for fish over minimum weights, which are set quite high for billfish, but other game fish that are good to eat have the ability to add valuable numbers to the cumulative total provided they’re over the nominated weight.
Then there’s the Calcutta, which is a lot of fun spoilt only by so-called mates putting your weights up by starting the bidding at $100 or more – but what goes around comes around and revenge is sweet.
On the Saturday morning 20 boats roared offshore in all directions, with some of the Port Macquarie contingent fishing their way up during the day. Kikino bounced out of the blocks with a black marlin tag just 15 minutes after lines in, followed by Foreign Exchange with a pair of jellybean yellowfin.
The only downer was the sloppy conditions and a chronic lack of blue water, with everyone pushing progressively wider. The blue stuff was finally discovered some 25 miles out, but this didn’t prevent No Frills finding one in the soup though, tagging the tournament’s first blue.
Long Time Dead scored a black on its trip up the coast, Mustang tagged one also, and Black and Blue fished well south but struggled to find any water quality to get excited about.
They did, however, find a piece of plastic road safety barrier. Now you’d expect a gift from the fishing gods like this to be loaded with mahi mahi but, inexplicably, nobody was home.
Salt was rubbed into the wound not long after when they lost a blue that jumped like a mako before spitting the lure.
After lunch, Foreign Exchange hooked what was clearly the biggest blue of the tournament, estimated at 300kg-plus, with Nick Brunyee harnessed up on 37kg. A couple of hours slipped by before a 1-1-1 was announced over the radio, with a short length of 3.2m – nice fish!
Wicked Weasel tagged a couple of small wahoo, one in the blue water and another in the green. It’s unusual to find them swimming about in anything that’s not cobalt blue, but it’s happened a bit during this topsy-turvy season.
Sunday morning dawned calm and clear, but it was a different story for some when they hit the shelf, with a fairly big sea running in places.
The blue water had pushed inshore a good 15 miles overnight, yet where the good water was located the previous day it had turned a patchy blue/green. Those with access to sea surface charts all decided to head north.
On the way out, Triton tagged a slightly larger black than the usual run of Summer fish, while Son Of a Gun lost a blue in 80 fathoms just as they looked to have it under control.
Kikino fished north after going way south the day before and came up trumps with a nice blue to Ryan Marshall, while the smallest boat in the fleet, Hemingway, tagged a black and also raised another.
Late in the day, Kikino popped a tag into a yellowfin tuna to put a cherry on top and eventually ran out comfortable winners.
The team of Steve Marshall, Ryan Marshall and Shane Panton collected $3000 in prizemoney and also bought themselves in the Calcutta, which netted them another $3575. Mind you, they put in the hard yards, with back-to-back 4am starts and long runs, burning over 300L of fuel in the process.
The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s nominated charity is the Leukaemia Foundation and Scott Ward from SW Fish Mounts, who featured here in the February issue, generously donated a bull mahi mahi cast as a raffle prize. This was won by Mike Shadbolt, owner of Kestelle, and $718 was raised in the process.
All up, there were four blues tagged (one disqualified), six blacks, three yellowfin tuna and two wahoo and no fish weighed. This was a pretty good result given the patchy water quality, and the Heavy Tackle Challenge will definitely be on again next year. Further details are available atwww.solitaryislandsgamefishingclub.com .Reads: 950