Late flurry of blues
  |  First Published: July 2013

After reading a premature obituary in the press of the time, Mark Twain wrote, ‘The report of my death was an exaggeration’ and the same might be said of the Coffs Harbour marlin fishery this year.

Last month I delivered the coup de grace on what has been a fairly disappointing second half of the season as we coast into winter, and then within a week the place fired back up again – big-time!

It has been a pretty wretched year for blue marlin off the Coffs coast, so a patch of good weather that corresponded with a front of warmer water moving in from the north drew the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club out in force, with 11 boats spreading north and south.

There were some hard-luck stories, some epic tackle failures (bent hooks, broken swivels and pulled crimps, to name just a few), but plenty of bites were shared among the boats. Ultimately, three blues and a late season black were tagged. It was just like last season –for a day, at least.

Sydneysiders Vic Levett, James Thackeray and Adam Polly had the best of the past month’s fishing though. While bringing Vic’s boat Mojo back down the coast from Southport, they tagged two blues north of Ballina, then went six from eight north of Coffs.

This included a double-header that almost became a triple (never a good scenario with only three on board!), and a mysterious on-again, off-again after-dark bite on a Moldcraft soft head rigged with a light stick that had the boys all thinking broadbill.

That’s some pretty hot fishing, given that they didn’t stop to work any particular area, just straight-lined it down the coast with the intention of getting from A to B in the quickest possible time.

Since then it’s been pretty steady on the blue marlin front and certainly worth the exercise, despite the chilly mornings and reduced hours of daylight available to operate in.

Mid week has typically proven a more reliable time to fish, which has been an annoyingly predictable feature of the weather this season.

If you fish offshore at all, I’m sure you’re familiar with this scenario; round about Wednesday, the Seabreeze and BoM long-range reports for the coming weekend that had looked so promising two days previously begin to slide inexorably towards increasing wind and big seas. By Friday night, it’s all gone to poop.

At least your garden’s probably looking neat and tidy!

If the water’s good, it’s possible to catch blues off here every month of the year. If not, striped marlin have a wider temperature tolerance and there are yellowfin tuna, of course.

Lately there have been a couple of mystery billfish sightings that have been attributed to either doughy blues that are finding the water temps not quite their cup of tea, or possibly even stripes, as there were a few spangled line tanglers around at the corresponding time last year.


The water is still 23°-24° inshore, so the bar-ees and spotties haven’t quite left us yet, either. A pro jagged a modest specimen of just 39.5kg up at Arrawarra, and Mark Mikkelsen caught a 25kg fish on a live pike out from McCauleys Headland.

The Shimano boys found plenty of mackerel off here in mid-May but pinning them proved difficult.

And to further underline just how warm the water has been here, Tim King, of Coffs Marina, snapped the accompanying pic of a wayward barra lurking around one of the finger wharfs. Break out them gold Bombers, boys!


Despite the change of State Government in 2011, it’s reassuring to note that abject stupidity is still alive and well in the halls of DPI/Fisheries – otherwise, why would we be subjected to such a crock of ridiculous, unjustifiable bag limits that are now being proposed?

It’s super-important to have your say on this matter, otherwise we’ll be lumbered with a swathe of unnecessary and ill-considered new restrictions that seem to be more about enforcement issues and reallocation of the resource than anything to do with scientific evidence of declining fish stocks.

The discussion paper is available for download at: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/recreational/info/review

Now I’m just popping out to catch my two trag – back in five.

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