True believers triumph
  |  First Published: September 2013

It’s about a 25-mile run to North Solitary Island from Coffs Harbour, so it’s not heavily fished by local standards, but it always throws up a few out-of-region and out-of-season surprises – dogtooth tuna, for instance.

You just need to pick your days, otherwise it’s an ugly slog up or back.

Guilty of taking for granted the pelagics lurking on our doorstep, most of us have already switched to snapper, kings, teraglin and pearl perch (or household maintenance!) in preparation for when the season kicks off again this month.

The truly keen, however, will always manage to find some game fish action.

Sydneysiders Mike Bonnici and Tim Angus certainly had the locals talking at the start of July, with some amazing fishing up at ‘the big island’ with 11 Spanish mackerel to 24kg, a pair of kings to 18kg, a wahoo of 18kg and even a yellowfin tuna.

Caught on a mixture of livies and stick baits fished off spin gear, an inspirational report like that seems to make Winter just that little bit more bearable.

To continue in the bizarro world theme, Norm Dark of Jetty Boating got the shock of his life while having a snapper fish north of Groper Island a fortnight later, when he hooked a black marlin!

A big blue and silver flash right behind the boat and an immediate hook-up on a 7” Gulp had Norm and the crew thinking jumbo Winter Spaniard, so they went softly-softly on the fish for an hour and 40 minutes.

The ‘mackerel’ suddenly accelerated dramatically out to sea and then morphed into a leaping 70kg marlin. Unfortunately, the line broke at this most inopportune time, and the fish continued to jump a couple more times before disappearing.

Not bad for July, though, eh?

There was another black briefly connected to a paternoster rig and two marlin bites reported out wide (one striped and one possibly a blue), so if you have the motivation and can put up with the cold, there are at least some game fish to be caught.

The crew of Matador scored a picture-perfect night to have an exploratory broadbill session at Sawtell Canyons and despite driving through acres of diving gannets and flying sauries before setting up their drift, the only hook-up of the night came from a high-flying mako that made good its escape.

The Wide Bait Ground has been holding plenty of big slimy mackerel and the kings are on at South Solitary whenever the current kicks into gear, which can be somewhat problematic at this time of year.

A couple of wayward seals have created a fair bit of havoc, too, grabbing hooked kingies off lines.


The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club held its annual presentation dinner and in what seemed like a pretty ordinary season fish-wise (the weather certainly was!), the fishing slide show running on the wall suggested this wasn’t the case. Statistically, too, the numbers weren’t real bad.

All up, there were 119 game fish tagged for the season with just the one capture, and 48 billfish (including one spearfish) coming from local waters. Champion boat overall was Kikino, who were hands and heels clear of the rest of the field in both in-hours and out-of-hours catches.

All things considered, this was a fairly good result given that we got to fish only about half of the in-hours comp days due to the weather.

The little blacks certainly saved the day, but they thinned out when the rain generated by a couple of east coast lows turned the water the colour of milk coffee.

Current reports from the Fraser coast all the way north to Cairns suggest we’re going to be in for another boomer Summer on the little ‘fixed wings’ as long as the rain stays away.

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