Tide change the key
  |  First Published: June 2014

The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club held its fourth Heavy Tackle Challenge recently, with 20 boats fishing under near perfect conditions. The water colour and temperature, so often the key to good offshore fishing, was more than adequate, and the current had eased up appreciably so it was possible to work a known hotspot without vanishing down the coast.

Another ‘tournament with a difference’, this one is about team rather than individual honours, and puts the emphasis on blue marlin fishing off the Coffs coast. Consequently, the minimum line class is 24kg, with bonus points for the right species suitably tagged and photographed boatside. A sensible minimum weight of 200kg means the unedifying situation of numerous sub-weight marlin being hung is avoided, with points deductions for any that fail to make the grade. As it was, no blues were weighed.

Day one saw boats spread out from the North Solitary Canyons to the Nambucca Canyons looking for bait, temperature breaks, and billfish.

Hemingway was first on the board with a black marlin and then a yellowfin tuna tag. A flurry of hook-ups followed on the tide change, with Wicked Weasel recording the first blue of the tournament. This was followed by successful blue marlin tags to Sweet One II and Foreign Exchange.

And then it went deathly quiet, pretty much for the rest of the day, although there was increased activity approaching the next tide change, which was too close to stop fishing to really be capitalised on.

By day two it became obvious that running long distances hadn’t worked, so the fleet concentrated its efforts between the North Canyons and the Central Coffs canyons. Again, the tide change was the key to marlin activity.

Sweet One kicked clear of the rest of the pack with five quick mahi mahi tags just after start fishing, followed by a blue marlin tag and another that jumped off.

Magnum weren’t going down without a fight though, and quickly tagged two blues to put them right up there, helped by a wahoo capture from the day before.

Some other gamefish came into play on the Sunday too, with Better Than Vegas decking a couple of yellowfin over 38kg, bending a hook on another, and Black and Blue raising two spearfish that didn’t stay connected.

The Sweet One crew of Cameron Sweeting, Mark Mikkelsen and Terry Dunphy ran out eventual winners, with Magnum second and Wicked Weasel third on a countback. The winners generously donated their Calcutta winnings of $2640 to the Leukaemia Foundation (the SIGFC’s designated charity), while the SW Fish Mounts raffle of a black marlin cast raised another $860 for this worthy cause.

Some innovative cash incentives this year included $1000 to encourage early entries, and 25% of the Calcutta pool went to a random boat draw, so even if you didn’t catch a fish there was a chance of going home with something to show for the weekend’s work.

In total, there were six blues and two blacks tagged, one yellowfin tuna tagged and two weighed, one wahoo tagged and one weighed, and 16 mahi mahi tagged.

Next year’s event is on 28-29 March 2015, and details will be posted on the club’s website www.solitaryislandsgamefishingclub.com in due course.

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