Time to abandon slip
  |  First Published: July 2014

The Coffs Coast’s game fishing season has started its run down to winter, with shorter days, colder air temperatures and consistent southwesterlies making fishing wide a bit of a chore.

The autumn weather was sublime though, and there weren’t many days when you couldn’t have fished. The flipside was that there were very few billfish about, although the inshore mackerel fishing just got better and better, and remained that way into June.

Depending on what the bait does, there’s sometimes an off-season striped marlin bite inside the shelf, although this hasn’t eventuated for a number of years now. Encouragingly, there have been a few stripy encounters in recent weeks, which suggests that it could all fall into place for us over winter. The bait is presently building up in 45 to 55 fathoms, so maybe we just need the water temperature to drop a degree or two.

Overall, it seemed like an indifferent season thanks to fickle currents and howling northerlies throughout much of summer, although the rain did stay away for once. Tagging stats from the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club tell a different story though. The members tagged 134 gamefish for the season, consisting of 44 blue marlin, 22 blacks, seven stripes, one shortbill spearfish, 42 mahi mahi, 13 yellowfin tuna, three hammerheads, a wahoo, and a lone yellowtail kingfish.

It’s actually a dramatic improvement on the 119 gamefish including 48 billfish tagged the season before, which in hindsight had seemed pretty action packed.

Champion male angler in both In-Hours and Out-of-Hours divisions was Bruce Schultz, fishing aboard Black and Blue. Having never caught a marlin before this season, Bruce has now nailed 15, of which nine were blues and the rest a mix of stripes and blacks. That’s damn good fishing in anyone’s language.

And not surprisingly, Black and Blue was champion boat for both categories as well!


Coffs Harbour and travelling boaters and fishos have been delivered an uppercut by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment Crown Lands, with the imminent closure of the Coffs Harbour slipway.

This is due to the presence of, amongst other things, Tributyl Tin (TBT), a popular and effective antifoul from many years ago contaminating the soil and nearby seabed. While TBT is present at almost every slipway of advancing years in Australia, it seems Coffs is the one to get the full rubber glove treatment, with the buildings being demolished and affected soil removed.

Meanwhile, owners of non-trailerable boats are left with something of a Hobson’s choice regarding off-water maintenance of their vessels, having to tackle potentially dangerous bar crossings at Yamba or Port Macquarie to access other slip facilities — neither of which fills them with much enthusiasm.

The most disgraceful aspect of the slipway’s demise though, is that despite the closure being on the cards for a long time now, the call for tenders didn’t go out until May 15, with the operation ceasing on July 31.

Suspicious locals can’t help but wonder if there’s a consortium waiting in the wings ready to take over the whole harbour area. This may or may not be the case, but realistically it will be two years before we see a slipway back in operation. My pessimistic view is that finding a tenant willing to build the facility and secure a decent lease off Lands will prove too hard, with this prime piece of harbour real estate eventually being sold off.

In other waterfront news, the approaches to the east coast’s worst boat ramp finally got dredged before Easter but, as was to be expected, it filled back in pretty fast. Fortunately, there is a larger dredge now operating at the mouth of the marina, working to a target of removing 40,000 cubic metres of sand over the next few months (although the local paper did report 40,000 cubic centimetres), with the spoil being piped to north of the harbour at Park Beach. Hopefully the dredging will include the boat ramp area as well.

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