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Tough offshore, but there’s hope on the horizon
  |  First Published: December 2014



My enthusiasm for the upcoming marlin season has been tempered somewhat since the last column by the endless days of black nor’ easters, roaring current, no current, current flowing uphill, dirty water, and quite simply a serious lack of marlin of any type loitering in Coffs’ waters. If they’re not here you can’t catch ’em — simple as that — but some favourable sea conditions would certainly help to prove it one way or another.

The Coffs Harbour Game Fishing Club’s Hot Currents Tournament proved tough going both fish and weather-wise for the 20 boats that entered, with only three striped marlin tagged. Some crews saw multiple marlin over the four days, but they were pretty doughy and hard to interest in lures, while those that would bite proved quite adept at unhooking themselves.

The sharkers did somewhat better though, with 2 makos over 200 kilos weighed, and another five of mixed species tagged.

After a promising early spring, yellowfin were strangely absent, and the mahimahi were rather shut-down after being at their colourful best just weeks before.

Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club members Tim McQuade and Shannon and Zac Danby aboard Pheel The Bite led from 8.00am on day 1, with a striped marlin, a collection of mahimahi, and some nice kings from South Solitary. They fished to a plan and ended up winning a heap of categories: champion boat tag and release, most other game fish tagged, most marlin tagged, and champion male and champion junior tag and release anglers. That’s not a bad effort from the smallest boat in the event!

Champion boat capture was Critakill with a top mako of 237.2kg on 15 to Ian Alexander.

On a more positive note, there are increasing reports of small blacks inshore and blues wide of the shelf drifting down from behind the banana curtain. Boats returning home to southern ports after the Cairns heavy tackle season have all enjoyed great blue marlin fishing in the Lady Musgrave/Fraser Island region, without really putting a lot of time in. Now that’s still a fair distance away from Coffs, but everyone’s quietly confident that we should see some of the same action when the currents sort themselves out.

A couple of vague accounts of small blacks seen around local inshore grounds suggests these could be the vanguard and that healthier numbers aren’t so far away. Here’s hoping!

A LIFELINE FOR THE SLIPWAY?

Local on-water boat owners and commercial fishermen in Coffs Harbour might have been thrown a lifeline by Kevin Humphries MP, Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water. The minister visited the port before Christmas to try and resolve a situation where the on-water community was basically being held to ransom by his department and the EPA over the closure and remediation of the harbour slipway site.

The slip, which has sat empty for four months, will be made available in the interim so that boats can be slipped and necessary maintenance carried out while a new facility is built.

Testing and remediation of the site, which is contaminated with various chemicals, most notable of which is Tributyl tin — a super effective, albeit hazardous anti-foul used widely up until the 1980s — has to be dealt with before anything new is built.

Of course, how long all this will take is anyone’s guess, although the press release does state in black and white that the slip will be “upgraded and fully operational next year”. Given that there has been no physical work done since the operation closed its doors at the end of July, holding your breath may prove hazardous to your health.

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Ian Alexander’s fit looking mako from the Hot Currents Tournament.

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Pheel The Bite’s tournament winning striped checks out the GoPro before swimming off.

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Zac Danby with a king from South Solitary that helped secure him the champion junior trophy at the Hot Currents Tournament.

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The victorious Pheel The Bite team with their loot. No, they didn’t win the couch.

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