Game season finally gets into gear — with a bang
  |  First Published: May 2015

Whether bream, billfish or anything in between, there are a number of elements that need to combine in order to hold a successful fishing tournament.

Based on the “If you build it, they will come” principle, if the prize pool is sufficient it will grab anglers’ attention. The weather needs to cooperate, and the location needs to have suitable facilities to accommodate anything from a couple of teams to over 100. The bottom line though, is that the fish have to be there, because despite appearances to the contrary, at the end of the day catching fish is what it’s all about — or should be.

After a woeful game fishing season off Coffs, at the start of March the blue marlin turned up in droves. Boats were having up to half a dozen shots a day on fish from 80 to 200 kilos, but getting the hooks to stick was another matter. Your typical blue’s modus operandi is to pounce on a trolled lure without any fanfare, and most times you don’t see them coming, even from the height advantage afforded by a flybridge.

These fish though, were content to paddle behind and beside the lures, make ineffectual swipes at them, sometimes hooking up, sometimes not, but generally behaving for all the world like sailfish or striped marlin. One theory, which certainly has some merit, is that the masses of flying fish present had changed their aggressive feeding mind-set after chasing the elusive winged baitfish.

And then when you did get a solid hookup and felt pretty confident about the result, straight lining to the fish and steadily gaining line, 30 minutes into the fight the hook or hooks would pop out. Frustrating? You betcha. Bad language? Plenty of that too.

This sailfish/striped marlin-like behaviour had also been reported from the Gold Coast, who were enjoying a stellar blue marlin bite, so it wasn’t just a local manifestation thank goodness.

Despite their diva-like attitude, the sheer numbers of blues about augured well for the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s fifth Heavy Tackle Challenge, which was held at the end of March. The weather cooperated magnificently, as did the marlin. There were 132 bites recorded for 32 blues, and two blacks that were out playing with the big boys over the shelf. An additional 3 blues didn’t count, 1 due to a shark bite and the others not making the cut-off time on the Sunday afternoon. Most of the activity occurred north east of the port, only 22 miles out, so well within range of everyone competing.

Champion boat Mustang, from the Port Macquarie Game Fishing Club, were on world record pace from the get go, with 5 blue marlin tags on the Saturday, and another 2 on the Sunday to cement the win.

Seaborn from the Solitary Islands Club was second with 2 blues on the Saturday, and then achieved a rare Grand Slam of a black, a blue and a striped on the Sunday.

Third was Reelistic from Port Mac’ with a pair of blues both days.

Strangely, some boats hardly saw a fish for the weekend, while others seemingly had their own private school finning around in their wakes. On Wicked Weasel, we had the blues lined up to have a crack at the spread on the Saturday afternoon, going a less than impressive 14-8-3. It’s worth noting too, that this action occurred when the moon rose over the horizon.

There wasn’t much in the way of bycatch encountered — most likely anything edible was laying low given the marlin numbers out there — but Glenn Aylward pinned a very nice 43 kilo yellowfin tuna.

Since the comp, the blues have proven elusive, but the stripes have shown up and there’s more yellowfin tuna about too, which is a promising sign coming into winter.

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