The game fishing season here in Coffs Harbour is off to a rollicking good start. The yellowfin out around the 1000 fathom line remain moody, but there has been sufficient striped and blue marlin, and even a couple of spearfish, back along the shelf edge to keep everyone entertained and less inclined to go wide.
Good water has pushed in as close as 20 fathoms at times (and may be holding a sneaky early/late mackerel if anyone cared to look), and with a slight northerly set it doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
There’s been plenty of bait holding along the 50-55 fathom contour, and with water already 22.5-23.5°C, the game fishing options list is vast. The colour hasn’t been that azure blue of summer, but certainly good enough for stripes and yellowfin tuna, plus early blues as we’ve been seeing. Mahimahi aren’t thick yet, but those that have been caught have been big males all over 15kg.
What kills the game fishing here in summer though, is three knots of southerly tide sweeping all before it. Coupled with the afternoon nor’easters, it makes for an untidy afternoon as you attempt to fight the current. Not only does it shove all the bait and attendant game fish down the coast (you’re very welcome, Port Stephens!), it makes coming across those travellers riding the big blue highway south a real lottery. The last few summers have been mostly hard work, but when the current eases off or eddies around off here, it’s game on for young and old.
What this El Nino cycle will bring over the warmer months is still up in the air, but you’d like to think small blacks inshore, consolation prize mahimahi from the FAD, the wave recorder and out wide, yellowfin in the deep, and plenty of blues chasing them. Well, we can always dream, can’t we?
That first marlin in an angling career is a big deal, because whether you game fish or not a marlin capture (or tag and release, as is more common these days) is regarded as a pinnacle angling achievement. Some anglers nail it on their first attempt, while others may have to wait for years for all the planets to align. Already this season though, Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club members Maddison McGinty, Bryce Young, James Cooper, Craig Want, Karen Garcia, Ian Gillespie, Emma Bevan and Steve Buhagiar have had their piscatorial cherries popped on a mix of blues and stripes. The latter four all fished on She’s A Dream, so skipper Bill Reider is definitely on song with the newcomers. It’s great to see, and the season’s only just begun.
Of course, for the first time marlin anglers they’re faced with the immutable law of diminishing returns. After the first, do you then walk away with a 100% success rate on marlin, or try to catch more? The near universal response is “I want another one.” A couple of lost fish later and that once Bradmanesque strike rate makes you look more like a tail-ender than an opening batsman!Reads: 515