Stripes dominate but blues getting close
  |  First Published: December 2015

As far as the start to game fishing seasons go, this one just keeps on giving. When other ports are looking on enviously with green water, cool temperatures and patchy pelagic fishing, Coffs Harbour is still enjoying consistent striped marlin action.

While stripes are apt to turn up just about anywhere anytime (even in marinas if you’ve had a look on YouTube lately), their tolerance for cooler and even green water is well documented. Still, the way it’s been off here lately, throw the lures in the minute you hit the blue water (which is only about 30-40f out) and you’re in with a very good chance of raising one almost immediately. It therefore pays to have a rod bucket and harness on the deck, but most importantly precisely who’s on strike established the moment those outriggers are dropped.

The key to all this good fishing has been a pool of slack water to the north of Coffs, holding along and inside the shelf. The stripes are by no means confined to the coastal fringe though. A couple have come from as deep as 800f, caught by boats looking wide for blues.

Along the shelf line you do dice with death running 24kg outfits though. While most of the blue marlin we see off Coffs are eminently catchable on 24, it’s that better marlin that will make life difficult when you’re tying to lift it should it go deep. The advantage of stepping up a line class to 37kg is you can muscle a stubborn blue out of its resistance and turn it over quickly for a healthy tag and release.

There are enough blues available at present to warrant up-scaling the line class, lure sizes and hooks, but it’s a given that you’ll raise a messy eating striped that can’t get its mouth around a 12 or 14” lure!

As an example of how good the fishing has been so far this season, Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club boat Seaborn has leapt out of the blocks, and in one memorable day tagged two stripes and a blue, and crewmember Dylan Steel weighed a blue of 170kg on 24 that couldn’t be revived. They had a couple of other bites that didn’t stick, and an unusual double header of a blue and a striped. Not a bad day’s fishing with just two on board.

The bait has become more widespread than just the occasional blob in 40 to 80 fathoms, and a number of Solitary Islands’ club boats were lucky to observe some Attenborough-like bait balls, with whales, sharks, dolphins and the odd striped marlin ripping into the balled-up yellowtail and slimy mackerel.

And yellowfin? Well nobody’s really gone wide, simply because the striped marlin action has been keeping most people fishing inside and along the shelf, but the longliners have been bringing in modest amounts of quality fish. It might be worth a look around in the deadly depths, but with the big gear in the rod holders, because the water is warming and the East Australian Current is likely to spring back into life any time now.

There’s also a trickle of mahimahi of mixed sizes starting to appear, which is encouraging for those of us whose frozen fish stocks have dwindled lately.

For the jiggers, yellowtail kings and more than a few amberjack have been biting well up at the light when the current gets into gear, but it’s been shark city at times. Whalers and some quite decent hammerheads for the time of year have been taxing a lot of fish. Still, it’s better that they eat kings than mackerel, I suppose.

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