Game fishing rocks the Harbour
  |  First Published: March 2016

Those summer stalwarts, the black marlin continue to attract most of the game fishing effort along the Coffs Coast, with Spanish and spotted mackerel a close second.

Initially the blacks were quite small, around 20-25kg, but as the weeks of summer slipped by, a slightly older class of fish from 50-70kg became more dominant. These are honest performers on medium tackle and can be a real challenge on lighter gear.

Lures have been hit and miss, as they tend to be, so live baiting is definitely the safest bet. Of course, bait, especially slimy mackerel, can become difficult to source when the marlin and macks are on the rampage. Consequently, it pays to have an outfit rigged with a bait jig ready to deploy at a moment’s notice should you stumble across a school out in the middle of nowhere.

A good trick from the south coast is to immediately swap out one of the bridled baits with a just-caught freshie. It’s amazing how often it gets nailed within minutes — or seconds. Drifting through the school for a bit, just letting the bait swim around down there, isn’t a bad plan either.

Live baiting also produces hammerheads, and with circle hooks being used more these days there are few bite-offs. Most are little tack hammers, but there’s been the odd sledgehammer over 100kg as well.

Black marlin hotspots have been the Wide Bait Ground when the water is good and bait is holding there, then anywhere from the FAD out to The Lump and down to the wave recorder buoy. A couple of fish have also come from The Patch.

But where are the blue marlin? They’ve proven to be elusive after an early flurry back in spring that augured well for the season ahead, but with reliable marlin activity in close, not too many boats have ventured wide. With the water over 28.5°C at times there could be any amount of blues swimming past, but it’s a big ocean when you’re out there on your lonesome.

A few striped marlin continue to bob up from 40 fathoms to well wide of the shelf, which is not unheard of for this time of year as their temperature tolerance is massive. When you’re conditioned to seeing a small dorsal fin appear behind a lure, having what looks like a giant sail suddenly put in an appearance sure makes the heart skip a beat!

The razor gang have made quite a bit of news lately. Wahoo, which have been absent for quite a few seasons, are more present this year. They’re not monsters, probably a 10kg average, but they’re a welcome by-catch provided they don’t wreck any lure skirts. Another member of the razor gang tribe, the barracuda, was a surprise catch back in February for Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club member George Blackwell, who caught a solid 15kg model out wide.

The Solitary Islands group have long thrown up an eclectic mix of tropical and temperate species, but in recent years divers are seeing even more dogtooth tuna around North Solitary and even up at the light. They’re not big and often hang out with their cousins the bonito; the white tips of the second dorsal and anal fin make them stand out from the school. Green jobfish are also becoming more numerous and a ferocious 14kg jobby was speared a while back.

The Spanish have increased in both numbers and size, and it’s shaping up to be another good season — and a month early too! Of course they’re liable to switch off at the drop of a hat if the water changes or the bait disappears — often together — so never take a hot bite for granted, as it could well be a marine desert the next day. Excessive rain doesn’t help the mackerel chasers’ cause and we’re long overdue for a big drop on the mid north coast, worse luck.

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