This column usually has an unapologetic marlin bias, but we can’t start this month without talking about the razor gang — not just the mackerel (which have been about in spectacular numbers), but wahoo. Wahoo, wahoo and more wahoo.
Doctor ’Hoo are certainly not unheard of in these waters, but you wouldn’t describe them as consistent — until this year. With the water topping 29°C in late February, I guess that’s to be expected.
Marlin lure trollers snag the occasional wahoo out in the middle of nowhere. Asking around amongst the cognoscenti who have lived here longer than I, this run is unprecedented unless you happen across a pod lurking beneath a log or some other sort of floating rubbish. They’re not monsters, but honest performers between 8-15kg, and often more than one a day.
For some though, the novelty of chopped skirts and missing lures is starting to wear off. Bibbed and bibless minnows rigged on wire are proving a better bet.
Wahoo are excellent eating, but avoid overcooking as the flesh tends to dry out. They all have a wiggly little collection of finger-sized stomach parasites (Hirudinella ventricose) in their gut, which look pretty unattractive, although they don’t affect their table qualities in any way.
Spotted and Spanish mackerel continue to rule the roost on the inshore reefs, and one bottom bouncer I was talking to described their presence as being “Worse than the bloody leatherjackets!” given the number of hooks and sinkers he’d had snipped off while drifting. Still, appropriately rigged for, they’re good fun and terrific eating.
Interestingly, the slimy mackerel haven’t done their disappearing act (yet) and have remained available on most of the bait reefs. It’s amazing how you can be on-site before dawn and not see even a sniff of a baitfish on the sounder, but when the sun pops up over the horizon they’re marking everywhere.
More of those mongrel barracudas have pushed down into NSW also, with pickhandles to a whopping 30kg being recorded south of Coffs.
Jellybean yellowfin tuna are still bobbing up periodically inshore, mostly on trolled minnows aimed at mackerel. You’d love to stumble across a patch out in deeper water though; slap a big circle hook on one, take him for a walk, and what blue marlin could resist?
Black marlin are still about. Local charter boat Black N Blue had an interesting recapture, with a fish tagged by Zorro Hutchby travelling 370nm in just 18 days before being recaptured off Wollongong. It exhibited a remarkable growth rate too — doubling its weight in that short time to 50kg!
The blues have remained well spaced this past month, but again the distraction of baby blacks, wahoo, mackerel, and some indifferent weather has kept a lot of boats inshore or waiting for an opportunity to go wide. Foreign Exchange, Black N Blue and Better Than Vegas ran into a patch of them at the start of March, and it was interesting to observe how everyone’s attention suddenly switched to heavier tackle and water deeper than 80 fathoms once word got around!
The Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club will again be conducting its Heavy Tackle Challenge out of Coffs Harbour on April 2-3, which is the weekend after Easter.
Specifically targeting the autumn run of blue marlin on line classes 24kg and up, last year saw 34 blues and a couple of cheeky blacks tagged in a crazy two days of fishing. Organisers are confident that the fish will fire up again this year and there’s over $10,500 in cash and prizes up for grabs.
|Open to all ANSA, GFAA and IGFA members, tournament details are available on the club’s website at www.solitaryislandsgame||fishingclub.com. You can also email tournament director James McGinty at --e-mail address hidden-- for more information.|