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Still quiet, but that’s about to change
  |  First Published: October 2016



It’s still all quiet on the eastern front as far as Coffs Harbour game fishing activity is concerned, but the season should have shifted into gear by the time you read this. So to fill my allocated space this month, I thought I’d indulge in a little crystal ball gazing on what might occur this season based on what has happened in the past.

The trouble with this approach is that fish are adept at proving even the most informed pundits completely wrong! If one species doesn’t turn up though, another always seems keen to fill the void and for adaptable crews this can produce some pretty exciting fishing.

After a prolonged absence, striped marlin have figured prominently in spring catches over recent years, and a smattering loitered right through summer — even when the water hit a bath-warm 28 degrees. This early season bite has proven nice and handy too, with the line between the FAD in the north and the waver recorder buoy directly off Coffs proving pretty reliable. You could be setting up the spread just five miles out and be in with a good chance of catching a marlin, so it pays to have all the ancillary equipment like rod buckets, harnesses, gloves and tag poles ready when that first lure goes over the side.

Black marlin have been steady in recent years, but haven’t really hit the dizzying heights some older hands speak of from years past. A hint as to what our season might offer can be determined by what the juvenile bite was like in far north Queensland during winter. Unfortunately, Cape Bowling Green was pretty quiet, although the waters off Cairns fished fairly well.

A straw poll of game fishos in Coffs would almost certainly put blue marlin at the top of the target species’ list. While they’ve been caught here in every month of the year, they’re more reliable in the warmer months, with February and March being peak time. The last two seasons have been crackers, with multiple bites a day being recorded.

Mahimahi remain inexplicably thin on the ground. Granted, there’s always a few caught here and there while trolling for blues, but the inshore concentrations around the FAD, wave recorder and traps have been sadly lacking. The problem might be that we all compare current numbers to the spectacular 2014 season where there was a carpet of green and gold under anything that floated, and packs of fish roaming open water.

A notable piece of tasty by-catch last season was the wahoo. Arguably the best year ever recorded in Coffs’ waters, some boats got driven mad by the tiger striped speedsters (not us though). Radio chatter went from an excited “It’s a wahoo!” to a more subdued “It’s just a wahoo” as the season progressed and that blind strike didn’t turn out to be a marlin after all.

While on species with teeth, the last few mackerel seasons have been epic, with plenty of 8-12kg Spaniards and spotties in a range of sizes on call. A lack of flooding rain and plenty of slimy mackerel on the bait grounds has certainly contributed to this, and the season now continues into June. Reports from up around the big island suggest that there’s a small remnant population resident year round.

Yellowfin tuna though, remain an enigma. There was a good bite at the start of the season, with surface schools of 25-35kg fish ranging along the shelf line, but these thinned out as the water warmed, although there was a flurry at the end of summer. They’re certainly nowhere near as common as they once were, and the days of cursing them as every lure in the spread got creamed are sadly but a distant memory.

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