Man versus fish
  |  First Published: November 2016

Ernest Hemingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea is held in high regard by gamefishers the world over. It tells the tale of an old fisher who was having a run of piscatorial outs, but hooks a massive marlin that proves to be almost as big as his fishing skiff. Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending as sharks ultimately tear it to bits boat side, but the concept of going one on one with a marlin strikes a chord with all who fish the bluewater.

Catching a marlin single-handedly is quite an achievement. It can be dangerous, but the risks are manageable if you prepare well, have the requisite safety equipment, and the right sort of boat. A PFD and a deckie’s belt with a release tool, mono cutters, knife and pliers are essential. Inform the relevant marine rescue organisation and fishing mates of your project, and pick a good day. Routine fishing tasks become twice as complicated when you have to do it all yourself.

Don’t have too many baits or lures in the water, and be harnessed up in advance, even if you consider it bad luck to do so. As far as a fishing platform goes, centre consoles or open runabouts are definitely the go. An autopilot is a decided asset, leaving both hands free for pumping and winding.

Wind-on leaders make the end game easier, but importantly, ensure you can still reach the fish with the tag pole when the swivel is at the rod tip. There’s nothing to it really.

Back at the start of the current game fishing season, Pete Mallia of the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club was combining a touch of bottom fishing with some casual marlin live baiting out at the wave recorder buoy, about six miles east of Coffs.

Slimy mackerel were balled up tight just below the surface, and jigging a tankful took no time at all. Ostensibly a bottom fishing session, the gamefishing element was something of a clutch start, so a couple of essential items got left behind – the rod bucket and harness, wiring gloves, a wind-on leader to make boat side fish handling more manageable, and rubber bands to hold the tag to the pole.

A slimy was quickly bridled and fed out, while a paternoster rig was sent to the reef 36 fathoms below. As they do, the slimy kept swimming under the boat, so Pete went to wind it up to re-deploy, when a mysterious weight came on the line.

Upon setting the hook, expecting a mahimahi or some such, out pops an 80kg striped marlin instead! With a sea anchor and a bottom rod to recover while holding a loaded 24kg outfit in hand, things were a touch hectic before the marlin could be chased down with the boat.

Three miles from the hook-up point and after much performing, the fish finally acquiesced. After grasping the leader in one gloveless hand, the tag was successfully planted – a bucket list fishing experience for Pete.

Otherwise, it’s been a slow month on the Coffs gamefishing scene with the weather limiting fishing opportunities. There’s been a couple of striped marlin bites recorded and at least one blue lost. Port Macquarie has had some heavyweight yellowfin tuna action, and the Gold Coast enjoyed a brilliant start to their season with blue marlin and plenty of big tuna.

Surely it’s our turn soon.

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