Still tough fishing on the solitary coast
  |  First Published: May 2017

If I’m ever asked what the peak month for blue marlin on the Coffs Coast is, my stock answer is March. The wind is largely settled, the shelf current has backed off to a manageable pace, bait is reasonably prolific and the blues are here… except this season of course.

Unfortunately, March 2017 proved to be just as dull and uninteresting as February. And January. And December. And November. And October. Oh, and September was a write-off as well.

So the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club’s Heavy Tackle Challenge was going to be a big ask, but with 20 local and visiting boats entered, if there were blues around somebody would find them somewhere.

With a point score structure engineered to specifically target blue marlin, and other billfish species and tuna, mahimahi, wahoo et al as lesser-rewarded by-catch, this event has been a resounding success over its six year journey.

While extremely warm, crews were dismayed to find the water along the 100 fathom line was green rubbish, most likely the result of flooding rain that had hit the mid north coast the week before. If specifically targeting blue marlin, off-colour water is hard to get excited about, so in order to find the cobalt blue the species prefers, it was necessary to fish out beyond 700 fathoms. There was the occasional pod of small tuna flipping about, but precious little in the way of big predators chasing them.

Unfortunately, the shelf edge was where the action was at.

Team Seaborn struck a purple patch and scored a small black and then an even smaller striped marlin for their troubles, and were able to hang onto their lead for the duration of the competition, which put $5000 in their pockets.

No Frills were the only team to tag a blue, and by my recollection it was the only one seen for the entire weekend, which is quite unbelievable. After pushing wide first up, they came back into the Sawtell Canyons to find the water had improved in the space of a few hours, and hooked a nice fish that got them into second place for a $2500 pay out.

A new boat in the port, Kanaloa’s crew also found a small black in on the edge, which was easily overcome by the heavy tackle in use, but secured them third spot and $1250.

The crew of Hemingway didn’t see much on the billfish front, but they did find an 11.5kg mahimahi. At $800 for fourth place, that’s a gold plated piece of by-catch if ever I heard of one!

And as for the rest of the fleet, bites were thin on the ground, with just the odd half-hearted swipe from what were most likely small blacks in green water. We did get to play with a decent mako for half an hour on 37, but then the leader crossed over his teeth and that was the end of that. A good lure gone west too – worse luck.

The BOM got the weather wrong once again, and it blew from just about every point of the compass at different times over the weekend. It wasn’t excessive, just uncomfortable. Timing is everything though, as the following weekend ex-tropical cyclone Debbie came barrelling down the coast and that would’ve closed the event out big time.

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