In the face of a complete flop of a gamefishing season, I reckon 90% of the local gamefishing boats have given up chasing bluewater pelagics. Offshore activity always slows down coming into winter, but most people around here put the shutters up back in March!
Even a few prolonged spells of glamour weather after a fairly windy summer haven’t been sufficient incentive to drag crews out of this bluewater funk. Now you can study the water temperature charts online until you’re blue in the face, but there’s nothing like a Mk I Eyeball to give a true indication of what’s really happening out wide. Those that have gone returned with the dreaded zeroes most times — no bites, no hook-ups and certainly no fish.
What happened to our season? The northeasterlies kicked in in September and never really stopped blowing until mid January. This meant the spring striped marlin/yellowfin tuna bite couldn’t be exploited, which in recent years got the season off to a fair start and really inspired everyone to put in the time and effort offshore.
It’s also been a game of watching the vagaries of the East Australian Current, which seemed to take great delight in ducking out to sea whenever it approached northern NSW, then re-forming along the shelf somewhere south of us. Admittedly, Port Stephens was quiet this year by their lofty standards, but Sydney down to Bermagui enjoyed some pretty good fishing at times on a range of species.
There was a bit of a flurry with inshore blacks from Christmas on, but then they skipped through on us to Port Macquarie. In January the current really started pushing hard out wide, as it tends to do at that time of year. This makes it difficult to find a blue. While you might stumble across a traveller, trying to work a specific spot is difficult as a 4 knot river of cobalt water running south means the fish aren’t concentrated.
There have been almost no wahoo, yellowfin, and precious few mahimahi to break the monotony of a day’s trolling, with the wave recorder, the FAD and the traps inside the shelf line holding mostly sub-legal rats. About the only positive gamefish news has been Spanish mackerel, and to a lesser extent the spotties. The quality has certainly been there with most Spanish weighing in excess of 12kg and some real gems up around 20.
Post cyclone Debbie, the water rolled over and muddied up and that created a steady if not spectacular bite. A few nice baries kept the purists out there trying, but it’s been a hard slog otherwise. There has been a good number of longtails and a few mac tuna inshore though, and while certainly sporting, most would prefer a mackerel to be snaffling their livies than these bait stealers.
As we run down the clock to the end of a totally forgettable nine months, I can say with complete honesty that my gamefishing tackle has never been better prepped for next season. Bring on next season!Reads: 650