Kill-fest off the Jail
  |  First Published: April 2005

Things have certainly fired up in the past four weeks with everything from bass to billfish biting daily.

The main ramp at the boatshed has had a steady line-up for weeks on end with as many as 80 boats heading out in a day. Most have gone marlin mad and are slow-trolling live baits just off Trial Bay Jail., finding a co-operative fish or two plus some nice cobia and a few rat yellowfin tuna.

While this has been a boom month for the town, particularly those owning holiday rentals, motels and service stations, it’s a bit of a slaughter-fest on the baby black marlin.

To help paint a clearer picture, on most days there have been around 30 to 50 boats out, all working one fairly small area and usually fishing eight or more hours a day.

Thankfully, the fish haven’t been super-thick because virtually every boat heading out has been returning heroically back to the ramp with a dead billfish or two.

If you do the maths, that’s around 50 marlin a day ending up on the cleaning table. Multiply that by six weeks and we’re talking an awful lot of fish dying from one small area.

Needless to say, the minority of ethical anglers releasing these terrific sports fish are pretty cheesed off and there’s been some pretty heated encounters back on dry land.

So who’s to blame? Sadly, it’s a combination of human greed and human error.

Some greedy anglers have to justify the long haul north with a freezer full of frozen marlin fillets. One bloke actually said to me, “If I don’t bring home a heap of fish my wife wont let me head north again.”

I’m no economist but surely it would have been cheaper to buy a decent amount of fish back in Geelong than drag two tonnes of boat 1800km north and rent a holiday house for several weeks?

Others are just shamelessly running the fish through restaurants or fish shops down south. I actually saw one mob with 80kg of mahi mahi, five yellowfin tuna and a 160kg blue marlin one day and then the next day they tried to emulate the haul again!

I don’t mind a feed of fish myself but surely even the most near-sighted individual can see that’s a slightly excessive amount of fish. Surely there’s a limit to the amount of fish one extended family can eat?

Part two of the problem is DPI Fisheries and their ridiculously over-generous bag limits.

The aforementioned group of four people were well within their bag limits. In fact, they could have had seven more blue marlin, eight blacks, eight stripes, eight sailfish, several more yellowfin and three tonnes of mahi mahi and still been legal!

I just shake my head and wonder what they were thinking when they created a bag limit that allows people to take two of each species of billfish each per day and as many mahi mahi as they can possibly haul in.

Having no bag or size limit on mahi mahi is insane. These things are suicidal, jumping on virtually anything that hits the water at times so it’s pretty easy fill the boat up.

Hopefully in the near future commonsense will prevail and far tighter bag limits will be employed to help stop the onslaught. And while Fisheries is at it, how a bout giving us a permanent fishing inspector to help police the currant carnage?

As it stands it’s open slaughter except on Wednesdays when Fisheries officers call in for a few short hours.


I’ll give your ears a rest and put the old soap box away but it’s a huge problem and one that desperately needs addressing. And with our rapidly dwindling fish stocks, the sooner the better.

Away from the killing fields just wide of the jail there are some nice Spanish and spotted mackerel to be had on the northern reefs. As usual they’ve been pretty hit-and-miss, biting freely one day and shutting up shop the next.

If your timing is good you can expect to fun and games with quality fish. Live slimies are still the way to go with the smaller baits ideal for the spotties. Try bigger baits like tailor, pike and bonito for the Spanish and fish a little closer to shore.

We can expect the macs to hang around for a few more months, so enjoy the current run of fish. At the time of writing the spotties went berserk off Grassy with massive catches – let’s just hope that the meat merchants don’t take the Jail kill-fest up north…

Snapper fishos are still bringing home a few but it’s hard to get past the spotties at times. Most of the good snapper grounds up north are also pretty reliable mackerel haunts so expect a few bite-offs if fishing a berley trail.

Kingfish and cobia can be found at Fish rock and Black Rock, particularly if there’s a good push from the north. As they say, no run, no fun – pretty apt when referring to the islands to the south and a fair call for the wide reefs also.


The Macleay has been a tad quiet, especially around the last full moon. There was a week or so in which very little happened but prior to that some ripper flathead jumped on our lures.

I had an awesome session on the big lizards, landing and releasing three fish for a total weight of 43lb. When you consider two of them added up to 41lb, (one 20lb, the other 21lb) it’s a pretty memorable day flicking lures.

I’m still buzzing about the monster flatties and the two big girls are hopefully still swimming free after being carefully weighed in the net and released.

There have been a few schoolies around but not in any great size or number. Those fishing after dark may have pinned a few but spinning during office hours has seen only a few small fish come my way.

Part of the problem is probably excessive boat traffic, with as many as 90 boats heading past prime jewfish haunts as they put to sea. Night fishing may well be the answer.

Bream have been pretty hot to trot, particularly up above Jerseyville. Those heading 20-odd kilometres up-river have consistently found good numbers of quality fish, especially when fishing the tidal change.

Even farther upstream the bass have been bitting freely for some time. Last month John Grant, Mark Spalding and I hit the water above Greenhills and must have timed the trip perfectly to coincide with a rapidly dropping barometer as we struggled for only six small fish.

Depending on where you fish, six might be considered pretty good but on the Macleay it’s well below par, with most sessions producing 15 to 30 fish providing you know where to spin.

But the water is still bath-warm and the fish should be biting for a month or two in the freshwater reaches so head up before the chill of Winter raises its ugly head.

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