An angry marlin going like a bat out of hell shortly after hookup off Coffs. Photo: Wanda Fenner
An angry marlin going like a bat out of hell shortly after hookup off Coffs. Photo: Wanda Fenner

Solitary Island GFC news

THE game fishing off our coast has been remarkably quiet this month, and since this latest southerly blew into town, everyone who was getting ready to go out and find the big fish this weekend has had to cool their heels once again.

However, given the large numbers of small black marlin being caught up on the southern Barrier Reef at the moment, and the striped marlin catches off the Gold Coast, it looks like there will be plenty of game fish heading down here in the near future - the only question is when.

So instead of talking about the non-existent game fishing news, here's a bit of detail on what happens on a busy day out on the fighting deck of a big game boat when the marlin bite is hot.

Firstly, one of the most stirring sights for a crew is the sudden appearance of a big marlin behind one of the lures being towed in the wake of the boat. If you're lucky, you'll see the scimitar shaped tail fin of a big fish as it surfaces and prepares to swat the lure.

If you miss seeing the fish in the first instance, don't worry, as it's generally only a matter of seconds before it's impossible to miss the big boil and the hole in the water as the fish takes a swipe at the lure.

Marlin typically try to stun a small fish by hitting it hard with their bill, and they're surprisingly good at this.

Once they've hit the baitfish, it's generally either dead, or badly stunned, and they can then make a leisurely turn back at the crippled fish and eat it.

Of course, no matter how many times they slash at a lure being towed behind a boat, the lure never "dies" or slows down after being stunned as normal prey would.

So ... not accustomed to missing, the marlin usually gets pretty mad at this point, lights up like a flashing purple and blue neon sign, does a fast swerve away from the lure, then comes back and absolutely smashes it, grabbing it in its mouth and running in whatever direction it pleases - but always very fast.

Many readers of this column won't have spent much time on a game fishing boat and seen the superb crew choreography that now takes place in the split seconds after a marlin strikes, but it's a fantastic sight - roaring engines, screaming reel, a marlin dancing away in a furious welter of white water, and the crew rushing to clear the other rods.

Most game boats generally have at least four lures or a couple of skip baits out in the wake, some as close as only eight or ten metres from the stern.

Once the fish takes one of these, the rest have to be brought very quickly back to the boat to clear the wake of lines that will tangle or at worst be sliced through by the marlin or by the line it has taken running over them.

At this stage of proceedings, the marlin is running away and the skipper is powering the boat to keep the line taut, while the crew furiously wind in the loose lines and stow the rods.

If the marlin changes direction and decides to charge the boat instead of run away from it, the skipper may even have to floor the throttle to run away from the fish, and all the while the crew are winding flat out on a wildly gyrating deck that could suddenly be going at 20 knots.

Soon enough, it all settles down, the angler takes the rod with the fish attached and settles in for a gruelling battle while the skipper drives the boat to help the angler work the fish, and the rest of the crew catch their breath waiting for the close-in action.

When the final act comes an hour or two later, a whole new piece of crew choreography starts, culminating in the release of a tagged fish, an exhausted angler smiling from ear to ear, and high fives all around.

This sort of action is fishing on a totally different scale, so if you like the sound of it and if you think it might be for you, Google up the Solitary Islands Game Fishing Club's website, and ask about the next information night.

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