It is fair to say that this winter’s fishing has been unusual to say the least. Earlier on, just a few weeks ago we had a run of big Yellowfin, what I have heard called the Fijian Yellowfin. It would be interesting to know if these fish have actually come in on a current of tropical origin, i.e. Fijian Yellowfin, it would go a long way into explaining the appearance of some of the other warm water fish we have seen lately.
At the same time as these Yellowfin, I will call them the Fijian Yellowfin, turned up we experienced a very short run of Bluefin with several over one hundred kilo’s caught. Yet at the same time there were a couple of Blue Marlin and Striped Marlin taken, sighting of Mahi Mahi and the weirdest of all more than a few Spearfish caught. So, a strange mix of warm and cold water species.
At present we are catching smaller Yellowfin in the twenty five to forty kilo range though a couple of bigger ones have been taken. In the past these smaller fish were found in large schools, often busting up, and when you found them you’d get multiple hook-ups. However, lately to find the fish you have to cover a lot of ground and the hook-ups are from blind strikes in the middle of nowhere with little if any bird activity to indicate their presence.
The last time I was out, a couple of days ago, we caught a couple of thirty kilo ‘fin. The first in three hundred fathoms South-East of Browns and the second in seven hundred fathoms on the same line. There were few birds around in fact for all intents and purposes the area looked barren. What was of interest was that the fish had been eating what looked like baby octopus or squid, hard to tell at the size they were, about two centimetres long and transparent. It amazed me that the fish were feeding on really small bait and yet still took old ‘Brad’.
The Sydney tuna run is coming. With a much-awaited moderation in the weather and reports of the Sydney Tuna with Yellowfin North of us and Bluefin to the South with both groups getting closer I had to get out there.
The plan was to head East around to where there was some interesting looking water around Heatons. Out there a cooler Northerly current was eddying on the Eastern edge of a warmer tongue of water from the North, all looking very fishy in theory.
We put the lures in at eighty fathoms after dodging all the whales, there’s always the chance of a Striped Marlin around the shelf and headed out.
As it was we didn’t encounter anything on the way and as you can see or rather hear in the video below the wind was howling. When we reached the warmer water, the conflicting currents caused the already uncomfortable sea to stand up. To my great surprise there were a couple of smaller boats out there too – I know I wouldn’t have been there in those conditions in a boat smaller than mine – hell, I didn’t even like it in mine.
We spent a little time in the area but there was neither bird activity nor bait so I picked a relatively comfortable course and started heading inshore. On the way I heard one boat say they had caught a couple of Albacore wide of Heatons, another had caught a Yellowfin somewhere inside Heatons yet another had caught a Spearfish wide of the Bait Station. Oddly enough it was the third Spearfish I’ve heard of recently…strange times.
On the way Home…
To cut a long story short I was trolling towards the Bait Station when if five hundred fathoms we were rudely awakened by three rods screaming off. Fortunately, since there were only three of us on board, myself the client and my deckhand, one dropped off. Rob took one of the rods and muscled the Yellowfin to the boat in ten minutes while Colin kept tension on his fish keeping it out of the way until the other was landed. Colin took a little longer but he duly brought his fish to the gaff.
So, an interesting day with a good result and hopefully the start of a good Tuna season. The Bluefin aren’t far away and there are enough Yellowfin to make it interesting.
Inshore there are Kings on the reefs and in the harbour and for those in the know some good Snapper too.
After spending the last couple of weekends up at Port Stephens where the only game in town was to chase small Black Marlin it was a pleasure to come back to home territory to see what is happening down here and chase some February Marlin.
Up at the Port the run of Blacks which I’m sure most of you have heard about has been quite remarkable. The fish ranging from fifteen kilo’s up to forty kilo’s with the occasional larger one thrown in. Those in the know tagging numbers up to the high teens in a day.
For those of us lesser mortals it was still achievable to tag up to four or five a day. Stealth however was required. Light leaders, smaller hooks and light line to fool these fish which were being harassed by innumerable boats every day. In general it paid to fish during the week. There may have been only forty or fifty boats out during the week. Whereas during weekends there were around one hundred and fifty boats. However, you could simply wait for bad weather and hope it keeps the numbers down.
Back in Sydney
I went out yesterday and fished most of the day in a 20 knot North-Easter which is not the most comfortable of conditions to fish in. Fortunately the guys coped very well so we got the whole day in.
I started out trolling in close with small lures hoping for a Black and looking for bait. Neither of which I found. I worked my way out wider. The water temperature and colour getting better as we went out. On the way we caught quite a few Skipjacks but none of the small Yellowfin which I’d heard could be found amongst the Stripies.
To my surprise just inside the shelf the temperature reached 27 degrees Centigrade and over the edge went up to 27.4 C which I thought was too warm. However we saw several groups of birds working on something. There were a few flying fish around but after working around the birds and pods of Dolphins we neither raised nor marked anything and weren’t even catching the Stripies anymore.
I decided to go back into the cooler water where there was some life at least. We had just hit 24.5 C in about 75 fathoms when the shotgun took off at a rate of knots. I could see it was a Marlin and for some odd reason assumed it was a Black. Probably because I’d seen so many lately. But as it neared the boat it was apparent. It was indeed a Striped Marlin which had stayed deep throughout the fight. We did get it boatside but when Rob took the leader it played up and wore through the trace and I lost my favourite Brad ‘J’.
Next time I’m going to try and get to the other side of the hot water. I’ve heard there are Yellowfin and after listening to the scheds from the Port Stephens Shootout over the weekend there should also be some Blue Marlin.
We took Zack an American who was basically a freshwater fisherman out on Saturday. He had had no experience at Game Fishing December off Sydney but was keen to give it a go.
The sea was a little joggly as we left the heads but a hell of a lot better than it had been on Friday. There was still a good swell running but it got lower the further out we went and the wind eased giving us beautiful conditions.
We put the lures in fairly close to shore and visited the inshore reefs and FADs in the hope of an early season Black sadly with no result even though there was plenty of bait and the water looked good. Continuing on we reached the shelf still with no action but there was bait in patches down deep and still no bird activity.
In the distance I could see lots of splashes which as we approached turned out to be Dolphins balling up some type of baitfish and charging through them. I worked the area until the action dissipated again with no result.
They say all comes to he who waits, but that is also true of those who put the time in.
I don’t know where I was, lost in some sort of reverie when I nearly jumped out of my skin brought back to reality by Ron yelling… Marlin!
I looked back to see a Striped Marlin hitting the short corner and doing what Stripies do best and missing the lure. But Ron had been trained well and teased the fish to the point where he dropped the lure into its waiting mouth – and we were hooked up solid, some would say at last.
Zack took the rod and for someone who had never used the gear handled it like a pro. The fish was a stubborn one and by the time we released it Zack was as beaten as the fish. He’ll never feel the same about Northern Pike and Muskies.
The only other thing we saw on the day was a very large and very dead Sunfish which I imagine had been hit by something very large.
So that was the day. It was good to come back with a result and knowing there is bait out there hopefully starting the food chain. And hopefully ending a very long fruitless run of fishing.
P.S. : I hadn’t planned on taking Ambition up to Port Stephens next year for the Marlin season but I have access to another boat and will be available from mid-January until the end of March for charters.
Though I can’t compare fishing December 2022 with December 2021, due to Covid and associated lockdowns. Below is a report from December 2020 to show what should be.
In general, so far this year the offshore has been pretty well non-descript.
I did my first charter on a double with Hammerhead Charters off Port Stephens last week. There were substantiated reports of Striped Marlin, Mahi Mahi and Yellowfin and lots of bait in the area the day before I went out. But as luck would have it the weather turned it on on the Friday and we went out into a rising sea and 20 knots of South-Easterly. To the clients credit surprisingly they lasted the whole day.
The warmest water I found was around the FAD , from there on the temperature dropped. Out on the shelf even though it was rough the water looked great but there were only patches of bait and it was all deep and no birds. Hammerhead did manage a 6kg. Mahi Mahi and that was it for the day.
After returning to Sydney I heard that the bait previously reported off Port Stephens had moved down to the Norah Canyons and I later heard there was bait building up on the shelf off Sydney
So it looks like we just need the predators to find their food.
December Reports’20 :-
Reports were coming in of Striped Marlin and some good sized Mahi Mahi around the shelf and the odd Yellowfin further out. So after I cancelled a couple of charters because of the Virus I decided I was going out no matter what. I received quick responses from members wanting to join me after a post to the club’s facebook page so all was set.
Unfortunately due to cloud cover the only SST’s available were from several days beforehand but I’d been told the temps were around the 22 to 23 C so it was all systems go.
The forecast was for light winds and calm seas. However 15 to 18 knots is not exactly light winds and the sea was a mess with a residual swell coming from the yesterday’s Southerly. So, that together with the bounce back from the cliffs made for an uncomfortable ride from which one of the crew succumbed.
We put the lures in just short of the shelf and headed out marking bait as we went but it was all deep. One of the boats out there, ‘Grey Goose’ , had already raised a Marlin but no hook-up. Later on a Mako hit one of their lures; it is not uncommon for Mako’s to hit lures and just to prove it wasn’t a fluke they raised another later in the day.
We continued marking bait and found some birds working on what looked like to be Striped tuna but we raised nothing after chasing them for a while. What we did find sadly was that the warmer water had moved out. The best I found was 21.6 C and that after a temperature break of 0.3 C .
It was while working the break that we had a double hook-up. Marlin was the call, but the sight of green and gold told a different story. We landed two good sized Dollies, supper was provided.
Several other boats reported hits from Striped Marlin, I think one tagged fish was estimated to weigh only 50 kilo’s. And then it was our turn, the shot gun went off, the Marlin took a bit of line then just dropped off. Damned Stripies, however he was still there following the lure. He/she had at least four other shots and missed each time and eventually lost interest.
We pulled the lure in to check it out and I found the leader chafed for nearly a metre above the lure. I know it happens all the time but it is so frustrating, they obviously know they want the lure but just keep missing it. Maybe they should get some lessons from their Black and Blue cousins.
So, that was the day, a good feed to take home and calm seas for the run.
I have booked in at Port Stephens from the 24th.January until the end of February. Not as long as previous years due to the virus but I hope next year’s season will be as good if not better than this year’s. So, if you do want to catch a Marlin, Port Stephens is the place to do it…
It’s November offshore and it feels like forever since I have had anything to write about and I suppose in all fairness I still don’t have anything much to report.
I will start by saying that I have never experienced the fishing off Sydney to be so bad for such a long period of time. Sadly, I must say that in our last five or six outings, covering on average around eighty nautical miles a day and out to a thousand fathoms, we haven’t, other than a few Kingfish, caught anything more than a few Striped and Mackerel Tuna.
On a brighter note I did hear that for those fishing inshore there are some good Snapper spooking around if you know what you’re doing.
My own theory for the poor pelagic fishery is that the runoff from the floods up and down the coast has affected the normal flow of the offshore currents. The outflows from the rivers have spewed out huge amounts of nutrients creating plankton blooms. As a result the water inshore has varied from ‘clean green’ to virtual ‘mud’. These recent floods have been more than excessive and have also pushed the good water further out. The outflows are normally beneficial providing the nutrients needed to start food chains. Anyway, hopefully the worst is over and the systems will go back to some form of normality. I have noticed the last couple of times out that the blue water is moving closer in shore but still very dead looking with very little bait and virtually no bird activity other than the migrating Mutton birds.
I am only writing this report because after coming in yesterday I felt some degree of confidence that things were changing for the better.
To cut a long story short after trolling out around Browns then to a thousand fathoms and up the past the Bait Station then trolling down the shelf and only catching a couple of Striped Tuna we headed for home.
Action at Last:-
Suddenly in eighty fathoms Ron started screaming Marlin! Marlin! I turned around to see that unmistakeable dorsal fin behind the Lumo Sprocket on the rigger. It came in twice then appeared to hook up, taking a good run and then doing its imitation of a window wiper. Before I could say anything it threw the lure, Bugger!. I turned around to go over the area again and halfway round the short corner with a Lumo Animal went off. This one seemed well hooked, no playing around this time. But then this one did it too and went into Window Wiper mode and also threw the lure, Bugger! Bugger!.
After examining the lures, one of the Marlin had attacked the swivel and been bill wrapped. On the other trace there was not a mark, the line was probably caught on one of its fins. One must wonder how Striped Marlin survive if they miss their prey so readily.
Even though we didn’t get to tag the fish it was the most action I have seen in ages and motivation to get out there again.
P.S. : I hadn’t planned on taking Ambition up to Port Stephens next year for the Marlin season but I have access to another boat and will be available from mid-January until the end of March for charters.
Well it did turn out to be a good day for Yellowfin. Not so much weatherwise though.
We had a shot early for Kingfish but it must have been too early for them. We only had jigs and eventually managed to lose what seemed to be a good fish.
So, it was offshore we went. The wind was blowing around 15 to 20 knots from the South-West but predicted to ease early in the afternoon. However, as we approached the shelf and the nearly 2 knot Northerly current the resonable swell turned into some really steep nasties. Conditions didn’t seem to be worrying the guys so I continued out and just then had a take on the shotgun. At first I thought it was just a Stripy but it turned out to be a Yellowfin of about 7kilo’s, enough incentive to keep on going.
Sometime later we had a much more solid hit on the lumo. This fish gave the angler a bit of a workout; using a new set of muscles. After a decent fight we gaffed a Yellowfin of about 25 kilo’s. There was no turning back now and fortunately the wind was easing, it was still very rocky and rolly but definitely backing off.
It wasn’t too much later that the rigger went off again and this was a very much bigger fish taking a screamer of a run. Then before I could slow down the flat line took off, again a screamer. Sadly, the second fish dropped off after a few minutes but the other one was still going. It took a while and a toll on the angler but after twenty odd minutes we had our third Yellowfin, this one about 35 kilo’s.
So, what started out with an interesting sunrise turned into a great if not uncomfortable day’s fishing. Interestingly all the fish were blind strikes without any bird activity. But I guess it did show that the rough days are the good ones, at least for Yellowfin.
I have just spent 3 days, 3 very different days due to the varying weather conditions fishing out of Port Stephens. On the first day, last Thursday, because the usual bait gathering areas were virtually devoid of bait I decided to go wide. Levi and Matty were keen to get out there too. To say the weather Gods where kind would have been a gross understatement. But it was the only very calm day I encountered.
On leaving the entrance the water temperature was well over 23 degrees. Incredibly the radio had reported 25 degrees on the One Mile Beach. As it happens in 500 fathoms my sounder registered 28.7 degrees, a photo of which is below.
The water even in close looked fabulous, that deep indigo blue and it was the same all the way out, only the temperature changing.
I put the lures in at 80 fathoms in ideal great conditions. Even though I hadn’t seen any sign of life all the way out expectation was high. We trolled East to the second drop off then North towards Almark. A couple of times I noticed Mutton birds working around what appeared to be Frigate Mackerel feeding near plankton lines. I worked them for a while all to no avail then continued on. Then the shotgun let go in a screaming run. Bloody ‘Brad’ had done it again. After a good fight which taught Matty how tough being on the rod can be we got the fish, a nice Blue, to the boat were we swam it and let it go.
Friday and Saturday we didn’t fish due to the weather. On Sunday it was still pretty lively but predicted to ease. As a result I decided to give the inshore fishery a go. As expected live bait was hard to find but we did manage some. We put out some small lures and trolled up to the lighthouse then out to the FAD where we used some of the live bait to catch some Dollies, then back into Broughton. We did get more Dollies, some so small I don’t know how they ate the lures. Surprisingly we also caught a small Yellowfin.
So, after experiencing the inshore and seeing the results of those much more skilled on the inshore reefs than I it was back to the wide grounds.
It was Tony’s turn to catch a fish. I trolled out from the FAD and again not seeing much sign of life. We were in about 350 fathoms when again ‘Brad’ took off. All was looking good until the Marlin charged the boat and the hook just fell out. I could go into a long story about having banana’s on board and Tony saying that that was why we lost the fish. I don’t really think he believed me that banana phobia is bunkum until we hooked another Blue. This one came in and hit ‘Evil’ on the short corner first, missed, and went out taking ‘Brad’ on the way. This one put up a great fight and really made poor Tony work. He did a great job getting it to the boat where we took photo’s and let the Blue go.
In summary, though the fishing was tough they are there to be found. It appears that there are Small Black just North of Port and a few more being taken around Seal Rocks.
To me it looks as though the stage is set, we just need the proverbial actors. If and when the current eases as predicted the bait will build up and it will take off, I hope.
The weather looked too good to pass up yesterday. That, together with reports of Marlin and good-sized Mahi Mahi was enough for me to do a social day. I generally do these when I’m desperate to get out to sea.
We, Warren Knight, Elliot Wasserman and I headed out on a beautiful morning planning to try for Black Marlin and good-sized Mahi Mahi in close then work out wider to see what we could find.
For this time of year the water is remarkably warm, so I thought the Blacks should be here, showing 23.8C at the Heads. Out across the Whale and the Wave Rider there was heaps of bait, but nothing was tempted by the Pakula’s out the back.
We worked out over the 12 Mile and again so much bait that you would have thought this would be Marlin heaven. We continued out towards Browns and in 80 fathoms the bait was stacked up, showing all the signs of being under attack. However, after a fruitless half hour with no action I moved on. At Browns the water looked a little greenish and the temperature near 25 degrees Centigrade, so I headed back inshore to try and find the temperature break. There was no well-defined break but in eighty fathoms the water was a lot clearer and bluer so I worked North zigzagging between the shelf and eighty fathoms.
The first strike came on the shotgun. The Marlin ran about fifty metres and dropped the lure, typical Stripy. Frustrating indeed but at least there was one Marlin about. Continuing on, a short while later another hit on the shotgun. Elliot took the rod while Warren started clearing the lines. As luck would have it another Marlin hit the short corner while Warren was winding it in, double hookup. Sadly, Elliot’s fish dropped the lure after five minutes but Warren’s was going hell for leather.
Ultimately, we got Warren’s Stripy to the boat and it gained its freedom in what is called a ‘Çharter Boat Release’ sadly losing one of my favourite lures in the process.
Continuing on we had another strike on the rigger. It hit while Warren was putting the line up and received a nasty cut, probably lucky that the fish didn’t hook up.
We’d all had a good time and were feeling the effects of the sun and the humidity so I turned for home and just then we had another strike and another Stripy was greyhounding heading for the horizon. This fish fought like a demon and gave Elliot a really hard time but he persevered and brought the Stripy to the boat were Warren tagged it.
A great end to a good day.
Something I find intriguing with regard to bait and bait schools is that there is obviously a time when staying with the bait is the thing to do. But on many occasions the fish are well away from the bait decisions, decisions.
First of a Happy New Year to everyone and hopefully a Healthy one too.
I went out finally after what seemed an eternity of bad weather. Reports came in of Striped Marlin around the shelf and good-sized Dollies appearing too.
I decided to stay in close for the first couple of hours for a couple of reasons. Firstly the water is exceptionally warm for this time of year and secondly, generally around Christmas, New Year the Black Marlin show up on the inshore reefs.
I ran some small Pakulas in my favourite colours and headed North. Conditions were fabulous to say the least. We passed over huge bait schools, didn’t mark anything but it certainly looked the goods.
After going around the Whale a couple of times we had a hit on the Lumo and a small, very small Black came to the surface but sadly missed the hooks. Further on another strike but this one stayed attached and we landed a Mahi Mahi, on one of Peter’s Fish Prints, which went 110 cm. A surprising fish to catch so close to shore.
In our travels we found several private FAD’s and caught another couple of Mahi Mahi’s.
A couple of boats on the shelf reported catching Striped Marlin however they were really spread out. One tagged by John Sartori from his boat Shoki was out in 400 fathoms were he also saw some Yellowfin jumping. Another a Black was taken around the 12 Mile.
A surprising catch, also inshore was a very small Wahoo (see the photo attached) subsequently released from David Moses’ boat My Molly. Wahoo are a rare catch off Sydney these days.
Well, we continued in our hunt going wide to the Bait Station and beyond. There was heaps of bait pretty well everywhere, there was bird activity, the stage was set but sadly for us the show didn’t get under way.
The fact is, it is still fairly early in the season but with the amount of bait both inshore, out around the shelf and wider it is surely only a matter of time