Since my last report there have been two major tournaments held in South East Queensland. On the weekend of the 2nd to 4th of February the Sunshine Coast Club held their Gamefish Classic out the Kawana Waters Hotel. The Saturday afternoon of the tournament Scotty Traffords 36’ Black Watch Watch Ya Problem gave everyone a fishing lesson tagging seven Billfish in 2.5 hours. It was a hot little session for all involved with 10 or 11 bites. 51’ Riviera Big Business out of Newport Waters Redcliffe gave them a good run for their money with a line class Yellowfin Tuna on 37kg line and a couple of heavy tackle Billfish as well as a couple of dropped fish that could have done it for them. Scotty and his boat managed to walk away with a swag of awards and crewman for the weekend Andrew “Drongo” Otto took out champion Tagger. Jeff “Phill” Oates won most of the individual awards and the light tackle awards just in front of the other angler aboard Watch Ya Problem, George Borg. Dave Trask came down out of his flybridge long enough to angle a couple of Big Business’ fish and win some Heavy Tackle trophies and prizes for himself and the boat. Another regular skipper made the trip from the bridge to the game-chair on the weekend and found themselves on a good fish, the person in question being Vince Carroll who usually drives Outrageous. Vince is between boats at the moment so he fished aboard Rod Fetts magnificent 43’ Obrien Palagero with his usual crew.
Continuing the theme of skippers finding themselves in the chair, 51’ Riviera Andiamo owner/skipper Tony Painter found himself there aboard Mark Morland’s Deep V 340 Watchdog during the Little Ship Gamefish Club’s Yamaha Lees Industries Gamefish Classic held on the weekend of the 23rd to 25th February. Skippered by famous Gold Coast Captain Ross McCubbin of Adrenaline (www.adrenalinefishingcharters.com.au) and Lucky Strike fame, Watchdog managed to tag three fish during the tournament with Tony battling a couple of them. This led to overall honours to Watchdog and angler honours to Tony. This win ensured the Gold Coast Gamefish Club maintained the Interclub Shield for the second year in a row after John Faulkner’s 44’ Southern Cross Five Star convincingly won it back with seven Billfish in the 2006 tournament skippered by Alan Zavodny (www.azgamefishing.com) after a couple of years of dominance by the Sunshine Coast Gamefish Club.
On the general fishing scene the bite continued for the Watch Ya Problem crew for a couple of weeks after the tournament going on to tag 30 Billfish for the period. By my reckonings they have now tagged something like 47 Marlin and Sailfish for the fishing season thus far. Other Sunshine Coast boats to capitalise on the bite while it lasted were Wayne Finlay’s 40’ White Cap Keneka, Gavin Hancox’s little Markhem Whaler Slack Attack, Greg Tuckwell’s 2400 Kevlacat O’Fishal Business and the boys on the 34’ Black Watch Ymer. A reasonable bite continued on the Gold Coast during this period though I don’t think any club boats made the most of it. Most of the reports from the Gold Coast came from the bottom fishing charterboats. Careel and Sea Probe down there have been absolutely blitzing them and their figures for the end of season will make for interesting reading. An unsung hero during all of this fishing has been Rob Stevens and his tiller steer 4.3m Ocean Cylinder tinnie. Rob and crew have easily released over 50 Billfish this season but are not members of any club. Next month I should have a report on the Surfers Paradise Gamefish Club All Tackle All Species Couran Point Tournament. This is scheduled for the 17th and 18th of March and takes in ultra-light, light, medium and heavy tackle as well as inshore and offshore categories.
The heavy tackle season threatens to explode. Barry Alty’s 49’ Senior Mistress (www.fishingmistress.com) has been plucking away at a steady stream of Blue Marlin as has David Granville (www.davidgranvillephotography.com) the ex Bluewater Magazine Editor on the Sunshine Coast. The Gold Coast boats fishing the Little Ship Tournament saw a few fish on the heavy tackle grounds but the main talk was the massive Wahoo out there. Darren Malaquin’s 685 Cruise Craft Wet Dream tangled with 1x20kg Wahoo and a couple of 16kg models but Clytn Braithwaite skippering Mark Ripper’s 40’ Black Watch Castille (www.castillecharters.com) called one Wahoo at over 70 pounds on the old scale. These massive Wahoo are out there at this time of year as the 35’ Bertram Bangalee from theSunshineCoast found out weighing one last year only a few hundred grams off line class on 37kg line.
Personally I have only just returned from fishing at the gamefish mecca ofAustraliaduring February and March, Port Stephens, just north ofNewcastleinNew South Wales. During a two week stay we probably had 20 plus fish up behind the boat at various stages, we were bitten by about 13, came tight and got to fight 8 and only tagged 2 and intentionally released another. We had the leader at various stages of the fight on two of the fish we lost. We had one swim under another boat while we were fighting and he didn’t get out the way after we had dodged through the main pack of boats and on the other we had the leader give out. Close but no cigar. Still a lot of fun on big fish out of a trailer-boat on the edge of the shelf fishing two up.
We counted up to 43 boats fishing together at various times, mostly on the weekends. As for the size of the fish I can’t say we saw anything under 60kg behind the back of our boat with most fish 80-100kg. These were mostly Striped Marlin but quite a few Black Marlin as well. We did 11 days offshore in two weeks holidays which was good going and amazing considering normal weather. Most trips were 22-26Nm off the heads. Port Stephens is well worth doing at that time of year. It was a who’s who of fishing. You would see famous fishing people down the street or at the marinas and the fishing was red hot before we got there. The first Saturday of our holidays while we trailered the boat up from Sydney the fishing went off. Andrew Yeh’s Outside Edge (www.outsideedge.com.au) a 34′ Black Watch from the Sunshine Coast tagged 16, Ben “Notso” Bright skippering Tsunami a 36′ Steber tagged 15 and Sam Muscat tagged 14 in his Edencraft trailerboat. Most people fishing that day tagged six to ten. They were there enforce yet on the Sunday which was our first day fishing the best boat was Gary Holt’s Riviera Diversion with six tagged fish. We were lucky to get a nice 100kg Black Marlin to Ashley Cotter of Townsville to open the account as quite a few missed out. Through the first week up to seven a day were caught, mostly by big boats skip baiting Slimey Mackerel. Tsunami was the lucky boat tagging seven with Jim Dalling’s Reel Chase (www.reelchase.com) and Ross Hunter’s Broadbill (www.gamefishingcharters.com.au) tagging up to five a day that week with ones and twos being acceptable.
The first week fished better than the second week but we were still coming to grips with the area. The depths we were fishing in, the tackle we were using and the size of the fish were all triple what we used to locally here in South East Queensland. We were fishing in fathoms on the depth sounder and a lot of time we were in 88-100 fathoms. A fathom is six foot so 1.8m and were mostly playing around in 160-180m of water. You also got excited to see a bait school come up to only 40 fathoms from the top. It never really comes to the top like we are used to here. We settled on live bait trolling as a cheap and effective way to go. We never had any bites dropping 16oz and 20oz Snapper leads to the bait schools like some people were doing quite effectively but we had dacron markers at 40 and 60 fathoms ready to go to pinpoint either the Marlin if we marked them or the bait on the sounder. We always had a pitch bait ready to go as we would miss a few on the initial bite on the circle hooks or the fish would swim right up to the transom of the boat. Most days you could also spot tailing fish as well as the odd freejumper.
Port Stephens is a nice area set up especially for tourism. The boat ramp gets a bit of sand on it which was interesting on the lower tides but we managed to survive any major embarrassment. Dead Marlin in the industrial rubbish bins at the ramp took a bit to get used to for a Queenslander where catch and release if very prevalent. Daylight saving time also took a bit of time to get used too for a boy from country Qld. It doesn’t really suit hard core fishermen. By the time you were cleaned up after fishing each day it was a battle to get to the shops before they closed at 9:00p.m. to get the next days groceries and then you were eating dinner whilst all the late shows were on the television. Will I do it again? Certainly. We even scored a day on the mighty home built Murrifin with the Finlay boys who campaign up and down the NSW coast and are quite successful gamefishermen. That day certainly broke the monotony of heading to the shelf each day in a trailer boat in 10 knots of northerly then coming home again in 20 knots like it was most days.