Home' Afloat : November 2013 Contents 52 AFLOAT.com.au November 2013
BETTER THAN THE OLD DAYS
“It ain’t like the good ol’ days.” How many times have you
heard that lament? Well, get this. It ain’t like the good ol’ days
’c ause the fishing has been w-a-y better.
No-one’s quite sure why, but the run of big yellowfin tuna
off Sydney last month was the stuff of fishing dreams. In fact,
the action has been so fast and furious that fully grown men
have been reduced to spent souls begging to be driven away
from the fish.
Those of us who have been there know only too well the
hurt that a 60-80kg yellowfin tuna puts on the body. Arcing rod,
pinging line, aching back and burning arms. Add a teetering
deck and ouch.
Of course, in the old days the big tuna travelled much
closer to shore. You could catch a 70kg specimen at The Peak,
eight nautical miles off Maroubra, or within casting distance
of Montague Island.
Today, the tuna have been in 250-1,000 fathoms anywhere
from 25-40km offshore. You can’t even see Centrepoint Tower
and radio reception can be squelchy. Woe betide the (mis)
adventurous boater caught out in a blow.
But by and large the tyranny of distance is no more. Thanks
to modern electronics, satellite navigators, and scientific
fishing forecasts, thanks to fast and seaworthy boats powered
by frugal four-stroke outboards, long-range fishing has gone
Travel to Browns Mountain 40km east and it’s like arriving
at the proverbial Pitt Street. The hot yellowfin tuna bite has
been a few more miles further out, north and south. Look for
the birds and you’ll find the fish, big ones averaging 60-80kg
were in vast schools.
with David Lockwood
OCTOBER FISH FEST
When the North Head deep-water ocean outfall came online
in 1990, Sydney Harbour changed overnight. The warm blue
ocean currents flowed into the Sound once more. Fish, dolphins,
whales soon followed.
On the back of improving water quality, the oysters returned.
Scientists have subsequently declared Sydney Harbour has a
greater marine biomass than surrounding estuaries. Foreshore
structures are thriving homes.
The cessation of commercial fishing in 2006 provided another
shot in the arm. The prawn trawlers that used to plough Port
Jackson for Rose Bay Schoolies shut up shop, the whitebait
chasers no longer shot their long nets, and the trappers pulled
their hidden cages from the sea floor.
Things couldn’t be more fortuitous for the Sydney angler.
Take last month. Massive rippling schools of Australian salmon
stretched from Head to Head. You could hear the seething mass
of fish, see them zip under your boat, and had to fend off the
shearwaters and gulls.
The Aussie salmon schools staged their feast for when the
tide turned. As the estuary water began to flow out The Heads,
a tideline formed against the ocean current. Small baitfish were
bunched up, making for easy pickings for the salmon and seabirds.
But it’s not a one-off. The salmon have been parked in the
Sound for weeks and you could see the giant school and white
gulls from as far away as Balgowlah. Not that salmon have been
the only fish on the chew, mind you. The yellowfin tuna, marlin
and kingfish have been snapping offshore, the whiting are biting
along the beaches, and the jewfish are back on the chew in the
Hawkesbury despite their apparent perilous state.
THE TUNA MOTHERLOAD
Captain Ivan Bennett from Sydney charterboat Ambition
stumbled on the motherload last month off Sydney. Rather than
paraphrase his report, we thought we’d share it straight from the
horse’s or skipper’s mouth. Here’s what you missed out on if you
weren’t wetting a line offshore this past month.
“ Yellowfin mayhem is the only way to describe the action
today. We headed out towards Browns and it wasn’t until we were
in 300 fathoms that we saw the birds and they were working hard.
“ The water beneath them was being whipped to foam. There
were yellowfin going crazy chasing small baitfish everywhere.
I approached them slowly so as not to spook them and was
rewarded with a triple strike.
“ You wouldn’t believe it but while one of the guys was pulling
in the last lure, two big blue marlin charged in to try and eat
it – one of them stayed at the transom for a good few minutes
cruising around like a blue shark – we didn’t have any bait to at
least try to catch it ... sooo frustrating.
“ Through the course of the day we were joined by another
boat and for the next five hours we had this huge biomass of
yellowfin to ourselves. It took a while but finally the guys couldn’t
“ So I tried to stay away from the ‘fin to raise a marlin. It was
really hard to stay away from those schools of 60kg-plus yellowfin
and occasionally I got too close and they paid the price for it.
But that’s life.
“ When we got back we weighed the fish. We’d kept six, two of
them going 70kg and the smallest 55kg,” Captain Bennett said
before signing off with “what a day!” h
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