Coffs Harbour Report: July 2010 by Mark Kallman

Weather woes

Conditions have certainly been very trying this month. I can categorically say that the day before I am not scheduled to be off work, conditions will be favourable for diving. The evening before I am off, the wind will start blowing or it will start raining cats and dogs. Days to avoid diving are Sundays and Wednesdays but you are usually good at any other time during the week. Also if you are considering diving in Coffs, it would be a good idea to find out where I am diving. If I am north, the fish will almost certainly be on in the south and vice versa. Now that I have finished my little bitching session, time to move on to those who are getting fish.

Fish or lack of them

Chris Farmer has had a particularly good run on jewfish (kob). He maintains he can smell them when they are in the gutters. He is a really determined and pretty efficient diver too. In the last 2 months he has taken at least 5 fish over 20kg and by his own account has seen a lot more including one fish that would probably have gone over 40kg. That is a cracker of a fish. Most of his fish have come off rock-hops around the headlands and although I always cop an invite, my time has not allowed a session with him. I remain confident that if I am patient then I will get an opportunity to go diving with him. Snapper are all over the shallow reefs with a good number being seen. Snapper closely resemble dentex with heads similar to a black cracker. The stocks are good with a daily bag limit of 10 per person. The line fisherman account for big catches usually with soft plastics but as far as divers go, regard these fish as extremely paranoid jobfish. Seems the only realistic way of getting close to them is to create some sort of burley/chum line and be patient. I have yet to see a big snapper but when conditions do allow, I will be out there. Crayfish are on like donkey kong and the long year of poor conditions that kept most fishing effort at home has almost certainly contributed to this. In addition abalone are also readily available. It has been interesting to note that massive areas of sand have been washed away with extensive weed beds being scoured clean by the rough seas we have experienced. Almost like diving completely new territory.   

It may seem that most of the effort is being directed at shallow water species. A small group of intrepid spearos are looking toward the horizon for their fix though. The deep-sea/gamefish boats have reported substantial shoals of pilchards on the continental shelf when the warmer water pushes in. An accurate sea surface temperature map is necessary to track these warm swirls and at this stage they are producing striped marlin. The commercials are beginning to target tuna offshore too. These include yellowfin, big-eye and the legendary southern bluefin. With that in mind we recently took a trip out to the shelf with the intention of chasing marlin and tuna. We dragged hookless teasers along the steep drop-off of the shelf and had one billfish come up to investigate the teasers. Unfortunately our inexperience meant a missed opportunity. We ended up at the fish-traps where we started a good burley trail. It took about 10 minutes and we had large flashes going off on the burley. First 2 divers in got some dorado which was very odd this early in the season but it made the trip a little more worthwhile.

The next month should start to see a more determined effort offshore, I hope!