Fishing World revisits Coffs Harbour

THEFishing World crew venturednorth to Coffs Harbour last week in the lead up to the 2013 DaveIrvine Memorial Snapper Classic (related story here). The aim of thehighly anticipated road trip was to get in a couple of days fishingprior to the DIMSC and try out some new gear on the local snapper andany other sportfish we could find.

The triphad been delayed a few days due to rough weather and we arrived lastWednesday afternoon with the FishingWorld Bar Crusher in tow.After a visit to Coffs Harbour Marine where DIMSC organiser MarkLuttrell sorted us out with a new deep cycle battery to replace thedead one we had on board, we launched at the town ramp, berthed theCrusher at the Coffs Harbour Marina and made our way on to our cabinaccommodation at the spacious Park Beach Holiday Park.

LastThursday morning saw Jim Harnwell, Chris Yu, Fishophotographer Shane Chalker and I aboard the Crusher and heading outof the harbour under a spectacular sunrise. Hopefully a sign of agreat day ahead.

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Image: Mick Fletoridis

A 15 knot nor-wester greeted us offshore andJim steered us south to try our luck around the Whitmore shoals, alocation for some great snapper fishing for us in the past. It wassoon fairly apparent that the sea was quite dirty following recentrough weather. Jim had a plan to anchor up over some promisinglooking reef and lay out a steady berley trail of pilchard cubes.After scouting around for a while for a suitable location we anchoredup in around 30m and went to work with the berley. The idea is tokeep the trail going until it attracts the attention of any snapperlurking in the region. That was the theory anyway but it didn’tplay out to plan. After feeding the trail for a few hours and seeinglittle of interest apart from several whales breaching close by and acouple of rock cod pulled in it was time for a new plan.

Weswitched to the proven method of drifting and casting soft plasticsfor the reds. The Berkley Gulp 7” Jerkshad was the popular lure ofchoice on the boat and was quickly deployed in all directions.Unfortunately even the favoured Gulps weren’t improving our successrate. We persisted though and eventually Jim scored a nice 3kg redthat made a typical strong surging first run before being led to theboat not long after. The fish bit while Jim was “deadsticking”with the lure just drifting in the current and the reel in freespool.Jim was using his fave Certate 2500 teamed with a Major Craft VolkeyVKS-70ML/BL 3-6kg spin stick. Jim was testing this rod out and likedit so much it’s all he used for the rest of the trip. Stay tunedfor a report on this interesting and versatile rod or check more details. It turned out to be our only success for themorning so we decided to go north for the afternoon and concentrateour efforts around some inshore reefs and washes.

Just northof the harbour Chris Yu hooked what we hoped was our first goodsnapper of the trip. The fight wasn’t exactly snapper-like with thefish making several dogged deep runs before finally coming to theboat to reveal itself as an 8kg plus mack tuna.

Targetingthe washes proved a good tactic as one section of suds producedseveral hook-ups, a few boated snapper to 2kgs or so, big tailorhookups and the odd bust-up on bigger fish (probably kings) thatpowered back to the shallow wash. With a couple of fish on board fordinner we happily made our way back to the harbour.

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Tailor were lurking in the washes along with the snapper. Image: Shane Chalker

Fridaymorning produced another nor-wester which would later die away toproduce extremely pleasant conditions for a June winter’s day. Avisit to South Solitary Island had us casting softies into the washand hooking large tailor and missing the odd snapper bite. The watertemperature was hovering around 22 degrees celsius which seemed highfor this time of year, and possibly explained our lack of success onthe snapper.

Pro boats working the island’s north-eastcorner were having success targeting the kingfish schools with livebaits. As we got nearer the kings lit up the Simrad’s screen. Jimwas keen to try out a new Storm Gomoku slow-jigging rod on the kings.These little white rods are designed for use with the new wave ofmini jigs that are becoming popular with jiggers. We quickly had itloaded up on a procession of 55-65cm sized kings. We all took a turnon the new Gomoku sticks which proved a lot of fun to use. ShaneChalker jumped overboard during the mayhem and snapped a few of hissignature underwater shots.

The rest of the day saw us scoremore around legal sized kings and hook a few bigger unstoppablemodels. All in all, a fun day.

Saturday was the first day ofthe Dave Irvine Memorial Snapper Classic. Fisho’sDavid Green had arrived overnight to fish as part of the FishingWorld team. I joined Fishowriter Dan Bode and his mate Stuart Thompson in team Wingnut on boardDan’s 5m Stessl Truck plate boat. We fished the morning south of theharbour in the challenging southerly conditions for zero result –apart from a string of rock cod for Dan on mini jigs and the Gomokurod. After a lazy lunch and a nap we headed out for an afternoonsession in what appeared to be even worse conditions. We againreturned snapper-less.

On a popular reef complex justoutside of the harbour, Greeny got the FishingWorld team on thescoreboard in fine style with a 92cm red caught on a 7” GulpNemesis. The boys toughed it out in sloppy conditions but apart fromGreeny’s knobby-headed red, fish eluded them.

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David Green and his 92cm red caught on Day one of the DIMSC.

Day Two saw avast improvement in weather conditions and with overnight reports ofgood fishing south around Sawtell team Wingnut headed in thatdirection in a bid to at least get on the board. Jim’s mate ScottBrown had told us numbers of mackerel had also been holding upoffshore of Sawtell and causing plenty of mayhem when hooked onsnapper gear.

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Scott Brown with one of the Spanish mackerel he encountered over the weekend.

Flying“blind” without any marked waypoints Dan, Stuart and Iconcentrated our efforts by drift casting softies and mini jigs overany reefs or pinnacles we came across. One particular reefhighlighted the first decent bait sounding we’d seen for the weekend.During the first drift, line started pouring from my Sustain’s spoolat a rapid rate. Flicking the bail arm over resulted in jolting thudsfrom the rod tip as the line tightened and shot west to east … andkept going. The spool was a blur as the fish shot for the horizon. Inno time I was facing a spool job and yelled to Dan that we’d have tochase this fish. We did. Long story short, the fish – a Spanishmackerel estimated at 18-20kgs – cut through the 20lb flurocarbonleader in the closing stages of an hour long fight that had taken ustwo kilometres from the hookup site. Heartbreaking to say theleast…

Back at the same mark a couple of hours later Stuartsuffered the same fate when a mack grabbed his lure but saved him thetrouble of a long drawn out fight, biting him off after a fewseconds.

Team Wingnut eventually got on to the scoreboardwhen I landed a 47cm snapper later in the morning – our only scoringfish for the comp!

The boyson the FishoCrusher fared little better, finding no reds but boating a decentkingie, another of those pesky mack tuna and countless red rock cod.Jim got what he claimed was a “trophy” red rockie which Greenycarefully filleted. Together with some king and snapper, it wascoated in Panko crumbs and consumed . Pretty damn tasty …

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Jim and a nice kingie taken on a softie.

Whilewe had mixed results, it had been a fun few days on the Coffs coast.We left town at 6pm Sunday evening and poor old Jim arrived back atJervis Bay at 3.30am the following morning. Hopefully we will all getthe opportunity to revisit this great fishing destination againbefore the year’s out!

Click here for a report on the DaveIrvine Memorial Snapper Classic.

For info on visiting Coffs Harbour visit and for details on the marina facilities available visit,

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