Fisho’s 2010 Coffs Harbour road trip

Catching a good fish first cast can signal the start of a great day’s fishing. On the other hand, past experience has also shown early success can also be a case of “that’s all she wrote”. Luckily the Fisho crew weren’t struck by first cast syndrome yesterday off Coffs Harbour. Field editor Sami Omari and I were on board editor Jim Harnwell’s new Fishing World Bar Crusher 620C. We’d trailered the boat up from Sydney the day before – in an impressive “loaner” 3.0 litre twin turbo diesel Land Rover Discovery – for our second annual northern NSW road trip. Regular readers may recall our reports and videos from Coffs at this time last year (these can be found via a search in the News section).

We’d launched at the town’s main ramp where, typically, swell surge made the job a little tricky. It’s a case of your trailer being high and dry as the surge drops away and water lapping at your tow vehicle’s sills on its return. Driving boats onto trailers can really test your skills in these conditions.

We’d motored out through some decent sized rolling swell in the harbour to fish the inshore reefs for snapper in preparation for the upcoming weekend’s Dave Irvine Memorial Snapper Classic. We started our first drift over a promising looking reef north of the harbour. The three of us cast soft plastics (Gulp Jerk Shads and a Powerbait Minnow) south in the direction of the boat’s drift. We’d virtually only let them sink a few seconds before Sami found himself connected to a strong fish. Seconds later I felt a violent pull on the braid line. Lifting the rod it seemed to hit a brick wall and doubled over as the runaway train on the end of the line hurtled for the reef. It was pandemonium as loud woohoos mixed with buzzing drags and the shrill grinding of braid shooting over runners.

Sami’s fish gave a spirited struggle before succumbing to the medium light spin tackle and, finally, the Environet. The muscled 3kg snapper, highlighted in the early light as silvery red with spots of brilliant blue, was a great way to start. My fish took a bit longer – I knew it was one of the biggest I’d ever hooked – and I was careful to try and calm its mood as angry headshakes punctuated stubborn screaming runs. Eventually it tired and surfaced alongside the new blue Crusher. At around 7kgs the solid red was given a raucous welcome. What a start …

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Despite some horror weather predictions preceding what has become an annual Fisho Coffs road trip, our first day dawned as a beautiful sunny one, with no wind to speak of. Our early success and the pleasant conditions spurred us on to venture further and check out more ground as well as the washes around South Solitary Island.

The reefs we fished varied significantly in terms of snapper numbers and the abundance of baitfish. Relying heavily on the boat’s Simrad sounder/GPS, and marks given to us by keen Coffs Harbour spearo Michael Featherstone, we targeted reefs in six or seven fathoms to up around 13. We found snapper on most of them but two spots in particular had them stacked up on the Simrad. Not surprisingly these produced the most action. We ended our snapper campaign with around 10 all up, comprising several around the 3kg mark and a few pannies, one which interestingly took a Sebile Flatt Shad lipless crankbait Sami was testing. Jim also scored one on a Raider metal. Between us we had plenty of tasty snapper meals to look forward to.

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As well as snapper we accounted for several mackerel tuna, which typically were impressive fighters that took loads of line and never gave in. The tunas took everything from soft plastics to metal Raiders and trolled Rapala X-Raps and Halco Laser Pros. We also caught an amberjack on the troll and got bitten off – or had lures thrown – by big tailor lurking in the wash. A strong fish also slammed my Gulp on the edge of the suds on the island’s eastern side, before scoring a homerun with my lure and Nitro jighead. It had felt like another good snapper, accentuated by a solid headshake on the take.

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The day had been a great first-up hit out for the trip and the first serious successful session for Jim’s new Bar Crusher. As I write this Jim and Sami have headed out for a morning session on the second day (today), something which didn’t look like eventuating due to a sou-wester that hit gale force around 1am. Stay tuned to see how they fared…

Jim Harnwell reports: As Mick reported, Sami and I headed out early this morning. The weather reports were predicting southerlies to 35 knots. And last night it was certainly windy. I went to sleep with the wind howling in the trees outside and mentally prepared myself for a sleep-in. But when we woke up at dawn it was clear and calm. Bloody weather reports!

Sami and I quickly scoffed some brekkie, packed the Land Rover with rods and lure bags and sped down to the marina, keen to take advantage of the unexpectedly calm conditions.

The swell from the previous morning had died off – it was a cracker day. It became even better when I scored three reds to just over 4kg in a row on a seven-inch Gulp Jerk Shad in Nuclear Chicken on a productive reef system to the north of Coffs. Sami missed a few hook ups on big headshakers, before hooking up solid to a nice 3kg fish, and we continued to mark plenty of snapper mid water as we drifted over the shoaly ground.

We caught a few more 2-3kg fish, and a couple of pannies, at a variety of reef systems before pulling the pin at 11am in order to get back on dry land and download the pics for today’s e-newsletter.

Tomorrow’s weather report is calling for big winds and heavy swells. I hope they’ve got it wrong…


Stay tuned for ‘live” reports over the weekend on on all the action from the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club’s Dave Irvine Memorial Snapper Classic.

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