FISHING: Fish leap, boats play tag

MORE than 220 marlin tagged. The greatest concentration of marlin seen in living memory in this area. Dozens at a time smashing bait balls. Leaping – hooked and free-jumping – everywhere.

That is how anglers are describing last weekend’s Bigfish Bonanza tournament run by the Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club.

‘‘It was a phenomenon,’’ club president Paul Hogg said. ‘‘I’ve been game fishing for 30 years. I’ve got friends who’ve been game fishing for twice as long as that.

‘‘I can safely say they’ve never seen such a concentration of striped marlin and black marlin on the east coast of NSW. It was incredible.’’

Most of the action took place at the Car Park, on the continental shelf north of the Newcastle Canyons.

Conditions were perfect. Dead flat. Masses of bait fish. Schools of mostly striped marlin holding around them.

The 55 boats came from Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Broken Bay and Sydney game fishing clubs.

They set out at 7am on Saturday and by the end of the day had tagged 62 marlin. The word was well and truly out the next day: get to the Car Park.

Another 160 marlin had been tagged at the close of competition on Sunday afternoon. The vast majority were released, Hogg said.

Champion tag and release boat was Diversion, skippered by Gary Holt from Port Stephens. They tagged 17 marlin.

Runner-up boat was the Central Coast’s Flying Fisher, skippered by Scott Thorington.

Champion male angler was James Holt, son of Gary, aboard Diversion. Champion female angler was Karly Curtiss, from the Lake Macquarie boat Ningaloo. Champion junior angler was Jacinta Thomas, off the Lake Macquarie boat Amokura.

The heaviest shark was a 503.5kg tiger on 15kg line, caught by Billy Gray aboard Bundy One from Lake Macquarie. The heaviest marlin was a 94.5kg striped marlin on 8kg line caught by Amanda Cromarty on Iona II. The heaviest other game fish was a 20.5kg mahimahi on 6kg line by Natalie Keen on Lake Macquarie boat Blue Blooded.

‘‘It is something that people will talk about for a very long time,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘It’s blown the guys’ minds. ... It couldn’t have got any better and I don’t know if we’ll see something like it again, to be honest.’’

Next weekend the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club host the Luhrs Billfish Shootout.

Then at Port Stephens comes the 2012 Interclub Tournament on February 25-26 and March 3-4.

‘‘Hopefully those fish hang about a bit,’’ Hogg said. ‘‘Even half of them.’’

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Son is a gun angler

PATRICK Nunn, 12, had much to write home about the one that got away. Once his arms could work again.

The son of Jason Nunn from the Fisherman’s Warehouse at Marks Point became embroiled in a four-hour battle with a blue marlin on Saturday. The crew aboard Running Bear were winding in baits to relocate as the radio talked of fish tagged at the Car Park.

‘‘I told Patrick to wind a 15kg line in so we could head off,’’ Jason said. ‘‘As he started to wind it in our skipper, Duncan, noticed the rod starting to load up.

‘‘I looked up and Pat was hooked up. As the marlin crashed the surface I was unaware of the size of the fish until it jumped past the boat and started ripping 500m of line straight off the reel.’’

The crew estimated the marlin to be 180kg – not the sort of fish they wanted for a 12-year-old.

An exhausted Patrick held on for four hours until the line broke within metres of the boat.

How thick was the action at the Car Park?

‘‘There were fish under boats, in front and behind,’’ Jason Nunn said. At one stage Running Bear had a fish head under another boat fighting another fish. When Running Bear tagged its catch, they noticed 100m of line had anti-foul on it from the other boat.

Shark sets teeth on edge

RECREATIONAL shark fishing: some are released and some eaten. The largest ones are often killed, weighed, then dumped at sea, their flesh too toxic to eat.

The tiger shark that washed back into Swansea Channel last weekend revived the issue in the public conscience.

The tiger shark had been caught and weighed, but broke its rope as it was towed across the bar to be disposed of three miles at sea.

‘‘That was an unfortunate accident,’’ Paul Hogg said. ‘‘We’ve got strict rules specifically in regards to the disposal of fish.’’

Hogg said the sport was changing dramatically and trending away from killing.

Recently my six-year-old daughter and I saw a hammerhead dragged by its tail then hung with chain, block and tackle.

‘‘That’s really sad, Dad. Why did they do that?’’ she asked.

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