Will somebody pleeeease go catch me a game fish so that I’ve got something to write about? Taking on a game fishing column during the run-up to Winter is now looking like a very bad idea!
Yes, the weather has been atrocious, and the sou’-westers that allow for a sneaky snapper fish in close on these chilly mornings are often blowing an uncomfortable 20 knots by the time you get away from the coast and closer to the continental shelf.
If you’re looking to go wide, it might be best to wait until there’s a big, fat high-pressure system sitting directly overhead and plan a trip accordingly.
Speaking of pressure systems, the June low that brought so much chaos to the Mid North Coast and pushed logs, fenceposts, farm animals and chocolate-brown water out to the 900-fathom line certainly put paid to any game fishing activity for a couple of weeks.
The few hardy souls that did go for a look-see found nothing to report, but should be commended for at least having a go.
So if we’re not game fishing, what else is there to do?
Snappering is, of course, one option but Winter is also the perfect time to get stuck into some pre-season tackle maintenance. Fortunately, the game fishing off-season on the Coffs coast is mercifully short and the super-keen with an eye on the sea surface charts and the weather can find some fishing windows right through Winter.
Consequently, getting the gear up to speed is a job best tackled as soon as possible. By Spring we’re usually back in step with striped marlin and yellowfin tuna, so it pays to be ready.
We’ll start with the line. Rip it all off, even outfits that have seen little attention from the fish this season past. It might seem like a dreadful waste and stripping half a dozen reels is a chore but the mono is potentially the weakest link in the chain so it must be done.
I’ve reverted to using a Dacron base with mono top-shots on my 37kg outfits and once you perfect the Dacron to mono splice, replacing the top 100m to 200m of nylon isn’t that difficult. What’s more, when there’s only a short amount of line to wind on, you’re more inclined to do it during the season and therefore always be fishing with fresh line.
The other advantage with this approach is that you also get to re-do five outfits from a single 1000m spool.
Servicing game reels is a tricky job best left to the experts, otherwise important little springs and washers tend to get left out or bounce into the carpet, never to be seen again.
If you have the mechanical skills, place dismantled parts in an egg container and photograph any tricky procedures. Keep the exploded diagram and parts list close at hand just in case.
Roller guides should be dismantled, cleaned, lightly oiled and re-assembled. Now’s a good time to check for cracked bindings and any line-damaging rough patches on guide frames, especially roller tips, as these cop the most abuse.
Remove reels from reel seats and if they’re aluminium, give the seat a spray with Tackle Guard, WD-40 or similar. A piece of inner-tube rubber between the reel and the reel seat and another between it and the reel clamp will help to keep the dissimilar metals from touching and corrosion at bay.
If fishing wind-ons, be on the lookout for furry patches on the Dacron or missing glue on the whipping. These are signs that a catastrophic failure is on the horizon, with the loss of a lure and the fish.
If the wind-on has been used for the whole season, toss it and start with a new one just to be on the safe side.
Those favourite lures that have seen the most use should be closely examined. While it is stainless, the cable wire on double-hook lure rigs will rust over time and once one strand fails, the rest will follow. Heat shrink over the wire and hook shank hides all sorts of gremlins.
Scuffed traces should be discarded and replaced. Check aluminium crimps for signs of corrosion.
While the lure is unrigged, assess whether the skirts need replacing. Sometimes a simple re-skirt can breathe life into an out-of-favour lure and have you enthusing about its prospects for the coming season.
Toss out last season’s rubber bands and buy a couple of fresh packs. They do have a limited shelf life but this can be extended markedly by storing them in a sealed container and shaking some talcum power onto them.
The powder will absorb the moisture that sends the bands off and you won’t have to replace them every 30 minutes while trolling.Reads: 803