Anglers who fish the east coast often refer to the January–March period as the ‘magic quarter’, when the East Australian Current brings millions of baitfish that in turn attract large predators, like marlin and tuna. The current flows inshore along the coast, making game fish accessible to anglers fishing from rock ledges. The rock ledges on Green Cape, south of Eden, are among the best areas for this sport. The combination of big seas, slippery rocks and rampaging game fish that can empty your reel of a kilometre of line in seconds create an adrenaline-pumping trifecta.
Green Cape often reflects the fishing further north at game fish ports like Bermagui and Narooma. History indicates that when these ports fire, so too will the cape. And what a history Green Cape has: at least two yellowfin tuna landed over the 90 kg mark and marlin to 100 kg. Other species you may encounter off the rocks include northern bluefin, yellowtail kingfish, mackerel tuna, striped tuna and bonito.
Marlin show quirks, like one fish I hooked. The initial take was more in keeping with a trout sucking a worm off a hook; little ticks of the reel followed by a short run. Expecting a bonito, I held the rod and waited. A slow steady run followed so I set the hook. An explosion of speed and urgent power buckled the rod and sent the ratchet’s staccato click up-tempo as a couple of hundred kilograms of black marlin took off. Half a kilometre of line later, there were a few head-and-shoulder appearances. Someone standing by my side muttered, ‘You’ve turned him’. But I hadn’t. That was the last anyone saw of that fish, and about a kilometre of line.
Twelve months earlier, Peter Bowden hooked a marlin from the same ledge. When Peter’s bait went it was a dramatic take. One second he was playing ticky, tacky, touchwood, the next instant 3 m of black marlin was flying above the calm sea where Peter’s balloon had been. What ensued was the stuff of campfire legends. The marlin went supersonic, heading due east and vaulting over the low swells more than a dozen times in a scorching 700 m dash for freedom. The marlin rose smack in the middle of a group of boats. Watching a small flotilla of boats trolling lures over what they thought was a free-jumping marlin was disconcerting. Fortunately, there was no disaster and Peter remained locked into the fish.
An immense struggle took place, in pumping that marlin back to the rocks. The struggle lasted almost an hour in 35°C heat. Unfortunately, somewhere in that time span the marlin died, sank and became wedged on a ledge. It was a sad end to a spectacular episode.
Be warned, rock-fishing is thrilling and dangerous, a pursuit that certainly sorts out the roosters from the feather dusters.