Dolphin Fish Northern NSW October 2018
It was the last Saturday of October and I had checked the weather prior. I had also been watching the ocean currents and water temps on the satellite for a few days before. It looked like 3 hours south of us was a good opportunity to go and chase some yellowfin tuna beyond the continental shelf.
The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. A quick bite to eat and a coffee and then pack the gear into Jamie's Haines 19 foot (which is now a 21 foot and a centre console) boat for the 3 hour drive south. We picked up Ben Rupnik along the way, put the boat and were crossing the bar at 6:30 a.m.
We got some GPS marks for some fish traps about 45 km away to the Northeast. We travelled out there with about a 15 knot southeasterly going into 3 knots of current, the ocean was choppy and confused with the wind against the current and an Eats swell coming in at a 3rd direction. When we arrived we thought the marks were wrong, because we couldn't see the fish traps at all. Then like a stairway to heaven, we noticed the floats that were in the glare of the sun, not far from where we were.
As I had caught a few dolphin fish in my time, I put Jamie and Ben in for the first drift, I told to go for the biggest fish they could, because they're always dumbest on the first drift .
Next thing I looked to see where they were and I noticed a solid Dolphin fish cartwheeling out of the water with a spear shaft hanging out of it. Jamie and Ben got on to some great sized fish. After a few photos, we chucked the fish in Jamie's 300 litre kill tank which is below the deck.
I had put some Icey Tek Hard Gel Packs in there at 3am. We had three of the 3.5 kg Hard Gel Packs 2 of the 2 kg Hard Gel Packs and one 5 kg block of ice, which was made from our Stainless Steel Block Ice Mould. These gel packs cooled the fish down very nicely with the big surface area of the Gel packs, which make good contact to a large area of the fishes body, it really brings a fishes core temperature down to improve the eating qualities and prevent the fish spoiling.
After this, I jumped in the water for a drift and got the biggest mahi mahi I could see at about 1 metre in length and 8kg, after a quick picture and icing it down, it was then time to head East.
We drove another 35km further East, looking for a temp break it was meant to be 70 km out to sea. We saw one blue marlin chasing a bit of bait fish on the surface on the way out. We also started to see a lot of Japanese flying Squid's jumping out of the surface of the water. We then noticed the temp drop to about 23.7 after a high of 24.5 degrees Celsius. Travelling East hoping for a bit of action and then off to the port side of the boat I noticed eruptions from the ocean surface and saw the yellowfin hitting the surface, we took a hard left turn and chucked the lures in and started to drive toward the school, hoping for one if the rod to go off, but nothing happened and they had disappeared in only a few minutes.
We started zigzagging in the area hoping to raise the tuna and then we noticed a huge pack of birds about a kilometre to of the West. We quickly drive over with the Lures in the water, skipping on the surface and then as we neared the school, we slowed down started to troll through them. There were hundreds and hundreds of mutton birds, terns, booby birds, tuna birds and all types of birds, circling diving, swooping and sitting on the surface. We can see the explosions of huge tuna hitting the surface, the bow waves look to be about a metre wide as the tuna surge just under the surface. We troll through the commotion, waiting for one of the rods to go off and still no luck. It just wouldn't happen, and again they went down deep.
It seems are only coming to the surface very briefly and then they were gone. Whether they were spooked by the boat or the had eaten all the fish that were there. We worked this area for a few more hours every now and then we would ping the fish down deep between 30 and 100 metres on the sounder. We gave a good session of cubing for about an hour and a half, which put us right through the area that all the action was. After all of this, the day was getting on and our fuel was getting low, so it was time to head West to the boat ramp.
At about 5 p.m. we finally made it back to the boat ramp in took some photos and weighed the fish and pull the boat out . Jamie quickly knocked the fillets off his fish first. After sitting on the Icey Tek Gel Hard Packs, the chill had gone right through the whole fish. These fish are going to be delicious. I left our fish on ice, as I was pretty keen to get home, so we finally got home about 9 p.m. that night.
I took my fish out of the 300 l kill tank along with all the ice packs which are mine. Placed them in a smaller 56 litre Icey Tek and I left it in there overnight. I'd fillet it at the next morning.
The next morning I filleted the fish after leaving it with these hard gel packs which is nicely chilled down to the core of the fish, the fillets came off very nicely and tasted delicious .
Overall we had close to 20 kilos of Ice and gel packs in the 300 litre capacity below deck kill tank. This appears to be enough for one day trips, but not a lot longer than that. Also if we had a huge haul of fish I doubt this would have been enough ice to keep much more than 100kg of fish cool.
Perfect for 30 to kilos of fish when they're all touching the ice packs. But if you were to chill a void of 300 litre capacity, you really do need a lot of ice to properly chill the fish.
This setup works perfectly the 1 day trips, but if you're doing extended trips, I would recommend using more large block ice of around 5kg, made from our stainless block ice moulds.