IF YOU have some spare holiday time with the boat in the water and some friends or family aboard, now is a good time to assess your boat's fishing "footprint”.
Grab a dive mask or a pair of goggles and hop over the side of your anchored boat. That big pale bottom sticks out worse than your own, don't it?
Have someone responsible and qualified start your engine and carefully raise the revs in neutral, with the fast idle lever on the remote control box or the twist grip on the throttle. Get noisy?
Turn off the engine and switch on your sonar. Can you hear it? Dive down under the transducer and you might even feel the sonar pulses through your body, especially if the unit is set on 50Hz for deep water. At 200Hz it's common to hear a clicking sound from some transducers, even on board.
Dive down a metre or so and look back up at your boat. What can you see?
Get a crew member to put on a high-vis vest and then go down and look up again. You'll never go fishing in work safety gear again.
Now ask a crew member to drag the anchor chain through the bow roller and dive down again to hear a real percussion artist at work.
Similarly, get them to stomp around on the floor or drop an anchor, paddle or tacklebox and see how that sounds.
If you have an electric motor, check out how that sounds from below, too. They're billed as "stealth” weapons but that's not the impression they can give in a super-quiet waterway.
The servo steering motor can be very noisy as it rotates and the accelerating prop can whine like an Airbus spooling up for takeoff.
If you can organise it, stand or tread water 3m or more from the propeller and have someone drive the boat away from you.
You'll cop a blast of turbulent water that won't dissipate for up to 5m.
Now imagine being a nervous fish that's seen, heard and felt all this 20 times today already.
The fish was innocent!
THERE WAS a yarn in the national news section of yesterday's Star about a West Australian angler reportedly dragged over the side by a marlin.
Some of the facts may have fallen off that story on a bumpy trip across the Nullarbor.
Yes, Ross Chapman was billfishing solo 30NM off Exmouth and yes, he was hooked up when he went overboard.
But he wasn't dragged over.
According to AAP and WA Today, he was trying to retrieve his GoPro camera and slipped while shooting video of the beaten fish he had alongside, with the engine in gear.
In NSW the ex-Kiwi would have been liable to a fine for not wearing the lifejacket that would have made his six hours adrift far less exhausting and nerve-wracking.
As it was, other fishos just happened upon his empty boat and another fisho found him some distance away.
Remember, if you're boating solo anywhere in NSW, you must wear a lifejacket. It's really just commonsense.
I gave up fishing alone offshore more than 25 years ago, when I had a double mackerel hookup and left the boat idling forward with one rod in the holder while I gaffed the first fish.
As I lunged with the gaff, I lost my footing and nearly went in.
A few minutes later, I'd got my act together enough to think about my wife and infant son back home and what one lousy mackerel could have meant to their futures if I had gone in.
These days, even in the river, I clip the emergency kill lanyard (that red nylon springy string that always gets in your way!) to my wrist or leg so that if I do go over, the engine is going to stop and the boat stay close by.
IF YOU'RE looking for one of the baby black marlin that swim past our coast every year, make yourself available on Monday.
It's peak time of the moon for billfish activity and all the marlin planets promise to align.
There are predictions of a rare weather window with a calm morning and low swell, southbound 27° water and reports of fish this week from the Gold Coast.
Trolling a pattern of 125mm-180mm skirted lures at around 8-10 knots is a good way to search for fish and if you encounter a school of slimy mackerel, small mahi mahi or sauries , you can be pretty sure that "Mr Stickface” isn't far away.
Slowly troll a livie around the school and hang on.