Catching Marlin in Hervey bay

By Scott Mitchell

We have been experiencing a phenomenal run of juvenile black marlin here in Hervey Bay over the last month and it looks set to run into the New Year with record numbers of fish being raised, teased, hooked & landed! 

This year’s 2012 Hervey Bay Boat Club Tournament which ran from the 8th to 11th November set a new record for the number of marlin caught with 169 fish being landed from 11 boats over 3 days as the last day was cut short due to weather!

Warren Steptoe was the most likely angler to first alert the fishing fraternity to the bill fishery at the top of Fraser Island & Platypus bay. Warren caught many small black marlins on trolled baits & lures along the edges of the flats back in the 80’s and wrote about it regularly in Modern Fishing magazine. Warren & his mates where mostly lure fisherman but also carried fly fishing tackle & caught plenty of spotty mackerel & tuna in the Platypus Bay area during the same time.

It was the year of 2006 when two young anglers from Hervey Bay, Justin Nye & James Otto landed what is believed to be the first black marlin sight cast on the flats with fly fishing tackle - without any teasers. That same year local fly fishing guide Nat Bromhead also added two of his clients, Jono Shales & Frank Concilias to the Flats Marlin hall of fame. I also teased up five fish in one day for good mate Jack De Pasquale who landed his first marlin on the beach after hooking it in only a few metres of water. It does need to be understood that this unique marlin fishery is not a consistent or predictable fishery – it’s not even an annual event.

A good indicator that we will see numbers of these small black marlin in the bay is when numbers of these fish are encountered further north off Townsville & Cairns from around August each year. These fish aggregate around known baitfish grounds inside the Great Barrier Reef. Once they show up in these locations in numbers it is generally understood there will be a good migration of these fish down the East coast as they follow the warm water south.

The 1st marlin we encountered this year was caught by obsessed local angler Aidan Roberts while fishing with me for snapper. That fish took a 5”inch soft plastic on 20lb mono leader – luckily the hook slipped back near the dorsal on the first run as the bill would have most likely worn the leader off!

With more reports starting to filter in I decided to head up for a concerted effort towing teasers & small pushers as Katrina really wanted to land her 1st black marlin as well. I had only just finished setting the rods when we raised our 1st little black, which came up on the daisy chain teaser, but quickly switched to the Mold Craft needlefish pusher. These juvenile fish spend more time in the air than water & put on a great show – which often results in the hooks being thrown. Luckily Katrina’s fish stayed connected and we had it boat side in around 12 minutes where we lifted it aboard for a few quick shots before releasing it.

The next few trips saw a number of fish jumped off before I headed up with local fishing guide Andrew Chorley or “Chozza” as his mates know him. Chozza really wanted his 1st marlin to be on fly so I rigged a mac tuna belly flap as a teaser to run with our daisy chain. Once a fish is raised we would clear the daisy chain first while keeping the fish interest with the belly flap until ready to cast the fly. These fish really fire up once they get a taste of the belly flap and would just about eat anything once switched! We pulled the hook on the first fish just after the strike, pulled the hook on the second fish alongside the boat just before I could grab its bill & again pulled the hook on the 3rd fish after holding it on the leader – which well calls a capture! You can watch our antics on the short video here about! ( 

The conversion rate on towing lures has not been great with about 1 in 3 sticking – so I tried running some swimming & skipping gars last trip. I even sight cast to 4 fish that where up on the flats in less than 2 metres of water – but I was unable to get them to bite. A mate recently switched a couple of these free swimmers pitching live baits at them on the flats – which has got to be about as awesome as it gets. A few fish have even been caught using stick baits like the Ocea’s recently. 

Our best bites came on our skipping offering which were rigged using 8/0 circle hooks bridled with waxed thread. The trick is to let them run for approx. 5-10 seconds before closing the bail or lifting the lever (depending on what tackle your using) and just let everything come tight without striking. The circle hook will generally locate itself near the corner of the fish’s mouth or hinge. Once hooked circles rarely fall out & are also better on the fish without deep hook sets. Hooking my last fish just off the flats in 20ft of water allowed us to lead the fish towards the beach during the fight where I ended up being able to get out of the boat and land it on the beach! 

It is a pretty amazing fishery where you can sight fish to marlin on gin clear sand flats – How Good Is Hervey Bay !