Will we see another Billfish Bonanza?

You would have to have been without internet access and a Facebook account if you didn’t heard about the phenomenal black marlin run we experienced right down the East Coast over the last two years.

While there where good numbers experienced across many of the tournament late last year (2013) it just didn’t transpire into similar numbers of fish here in Hervey Bay. Numbers of juvenile black marlin where well below those encountered during the phenomenal run in November & December 2012.

So where do you start if you want to land your 1st marlin? We are talking about juvenile black marlin in this piece which can be targeted using a number of techniques from lures, live baits, dead swimming baits, skipping baits, teasers – bait and switching and flies.

Due to these little blacks arial antics they can be difficult to stay connected to once hooked and I have found it very frustrating using skirted lures in the past. There’s no doubt to the effectiveness of skirted lures in raising fish and getting the strikes – it’s just staying connected after that!

Juvenile black marlin are also very aggressive and appear to have little fear when attaching their prey and will also strike at hard bodied lures and even soft plastics. We had a number of fish strike stick baits and soft plastic last year when casting to fish sighted up on the flats. But again these lures where often thrown during wild acrobatics early into the fight.

We initially started trolling small pushers last season like Mold Craft Little chuggers and some great little pushers made by mate Jamie Behrens. The conversion rate on towing lures was awful though at around 1 in 3! After speaking with David Granville I tried running some swimming and skipping gars to even our odds. Our best conversions came using skipping gars rigged using Eagle Claw Circle Sea Hooks Light Wire L2004EL in 8/0. I stitched my gars using waxed thread from just behind the head and left a bridle loop of about 3cm from the eye which you simply just loop onto the circle hook ( See picture attached ). Once the marlin takes the bait you need to allow them to run for approx. 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 and are also better on the fish without deep hook sets.

The other great thing about using the skipping gars rigged with circle hooks is you can use light threadline gear as setting the hook was not the issue. My new favourite combo for this season will be the Shimano Ocea Offshore 731 SW spin matched with Stella 6000 SWB spooled with 30lb Power Pro braid. I then run an 80lb wind-on leader to which I snelled the circle hook. We even managed a few on our lighter 4000 spin combos more suited to barra last year! The general consensus is that snelling the circle hook also improved your strike rate as opposed to crimping them as it aid in the way the circle moves when set. I also had mates pitching small live baits like yellow tail back to teased up marlin last season with great results again on circle hooks. I was just too lazy to chase the live baits first.

I also found that different teasers improved fish raised last season with smaller profile teasers bring more fish to the back of our boat.  My favourite combination consisted of a Mold Craft standard soft bird at the front followed by five 6” pink squids with a Mold Craft Little chugger on the end.

Optimum trolling speeds vary between 4 and 6 knots depending on what lures, teasers and baits you are towing with 5 knots being a great speed to start with. Just ensure your lures or baits are swimming well and this may even need to be adjusted as you change direction and need to allow for the tide or run in the area you are fishing.

Keep an eye on the tournament results to our North from about August as those results are general a great vindicator as to whether we are likely to see good numbers of juvenile marlin running South as the season progresses. Where else in the world can you sight fish to marlin on gin clear sand flats and get out of you boat and land them on a beach – How Good Is Hervey bay!