The mayhem and pandemonium produced when the illuminated shines and fluorescent colours of a marlin expose themselves through the water’s surface is anything short of breathtaking. As the bill emerges, thrashing and throwing white water in every effort to devour its prey, it leaves anglers mesmerized by the elegant glory these creatures express. Through their reputation of muscle power and sheer speed marlin have the ability to have any man buckling at the knees, whilst have his veins pumped with pure rushing adrenaline in a matter of mere seconds.
Catching a billfish is a growing dream of nearly every angler on the planet. To witness and experience the ferocity and aggression as a Marlin turns from placid to barbaric in an excerpt of rage leaves man striving to conquer one of life’s most triumphant battles of man vs beast. With the growing breed of trailer boat game fishermen overwhelming the pelagic scene, more and more of these marlin junkies are going to new extremes attempting to tackle these true kings of the ocean making targeting marlin easier and more affordable.
After a few of my recent triples M’s (Mini Marlin Mania) sessions off the NSW coast, Port Stephens and Forster and having the advantage over the game boats of being mobile and able to pick up and follow the fish at the drop of a hat up and down the coast. I shared some of the most insane father son bonding moments a teenager could ever ask for. This has led my enthusiasm as a young angler to grow to an extent where I want this moment to be shared by every trailer boat team who wish to share the memory of a life time, targeting some billfish! So with this article hopefully I can coach the new comers onto the game fishing scene into the basics of where to go, what you will need, what to look for, and how to do it as well as sharing my experiences.
If you’re a mad keen fishing fanatic, like myself, seeking the thrill of a lifetime then “Makaira indica” (Black marlin) are the fish for you! They are the perfect game fish for children to learn on and are an exceptional sports fish all round. 2013 off the NSW coast wasn’t exactly the best season for stripe marlin, but anglers certainly adapted to the large quantities of small black marlin unpredictably popping up here and their whilst following the currents up and down the coast. With the interclub being a wash out and the rains and big seas wrecking the last of what was looking to be one of the best seasons yet! Late February Pete Quaas, my father, and I ventured for our third attempt to land a marlin in our small 4.6 metre Webster twin fisher. With gentleman hour tides at 9am and 3pm we were up at 6am and heading for Port Stephens. Live bait in the well at 8am and we were on the move towards Seal rocks. With a 15knot north easterly wind making it quite uncomfortable luckily we were saved by a 35 ft Caribbean Bertram heading north. Seizing the opportunity and we piggy backed behind her leaching like a remora all the way to the Big Gibba where we signaled a wave and made our departure. Continuing our journey punching out to 55 fathoms, we had got word from our good friends Mark Mikkelsen and Terry Dunphy aboard Triton of good water and bait where they had caught two big Striped Marlin the day previous. With 25 degree water, scattered bait 15 meters below the surface, birds working and a low tide approaching as well the Shimano boat raising two fish on skirts with no takers things were looking promising that marlin were in the area and a fish would bite soon!
As I waited in nervous anxiousness for a fish to come forth, my eyes were glued to Lowrance HDS 5 to see a vertical line rising from 40meters below shooting up the sounder towards the boat. My excitement levels began increasing as it was clear an estimated 60kg Black marlin had come up to look at our well presented bridled slimies. Being fussy and disinterested the fish continued its journey swimming alongside the boat for another 50 meters before veering back off below the surface, leaving two very disappointed fishermen back in our seats, continuing the troll. Extremely tired from the night before I managed to get beyond sunburnt whilst taking a little nana nap on the deck of our little webby only to be awaken by my old man yelling “Bro! Bro! Bro!” behind the wheel as I could faintly hear the growl from the ratchet on the Tiagra 20 reel matched with 6kg line. It was a typical black marlin bite, I sprung into life picking up the rod and as line started crackling off the reel faster and faster I slowly engaged the drag raising the rod slightly to secure the circle safely in the corner of the fish’s mouth and.... we were on!! Frantic efforts and panic alarmed as the Tiagra sounded its roar with a 40kg Baby black marlin leaping and going absolutely beyond mental, in the back of the spread.
As you can imagine pandemonium and excitement of two man trailer boating had begun! Witch doctor teaser’s were flying through the air, a frantic 40kg marlin was shooting out of the water like a nuclear missile doing back flips in all directions behind the boat spraying sheets of white in every direction. Holding the rod with one hand letting the fish run, I managed to pull in the out rigger rod while Dad persisted in bringing up the down rigger and the Tiagra 30 from 120ft below. Once the spread was clear and there were rods lying all over the cockpit, the go pros were turned on, we could finally embark on removing the belly of slack line from the water and placing it back on the reel. We had to act fast as not realizing it but the small Tiagra was nearly spooled! The fish continued grey hounding for Broughton Island. Fighting for freedom with every inch of power it possessed leaping in a frantic display to shake the hook free leaving us both in appreciation for such a spectacular, beautiful species. Realizing why we love this sport so much after about 20 minutes of chasing we had the fish at the leader, being very green and the lack of pressure dad could place upon it with only an 80lb leader saw the fish producing a final display for freedom not knowing it would be released shortly jumping almost crashing into the boat. Dad reached for the bill and the madness was finally over. Hauling the little fella in over the side for some very quick happy snaps we coated the fish continually trying to remove as little slime possible. Dropping it back in the drink giving it a quick swim to get the gills pumping, saw the fish start to become frantically active biting my hand and throwing its bill from side to side. With one last push it was free to be caught again by another lucky angler who will hopefully enjoy the experience as much as I did.
With the high tide only a few hours away and the shock of everything that had just happened starting to settle. We had placed three fresh live slimy mackerel back in the water, one on the down rigger, one on the out rigger and one just behind the teaser. About 500 meters of trolling onward in an excellent temperature change we had found within 50 meters it went from 24.7 degrees to 25.3 degrees. Being an intense current line, signs were looking good for another fish and SNAP! The outrigger band had snapped and unexpectedly adrenaline was forced back into our veins. Instinct took over and dad rushed to pick up the rod loading it up nicely, allowing the circle hook to find its mark securely in the corner of the jaw, of fish number two. It was another juvenile 25kg baby billfish thrashing and launching, leaving its wet realm below searching for the sky and the small black marlin was going even more ballistic than the fish before. It continues to amaze me the incredible fighting ability a small marlin possesses. With even more rage and frustration as it tried to escape and endeavoured to be free it had dad cranking the little guy in on 10kg. A short fight and another quick leader grab saw the blacks bill firm in my grasp and being brought in for a photo. Being more than overwhelmed we quickly dropped it back into the sauce and gave it a quick swim then set it free to be caught another day.
Resulting from an exceptional days fishing the overwhelming satisfaction had us make the call to seize the opportunity of Mark Mikkelsen heading back to port, we maneuvering another piggy back move tucking in nice and tight behind Triton the 43 ft Mariner to escape the north east chop, with memories we will never forget.
Using the same methods we were able to crack many more small blacks over the season using the above techniques in different locations.
Fishing for pelagic game fish you never know when that big three or four hundred pounder is going to turn up and put you through the fight of a life time, pushing every inch of your gear to its absolute limits. Quality terminal tackle is a must! Shimano make absolutely by far the most quality fishing gear on the market and will have you fighting fish with comfort and securities, ensuring you land that fish of a lifetime. Dominating the market for years now any of Shimano’s Tiagra reels from sizes 20-50 are ideal for this type of game fishing. They are reliable, comfortable and never miss a beat matched with 6 to 24kg tournament legal line. On any of the Tiagra Tcurve game series from the 6kg standup rod, to the 24kg stand-up, and everything in-between these shimano outfits truly are a lethal combination for tackling any pelagic species. Although as anglers seek a new thrill spin reels have began to excel in the market having Stella’s matched on either Ocea or Terez rods being the weapon of choice. You will also need quality snap swivels, and a good fluorocarbon leader between 80-150lb.
The importance of preparation is essential, having all your gear checked, re-checked and checked again is paramount. Gear should be packed, traces made, lunches packed, doubles tied, the boat fuelled, gear in the car everything that can be done should be done as it will save you hours of wasting time in the morning that could be spent hunting or wrangling a billfish.
As the growing sensation of technology improves the fishing scene removing the old fashion trial and error homework of finding bait and currents yourself has been erased by fishing reports from your local tackle store releasing vital data and excellent information on where the fish and bait are holding and if the charter boats have been catching fish or not.. As well as many happy fisherman sharing their photos on social media websites such as Facebook, being more then chuffed and willing to help a fellow angler out usually being happy to share their information of where they caught their fish. Follow the water currents on weather websites like the BOM, fishnet.com, Willyweather and Seabreeze and try to sit on the edge of the currents.
The anticipation and hype of catching a Marlin can often leave anglers forgetting their most crucial asset to the equation leading to a hook up, BAIT. The ultimate live bait for marlin is slimy or “blue” mackerel. Once you have safely jigged some live bait preferably being slimies but if not available yakas, bonito and striped tuna will make the cut. Constantly check the live well to ensure your livey’s are swimming well and have plenty of aeration. It can also pay dividend to try and get a variety of different sized slimy mackerel in the water ranging from big baits to pencil baits so that the fish have plenty of variety of choices. Bridling your slimies on a hook matched to the size of the bait so you don’t drown it is crucial, you want the circle as close to the baits face as possible whilst trying to avoid making him bleed when piercing him through the eyes.
Often described complicated and confusing spreading your baits evenly is a crucial aspect. To cover all areas you need to think smart, use the sounder and verify where most of the bait is holding whether it be 30ft down or 150ft down will determine where you place your downrigger (if available) making sure when sending your bait down that you release it slowly and allow it plenty of time to adjust to the different water columns so you don’t kill it. Your surface baits should also be spread evenly run one bait closer to the boat roughly about 5-10 meters behind the boat and the other 10-15meters on an outrigger also if available. Throw in a witch doctor teaser or any teaser of your choice in front of the close bait, set your drags on as light as possible so you don’t frighten the fish once he has grabbed the bait making all elements to be as natural as possible sit back relax and get ready to jump into battle stations.
Utilize your surroundings if there are game boats heading up to your fishing grounds then tuck in and piggy back behind them! You will save time, fuel and avoid being punished by the elements. Observe your surrounds have one person watching the back of the spread at all times waiting for a strike while scanning the fringing waters and the other watching the sounder, other boat activity and birdlife! Birds being your best friends on the ocean you need to keep a close on them scanning the surface. Ideal temperature to find and start and troll your live baits is at about 3knots in 23.5 to 25 degree Celsius water. Try to find water as blue as possible! Blue water species like blue water! It’s not as silly as it sounds! If the waters green fish are very hesitant to take baits.
If you can get a combination of Blue water, Bird life, an abundance of bait, 23 to 25 degree water and a tide approaching you will be more than likely finding yourself….
Fishing from a small boat quickly forces you to appreciate all the available space on offer, once the Tiagra is roaring and a fish is raised and all hell breaks loose, adrenaline’s pumping, the heart rate rising ,and excitement levels taking control of the body! the key factor is to stay calm and not to panic. Pick up the rod lightly lift the rod tip whilst engaging the drag slowly so that the circle hook slides up from inside the fish and pins him securely in the corner of the jaw. Once the fish is engaged and fighting, whoever is not on the rod has the hard job! Clearing the deck as fast as possible! Winching up the down rigger, pulling in the other rod and teaser then putting a Gimble belt on the angler and driving to gain line on the fish! The most important part of this sheer crazy outbreak that’s happening so quickly is to enjoy the fight! Watch the fish jump out of the water do back flips he will tire out of energy sooner or later and with that Circle sealed in the corner of the jaw unless your line or leader fails he is as good as yours . Make sure your wearing gloves when tracing and avoid wrapping up on the fish unless you’re losing a heavy leader material. The other angler should back his drag off to 1/3 of its capacity and give your crew member plenty of room to wrestle him on the leader whilst taking charge of the wheel with one hand and the rod in the other just in case the fish decides to duck under the boat.
Once you have a firm grip on the fishes bill, and unless experienced I advise that you don’t bring the fish on board for a photo without at least having a deckwash to place in his gob to keep it alive. Keep it in the water take some photos remove the circle or cut the line as close as possible to the hook. The meat off these fish isn’t off any excellent quality and it’s a shame to see such beautiful creatures killed for no reason when they can be enjoyed by anglers all over the globe and given the opportunity to grow into an almighty 1000 pounder! So if you do find yourself in a lucky enough situation to land a fish like this, enjoy the experience of a lifetime, set the Baby Black Free so kids can target them for years to come.
Through sheer determination, getting out there and targeting this species anyone who puts in the time and effort can catch these fish. Every detail and element of your preparation and tackle ads up and I hope you find yourself experiencing a memory that will be imprinted in your brain forever. myself and the rest of the Shimano Team look forward to seeing you out on the water when the Marlin turn up NOT LONG NOW! Get your gear ready Fish hard, enjoy yourself, good luck and remember, “It can all change in the blink of an eye”.