Fishing Cairns – the big fish numbers & season availability

Thinking of fishing the Cairns Giant Black Marlin Season? You should!

For many fishermen and women the Cairns marlin season is a bucket list fishery. For many others, its somewhere you fish as often as you can – whether that be every season, or every several years.

The main big marlin season off Cairns runs from mid-late September through early December. During that time, water temperatures and conditions determining the timing of the main body of fish, giant black marlin up to and in excess of 1000lbs as well as smaller males to about 400lbs which congregate on the waters along the outside of a 100mile (or so) stretch of reef between Cairns and Lizard Island.

These waters produce the greatest number of big black marlin caught (and released!) anywhere in the world every year.

These are the stats (and to follow where they come from!).

The Cairns fishery is without a doubt:
-> #1 for giant black marlin – grander black marlin
-> #1 for grander marlin (more grander marlin in 2016 than any other location whether they be black or blue or combined)
-> #1 for big black marlin over 500lbs – catching more than everywhere else combined according to BFR stats!

Lets look at the numbers:
At the end of 2016, Billfish Report ranked Cairns as Number 5 on its annual list of ‘Top Billfisheries’ and had many crying foul that it deserved a much higher position. BFR’s ranking criteria includes fish numbers, variety of billfish species, average size of fish, length of season and number of boats fishing.

BFR noted 114 black marlin over 500lbs world-wide during the 2016 season of which the GBR (Cairns) accounted for 58%. What’s that then? Well that would be 66 black marlin over 500lbs including 18 fish over 1000lbs – grander black marlin.

Unfortunately the rankings are subjective due to fact that they are generated only by reports received (and not all boats are obviously reporting) but I was asked to do my own numbers based on reports submitted to the Black Marlin Blog. Obviously being a part of the industry and fishing the season myself, I’m able to get reports otherwise missed. And for that reason alone I think my numbers are more accurate and although still not a comprehensive reflection of the fishery, a pretty good gauge of where Cairns ranks.

So what are my numbers?

By my (Black Marlin Blog) count I have 159 black marlin over 500lbs during the 2016 season reported including 20 fish over 1000lbs – grander black marlin.

It’s also worth saying that in my opinion there should be more than 159 fish over the 500lb mark. It being the case in Cairns that many don’t actually start to report the size of fish released until they reach the 700lb range. Likewise with the number of granders, many skippers (mine included!) are reluctant to call fish over 1000lb being brought up with the mantra of “if you don’t weigh it, don’t say it’. As a predominantly release fishery, times are a-changing, but still you will often hear calls of ‘big fish’, ‘monster marlin’ rather than putting a number on it.

But what does these number mean?
Well quite simply that Cairns has in no way lost it crown, and if you can, you should be fishing here!  And below, members of the fleet with dates still available so that you can!


2017 Giant Black Marlin Season Availability

The 2017 big marlin season is fast approaching and if you’re still yet to book your trip you’d better get in fast! Limited dates are available with members of the fleet (outlined below) and this list will be updated as I hear back from other members of the fleet. Links to the website so that you may contact directly:

Gameboat Availability

Kalira | Capt. Ashley Wallis

Key dates still available in October and November.

Hot Shot | Capt. Craig “Sparra” Denham

Dates available include October 15-19, November 5,6,7 and November 15-21.

Tradition | Capt. Tim Richardson

Availability for: Sept 20-31, Oct 15 -31 and Nov 5-13.

KEKOA | Capt. Luke Fallon

Days have become available for Oct 3-7 (5 days)

Calypso | Capt. Tim Dean

Dates available for September 1-10, September 18-22 and November 20-25.

Moana II | Capt. Dan McCarthy

September (most), October 1-6, October 13-20 and November 23 onwards.

Askari | Capt. Corey Hard

Limited dates mid-late November.

Zulu | Capt. Casey Dent

12-14 September – Light/Heavy tackle and reef fishing options (up to 4 pax)
21-23 September (3D/2N) – Light/Heavy tackle and reef fishing options (up to 5 pax)
1-4 October – Port Douglas to Cooktown
17-19 November – Port Douglas to Cairns
1 December onwards – availability ex. Port Douglas

Levante | Capt. Chris “Sharky” Miles

Tuesday 19th to Friday 22nd September (4D/3N – Light/Heavy tackle and reef fishing options (up to 4 pax)
Limited dates late November – Contact us for options


Mothership Availability

Emerald Lady

Early-mid September

Beluga X

Availability in November for Mother-shipping

Flying Fish

Availability as a mothership during the giant black marlin season ex-Port Douglas


Photo Gallery

Want to see the evidence of this great fishery? Some of the hot shots I received with the blog reports in 2016 below: