2008 Giant Black Marlin Season Recap by Kelly Dalling Fallon
After another very successful NQ light tackle season, hopes were high for a repeat for the heavy tackle season. And it started off with a bang. By September 26 when many boats were still sorting out their tackle, Capt. Bill Billson on Viking II was already into double figures. And some of the early fish were big. Capt. Tim Dean at the helm of Calypso steered Angler Gary Holt to one of the biggest fish he’s seen in years at Linden Bank on one of his very first trips of the season.
On October 9, Capt. Kim Anderson took the Flying Fisher 1 out for its maiden charter christening it with a fish well over the 1000lb mark for angler Jill Gardis at Linden Bank. And at the other end of the reef on Number 10 Ribbon just a few days later, Capt. Peter B Wright on Sea Baby IV also recorded his first grander of the season, one he estimated in the 1200lb range, for angler Matt O’Brien.
On board Tradition, Capt. Tim Richardson’s regular client Lydie Fayard took home the Champion Female Angler award at the Lizard Island Tournament with 7 fish for the week, including two outside tournament hours. Capt. Darren “Biggles” Haydon on Allure also reported some very solid early fishing. While releasing some noteworthy fish on 130lb tackle, he recorded two outstanding catches on 50lb for Billy Boyle at 880lbs and 882lbs for Candace Meyer. Candace’s fish would have taken the women’s world record but after fighting it well into dark the boat knocked its tail fin leaving the slightest damage that would unfortunately rule it ineligible.
While sadly, as October progressed the fishing slowed and skippers struggled to find the main body of fish. But there were also moments of brilliance that reminded us all why the Great Barrier Reef fishery is like no other place on earth — and why many anglers make the journey back here year after year.
Capt. Bill reported such a run with one of his more notable trips netting 11 fish in 7 days including 5 over 750lb. And, if you fished with Capt. Craig “Sparrow” Denham on board Square Bear any time in 2008, chances are you had a trip worth remembering. No matter where he fished, Sparrow seemed to find them – at the time of writing recording 14 fish over 800lb.
Capt. Chris “Sharky” Miles on board Mauna Kea in 2008 was another skipper who had the numbers on his side and on the original Iona, Capt. Corey Hard was consistently producing the results for his clients. Capt. Dave Pemberton on Kanahoee spent the hours in the middle Ribbons pulling off several nice fish and Capt. Hayden Bell on Release weighed a fish that went 1060lb – even with a sizeable chunk missing that was eaten by sharks.
Capt. Ross Finlayson on Top Shot told me a story of a client hard on his luck who turned it around when the very first bite on his very first trip marlin fishing netted him a fish that dreams are made of estimated in excess of 1100lb. Capt. Tom Francis and team Ultimate Lady didn’t arrive on the reef until late October but made up for it with a grander black for owner Fred Lewis within a week of their grander blue.
After another lull, the second week of November signalled a run of larger fish. But it wasn’t all happy endings. Capt. Luke Fallon on board KEKOA steered angler Jason Hessett to his first Cairns black marlin on Day 1 – in the small range at 200lbs – and then two days later he put his newly acquired chair skills to the test in a mammoth 7 hour battle on a fish that Capt. Luke had waited 20 years for the opportunity to catch. Hooking up just after 2pm, the battle continued well into the dark ending in heartbreak just after 9pm when the leader snapped.
Capt. Trent Vischer may regret handing over the wheel to Iona II owner Adam Jordan while he was laid up in hospital (hope you’re well soon Trento!). Giving Adam strict instructions on where to fish, Adam did and came up with the goods pulling several big fish including one over the mark at the ‘Bus Stop’ at Linden Bank — more than proving that if you stop long enough at the ‘Bus Stop’, one will come along.
Capt. Pete Roots on Little Audrey recounted some of his highlights including a fish that jumped into the cockpit missing the angler by mere centimetres. And TowCam designer John Faulkner also wished he had his camera gear all set up when he battled his first Cairns black marlin on board Mistress with Capt. Allan “Tiger” Geale at 800lb. Capt. Jim Dalling on Reel Chase did run his TowCam gear for the entire season and was rewarded with some big bites from big fish captured in amazing quality on disc – we’re looking forward to the DVD compilation! Capt. Jarad Weir on Shaka can talk your arm off about the difficulty getting good bait in 2008 but can also happily report that they were able to get a marlin for every angler with one still to go – all with a freezer full of bait left over!
Capt. Ian Walker skippered his newly purchased and renamed Phantom (prev. Fascination III) for his first season on the reef and put in the hard yards. Capt. Scott Nelson also skippering the brand new Black Watch 40 Watchdog for it’s first season christened the boat with some big fish and put in the hours in the battles on fish lost.
And as it is a season of firsts for some, it is also a season of endings for others as Capt. Laurie Wright hangs up his skipper’s hat after 30 years on the reef. The 2008 season netted some good fish for the team on Ningaloo but without a doubt the highlight for Laurie was the opportunity to spend time with his valued clients who traveled again to the reef to enjoy some very special moments with him and his crew.
And, if the marlin fishing was quiet, the sport fishing certainly kept the punters entertained on the upper Ribbons. Capt. Dean Beech on Castille III tells me that he won and lost some battles with some big big fish but the big consolation prize for him was the popper fishing that he put as the best he’s seen in 10 years.
“And what’s a slow season in the cycle of good and bad years?” asked Capt. Daniel McCarthy, “Where else in the world can you fully expect to catch a marlin over a grand?” This year on Moana III the team got lucky with a giant blue to boot. Cairns certainly is the place to be. We can’t wait till next year, with the cycle coming around again, it could be better than ever!
News just in: On the day after I left the reef Capt. Bobby Jones showed his class to steer his new charge, the Riveira 48 Express Fascination IV out wide to the tuna aggregation releasing a big fish for his anglers in the middle of the remaining fleet, just minutes after arriving and putting the baits in.