By Kelly Dalling Fallon
For many anglers the lure of big fish can see them traveling all over the world. But imagine doing it in your own boat! The Keinath brothers, Warren, Steve and David began fishing Great Barrier Reef in 2000. Ever since then the plan was formed to bring their own boat over to Australia and fish the reef on that. In 2010 this dream was realised as the brother’s 78 foot Garlington Dreamin’ On spent the first 6 weeks of the 2010 Cairns Giant Black Marlin season on the Great Barrier Reef.
But if you’re coming all this way, why not make the most of it and fish the Pacific too? The Pacific adventure began with the boats arrival in Papeete, Tahiti in January 2010 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida where it had been loaded a month before. Joining the boat in Tahiti were the professional crew made up of Captain Randy Hodgekiss, 1st mate Lincoln Funk and 2ndmate Pip Al-Jazra. Before making their way to Australia for the start of the heavy tackle black marlin season, they fished their way across the Pacific before arriving in Cairns on September 4. (See mate Lincoln Funk’s full trip diary below.)
On the way, the crew experienced some pretty torrid forces of nature including a direct hit by cyclone Oli, and close encounters with two more. They also encountered a small tsunami and later on a 7.4 magnitude earthquake. But arriving in Cairns, all was put behind them as they looked forward to their big adventure on the reef.
On September 15, preparations for the fishing in Cairns began in earnest with the arrival of their “Australian Gun” Simon Carossi from the Gold Coast. Simon’s 20 years of experience fishing the reef proved invaluable to the team as he shared his extensive knowledge of navigating both inside and outside the reef as well as how to catch and rig baits, and of course, where to fish and how.
After being told all the way across the Pacific that they had arrived at the wrong time. They were “too early” or “too late” for the fishing season, the team could at last be satisfied with the knowledge that they had made it in perfect time to fish the reef. That was proved in point on their very first fishing day at Linden Bank north east of Cairns where they went three from three with fish at 200lb, 300lb and 700lb.
The final tally from their time on the reef: 29 black marlin from 48 bites. 6 of those fish were over 700lbs and two over 900. Needless to say, they have been more than impressed with their trip!
Next the crew takes the boat down to Sydney to try for some blue and striped marlin before the boat is shipped back to the US in January.
By Lincoln Funk
Jan 19-March 6: Tahaa, Tahiti
Fishing around Papeete, Tahaa (5 weeks at the Taravana Yacht Club) and Bora Bora and the outer islands for 10 blue marlin. All rats.
March 7: Raratonga, Cook Islands
Four weeks for 5 blue marlin and 1 spearfish and some wonderful hospitality. What a great place to visit! Super friendly people and great food. Fished a 2 day tournament on April 3rd and 5th and won with a 85kg marlin which did not go to waste and fed the locals.
April 6: Niue (570 miles due west of Raratonga)
One blue marlin on a two-day stopover to refuel.
April 12: Tonga
Moved up to the northern group of islands called Vava’u where we spent all of our time and did all of our fishing. Fishing was pretty good and we managed to catch 11 blue marlin and countless mahi mahi, wahoo, and yellowfin even though the locals told us the fishing didn’t usual get any good until August/September.
May 19: Depart for Fiji
On the way to Fiji the starboard fuel pump on the main engine went out so we made it Suva, Fiji on one motor on May 20. Then we left Suva and went to Port Denarau for the remainder of our stay in Fiji. We didn’t really fish that hard in Fiji. It was more family and vacation time with swimming and snorkeling. We did manage to catch some mahi mahi and yellowfin and jumped a few marlin off.
June 21: Port Villa, Vanuatu
The locals tell us we’re fishing at the wrong time again. We still managed to catch two black marlin, three blue marlin, a handful of sailfish and two spearfish. We also a lot more mahi, wahoo, and yellowfin.
August 14: Solomon Islands
One week at Lola Island, Solomon Islands for a single a sailfish. Not much time spent fishing but mainly sightseeing all the WW2 history.
August 20: Rossel Island, PNG
Two blues and one stripey in 2 days of fishing. We stayed in Alutau and Port Moresby and the Port Moresby Game Fishing Club was very nice and friendly bunch of people. They made our stay a lot of fun.
September 1: Thursday Island, Australia
Finally Australia! We arrive at right at dusk on September 1 and I’ve never been so happy to see a our final destination. We had finally arrived after being on the sea for nearly 8 months. After clearing customs at Thursday Island we made our way down to the Marlin Marina at Cairns arriving on September 4.
September 15: Cairns
Our hired “Australian Gun”, Simon Carossi arrived from the Gold Coast. Simon was an intricate part to our successful fishing trip in Cairns. On a bait fishing trip on September 17, we caught 115 scad and 10 rainbow runners to get our freezers full and going.
September 25: Linden Bank
The first day for three from three at Linden Bank (300, 700, and a 200lbs). The first fish gave us quite a “Welcome to Australia” greeting by nearly jumping in the boat. It jumped and landed on top of the covering board, bounced up hit again, and then fell back in the water. It was a miracle that it didn’t end up in the boat with us. Then the third fish of the day nearly did the same thing, but instead, jumped into the transom and bounced back in the water. I guess these fish don’t like us too much. But it’s the small ones that you have to look out for!
By mid-October the tally was 17 black marlin with 2 being over 700, 1 over 800 and 1 over 900.
October 18: Cooktown
The start of two week adventure out on the reef with two other game boats and a mothership which was one of the main reasons for our journey to Australia. The two other game boats being “Askari” skippered by Corey Hard and the “Sea Baby IV” skippered by Chris “Sharky” Miles. We used the motoryacht “Emerald Lady” as the mothership.
Owners Warren and David and their guests, Tom, Eric, and Carlton arrived to meet the gameboats, the mothership and Warren and David’s other brother Steve who was already here. Every day for the trip, each brother rotated from one gameboat to the next so everyone had equal fishing time on each boat.
We started out the trip fishing out of Number 5 Ribbon Reef and managed to catch a little guy about 150lb just as we were calling it quits for the day. On day two of the trip we went 3 for 4 with Warren at 400, 200, and 350lb. Day 3, we caught 2 out of 4 bites off Number 3 Ribbon Reef at 350 and 500+lbs. The bigger fish actually ate when we were reeling the baits in, so you must always be on guard and ready for you don’t know when the bite will happen.
Side note: We had a few nicknames for the baits we pulled. First we called the scad or swim bait “Phelpsy” after the US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Second, we called the rainbow runners “Rodney”. Third, we called the mac tunas “Bonita, Bone Head, or the Grey Ghost”. Lastly, we called the big Queenfish “Mrs. Butterwoth”. I’m pretty sure that’s it. One of my favorite bites was when Phelpsy fell out of the clip down and tight. Most of the time we had marlin bites on him he produced quite well for us. A lot of times we wouldn’t see the bite but it would come tight and we were on.
October 21, 4th day of the trip we caught one small fish about 200lb. Then we went on a cold streak and went several days without seeing or catching one. I thought we had found the Dead Sea and then remembered that we were doing something called “Fishing” and not “Catching”! We also made a journey up to Lizard Island for a night and paid a visit to the famous “Cod Hole”. We fed all the fish and sharks and jumped in the water and got some amazing underwater photographs and video. What an amazing spot that was!
October 28 and the cold streak continued when suddenly a nice fish 750+ piled on the bluefin tuna skip bait and began jumping all over the place. It jumped on top of the main line and continued towards the boat jumping. We ended up chaffing the fish off about a minute later way up the line where she had jumped on it. So just when we thought we were coming out of the slump, we broke it off. Then a small fish attempted to eat the queenfish but couldn’t suck it down and gagged, threw everything out, and got away.
October 29 and we finally came out of the slump well and truly. Captain Randy spoted something under “Phelpsy” and it popped out of the clip but nothing was there. Pip the 2nd mate handlined the bait back up and the fish took it out of his hands. The reel was in free spool and was then struck with 40 pounds of drag and the fish was on. She began ‘windshield wiping’ and looked like a good one. Warren took it to the chair and wrenched the fish to the boat. He only had about 30 pounds of drag on her with the reel but was using his hands and was putting another 30 pounds on her – a great heavy tackle angler. She came to the boat in less than 15 minutes and he pulled the leader into my arms reach. As soon as the leader was grabbed she went airborne beautifully. She did all the signature black marlin moves lunging around the boat. We thought this was the one to go over the mark but decided that it was too close to call. Simon made the final call to let her go and called her 950lbs+. But that was what we came to Cairns, Australia for! A little while later we caught a 200lb fish to end the day two for two.
October 30, owner Steve hired one of Cairns legend Brazaka’s Cape York Helicopters for the day to come out to the reef and take video and photos of the boats and fishing. All three game boats lined up inside of Opal Reef and did a run going out to sea while the helicopter took some unbelievable footage. From there, we all went out fishing on the bank and the chopper was on standby all afternoon to capture footage of the boats in case they hooked up with a marlin. Well fortunately for us, the weather was absolutely perfect and the water was as clear as a swimming pool that day. We hooked a nice fish, 650lb at 12:30pm when unfortunately the chopper was back in Cairns loading up with fuel. However, as soon as they got back on scene the “Askari” was hooked up to an 850lb fish that put on one heck of a show for the chopper cameramen. Steve and Kim got some unreal footage of that big fish. And it was Steve’s son, Ian who was angling in the chair on that giant. A few hours later we caught a 400lb fish that came right to the boat and and pulled off on leader. So I guess we just weren’t lucky enough to hook the right fish for the chopper.
But just a minute later, the “Sea Baby IV” was on with a 450lb fish and the chopper arrived just in time as 1st mate Bevan grabbed the leader and sent the fish airborne. Once again, they captured some unbelievable footage of this fish tearing it up boatside. Well that concludes the day for the chopper. Pilot, Mike, had to head on back into Cairns almost under the cover of darkness.
October 31, the final day of fishing for the “Big Trip”. We caught a small fish, 200lbs, out of three bites finishing on a positive not. However “Sea Baby IV” weighed a fish that went 1,177lbs. All the boats came into Cairns and celebrated with a nice dinner at Barnacle Bill’s.
What an amazing ride it has been out on the GBR! We have made some lifelong friendships with some great Australian people and fisherman. We would also like to thank all of the local fleet and captains for taking us in and showing us the ropes and great hospitality. We could have not done it without everyone’s help.