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Overcoming adversity on the Great Barrier Reef


Words by Kelly Dalling Fallon

While there were many experienced and able bodied anglers who caught big black marlin during the Cairns marlin season, there were also a couple of particularly great feel-good stories that unfolded on the reef in 2011. The first one was completely unplanned and unscripted but could not have worked out better for all on board. The second was planned down to each meticulous detail, but very much counted on the fish coming to the party to come off.

On the morning of the 2nd of November, Capt. Ross Finlayson and his team on board Top Shot were in port (in this case Cooktown) making final preparations for a five day trip when he received word that one his clients was still stuck on the tarmac in Darwin, putting an end to the hope of an early morning departure.

Meanwhile, the other angler was already in Cooktown, having driven up the day before with his family, including his 85-year-old mother-in-law Connie Laurie, to see the sights. Considering there was a pretty good bite happening on the edge, Capt. Ross decided that he’d rather be out doing some type of fishing than waste a day in port and so they made the decision to head out for a day trip while they waited for their late arrival to continue the rest of the charter.

On the way out the Top Shot team, which includes Andy Gow and Pete Twiner on deck, learned just what a keen fisherwoman Connie is – she owns three boats and often fishes solo in her 30-footer out of Paradise Point on the Gold Coast for whiting and bream. The bait fishing was pretty ordinary and so Capt. Ross decided to head straight out to the edge. And Connie literally jumped at the chance to fish for a giant black marlin staking her claim as first in the chair. After the baits were in, it was just a matter of a couple of passes and Connie was on to a fish estimated at 850lbs!

Ross tells me when he saw the size of the fish as it greyhounded down-sea, at one stage tail-wrapping itself as it surfed down the swell, he though they were going to be in a bit of a trouble. Once a fish of that size gets its head down deep, they can be very stubborn to bring up again. Fortunately, this fish stayed on the surface and Connie was able to reel her in after an intense 15-minute fight. Connie’s only regret; that the fight wasn’t any longer! This is one senior angler not to be reckoned with!

Ross also says the fish had four smaller males swimming with it throughout the fight and was released in great condition!

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