One Giant Week on the Great Barrier Reef – 2013 Cairns Marlin Season by Kelly Dalling Fallon
While the Great Barrier Reef is recognized as the best giant black marlin fishing grounds in the world during the period of September to December annually, few could comprehend just how true this would be during a particular period of hot fishing that started in the final week of October this year. Not only did the fishing kick it up a gear, but an unanticipated number of big fish showed up as well.
I’m not talking about huge monster fish that have never been seen before, but rather a consistent run of big fish, lets say, fish over 800lbs.
The law of averages state that there are more smaller black marlin (200-400lb range) than big fish (over 800lbs). There are more 200lb-ers than 500lbers, more 500lb-ers than 800lb-ers and certainly more 800lbers than 1000lb class fish. With trips on the reef usually averaging between 3 and 7 days, we would say if you caught one big fish every trip, you were doing very good. But this particularly week it was the big fish appearing in numbers and the small fish that were scarce.
Veteran skipper Captain Bobby Jones on Iceman, who is celebrating his 30th season on the reef this year, says he’s never seen anything like it. With another even more veteran skipper on board with him that week, Marlin University’s Capt. Peter B. Wright and guests from the USA, they released an amazing 15 fish in 8 days including fish that they put at 800, 800, 950, 950 and 1000lbs+.
Both Captains have seen countless big fish over the years and know how to call them. While Bobby was quite clear to point out that in his opinion its not ‘the best season ever’ (a quote that has been thrown around loosely, mainly by those not actually on the reef) it was some of the best fishing he’s experienced in 10 or 15 years, and certainly the best run of big quality fish that he’s ever seen.
Another long-time skipper, Capt. Brad Craft, who is at the wheel of Castille III, initially kept his brilliant run of big fish quiet, not quite believing his luck – and certainly not wanting to jinx it! With expert angler Frank Sitterle on board from San Antonio, they released an amzaing 9 marlin over 800lbs in 8 days of fishing including 6 marlin that he put at over 950lbs. His best single big fish day during that period was 3 giant blacks at 900, 950 and 1000lbs!
Capt. Tim Richardson on Tradition had actually found himself with a few days off due to a cancellation and was social fishing to put his US crewmen Justin and Eric onto their first Australian black marlin each. Tim came across the hot bite and went from zero to hero overnight when a few fishless days turned into big fish heaven. In a great 4 day run he released 6 fish, all of which were over 700lbs, with just the three crew members on board.
I was able to bear witness to it myself as part of the crew on board my husband Capt. Luke Fallon’s Kekoa. On one particular day I marvelled that despite the fact that we’d only seen three marlin for the day, it was amazing that all three of them were larger than 800lbs – and even better, we’d caught two of them!
Lets look at it from the angler’s perspective:
After experiencing just how hard these big fish can fight on her first day on the reef, spending more than an hour in the chair fighting a very tough, and very stubborn 800lb-er, our angler Susan (who had travelled from Washington state with husband Art) couldn’t believe her luck when she came on strike again for yet another big fish. This fish, that Capt. Luke put at 900lbs, was the very next bite after Susan had watched her husband Art catch his own 900lb monster the day before. And by ‘couldn’t believe her luck’, I mean that the very sore and very tired angler was seriously hoping for something smaller, and easier to bring to the boat!
Art and Susan are both experienced anglers and have fished successfully and unsuccessfully (one 5 day overseas trip without a bite!) all over the world. They came to the Great Barrier Reef for the very first time with high expectations, but they were quite literally blown away by the quality of the fishing, as well as the size of the fish and described it as their best fishing trip, ever.
While there were plenty of big fish caught, as always, there were also a few lost battles with some particularly special fish that will take a long time for the crew and anglers involved to get over. Capt. Corey Hard on Askari had a couple of big fish encounters during that week, including one that was lost at the back of the boat, and the size of which will never be known, but was definitely in the XOS size category. Corey says he will take the memory of that fish with him to the grave.
The fishing is not over yet (at the time of writing there are still several weeks left for season 2013) and there are more stories to be told, but this week was a highlight for many veteran skippers who had thought the glory days were over for good. Here are some more of the very impressive stats from the week from some of the veterans of the reef:
Capt. Darren “Biggles” Haydon on Calypso 300, 400, 600, 650, 750, 950 and 999lbs in three days fishing, followed up by Capt. Tim Dean re-taking the wheel the very next trip for 6 from 7 at 350, 800, 900, 900, 900 and 950lbs.
Capt. Bill Billson on Viking II is calling Cairns season 2013, his best run of big fish ever with 7 grander black marlin by his count so far. On a particular trip at the start of this hot big fish bite, he released 2 over 1000lbs, a 850lb-er and a 300lber in just three days fishing.
Capt. Simon Carosi on Afishionado went 6 from 8 in just two days fishing at 150, 300, 300, 850, 900 and 900lbs.