El Nino Season Cairns 2015 – Cairns marlin season recap by Kelly Dalling Fallon for Fishtrack Magazine
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology officially declared the country in the effects of the El Nino in May 2015 (the first full El Nino since 2009/10). How that affected the fishing on the reef was very evident in October.
While most people associate El Nino with warmer water temperatures, on the ‘edge’ where we fish it’s actually a different story.
The warm waters that are usually pushed west across of the pacific ocean are propelled by less circulation than normal in El Nino years meaning that this warm water ‘stops’ before it gets to the Australian east coast. And that’s what we found in October with water temps barely reaching 24+ degrees. A full degree colder than usual at that time of year.
This was further evidenced by the lack of a strong easterly current hitting the edge. We are particularly looking at the current direction to find the spot on the reef where it hits the reef and splits north and south – we want to be fishing on that impact and its southern side, in fact a strong southerly current is also considered conducive to good fishing.
But the current was missing, the water cold, and the fishing certainly suffered. This video was one of the better sized fish we released in the cold water (and wet and windy conditions of early October).
While the fleet was still finding pockets of good fishing (and good sized fish among them), there seemed to be many more smaller fish particularly over the week of the Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic. The comp featured some tough fishing – just 63 tags for 39 boats in seven days. But adding to that poor result, most notable was the number of ‘small’ fish tagged in a tournament which usually features grander class fish in up to double figures! In fact, over half of the fish tagged during the competition were called in at under 200lbs!
Fishing aside, the gold ol’ early October wind kept us all holding onto our hats (literally) for close to 20 days straight. Frustrating fishing and weather combination but when the elements all do align, there is nothing more exciting that big fish in big seas! This fish claimed one of my cameras. Lucky I have a couple of backups!
Have you ever heard the saying “The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result”? Tired of doing the same thing for the same result, some boats, ourselves among them, abandoned the ‘edge’ in late October and ventured out wide to some of the more secluded reef areas some 30-70 miles further beyond the Ribbons. This strategy was of course more than just a ‘stab in the dark’. We were watching the currents and water temps religiously and noticed a good congregation of both in the vicinity of Holmes Reef which is located 130 miles east of Cairns.
It was not a decision to be taken lightly as we were at that stage fishing at the top of Number 10 Ribbon Reef so had to first return 130 miles south to Cairns, resupply, and head out again. Luckily our guests from Hawaii who have fished themselves all of their lives, agreed with the logic of the gamble and we had plenty of time left on the trip to do it. And it paid off from the outset with 11 fish over the next 8 days including one day that we missed 4 bites (all of which looked like big fish). The right water temp, the right current, find the fish!
While we were out wide, and out of regular phone/internet range, keeping in touch with other members of the fleet on the sat phone, we heard that the fishing on the edge had come on. This is inline with this same water we and others had chased out wide, finally making its way in and onto the reef. And this time, plenty of big fish came with.
Overall, the early to mid-period of November had a sustained bite of big fish in store for us and turned what we’d feared to be a dud-season, into another absolutely spectacular year.
Also with the warm water as expected came a number of blue marlin mostly in the sub 300 pound range but the odd bigger fish. It’s only a matter of time until the first grander blue marlin is caught in Australia.