Cairns 2018: Destination giant black marlin by Kelly Dalling Fallon
For the big game fishing tragic, Cairns during October and November is synonymous with giant black marlin, as anglers come from all over the world to fish the 150 nautical mile stretch of reef from Cairns north to Lizard Island. And for those not fishing a given year, they flock to the Internet to follow the coverage — and wish they were there.
2018 was a standout year for the anglers and crew who made it to the reef and were treated to some spectacular fishing. For those who were experiencing it vicariously however, they could only shake their heads and marvel what they were missing as it unfolded.
On the back of the Cairns giant black marlin season 2018, which was without a doubt one of the best seasons on the reef in years, let us look and see just what made this season so special!
In addition to the small amount of big fish weighed (Cairns is predominantly a release fishery), big marlin were seen, caught and released consistently throughout the season from the first ‘grander’ in late September to almost the very final day of fishing.
Capt. Steve Ahlers on Hellraiser put season 2018 as one of his best ever for big fish. His best day he caught three that he put at over the magic number, some of the 14 over 700lbs he recorded on his boat for the whole season. Steve says that he also encountered some monsters and released fish bigger than his 1098lb-er weighed in early November.
Capt. Darren Haydon, christening his new 47” O’Brien Adventum with a great season of fishing, was another that thought the season was a standout for the big fish bite all the way through. Darren said notable for his crew was that they caught big fish for every single group they had on throughout the season, including the mammoth 1260lb black for Adventum’s owner Kevin Hodgson midway through.
Bounty Hunter’s Capt. Ross Finlayson also tells me that after a season he also noted a s very consistent for quality big fish, he saved his best for last with a fish he called the biggest of his year on his final day (and that’s saying something in light of his 1140lbs weighed a few weeks earlier). It was big fish number 15 for him for a season ending high.
Numbers, numbers, numbers
Capt. Luke Fallon’s KEKOA was on the pulse of one of the best bites of the season that saw the middle Ribbons fire at October’s end. With the best of both worlds both numbers and fish quality, Luke and his crew recorded two particularly outstanding days of fishing with 8 and 7 fish releases, but also recorded 8 big fish among 23 fish releases in 5 consecutive days fishing that week. More than half his 14 big fish total for the season in those several days!
That second day, Capt. Craig Denham’s Hot Shot also recorded the best single day of fishing for the season in the same area going 10 from 16 bites. The same day and the next Capt. Adam Jordan’s Iona II also put in two big days releasing 6 from 10 and 5 from 9 with several big fish among them. Capt. Tim Richardson’s Tradition likewise put his solo angler through a couple of days of heavy winding releasing 5, and then 7 with the last two in a double header!
That’s over 50 fish among four boats in just three days fishing!
While veteran captains are quick to downplay the ‘best season ever’ hype that sprung forth during this period of great fishing, having recorded similar or better number days in the past years on the reef, many of the new generation of skippers put their best number days on the board during this period as well.
One-time crewmates and now skippers of their own charges Daniel Carslon and Daniel Klein were among those that did. During that same late October bite on the Ribbons Daniel Carlson’s Little Audrey recorded a 7 from 8. He backed up again a week later this time south off Cairns with a 6 from 6.
Capt. Daniel Klein at the helm of Onsite also recorded his best day as a skipper notching up 7 in a hot day of fishing at Linden Bank in November, as well as some more career highs with three additional 5-release days throughout the season.
Fish all along the reef
Most notable this year that was when the fishing was at its hottest, it wasn’t confined to one location on the reef as it has been most often in recent years.
While ‘The Bank’ (Linden Bank off Cairns) and Number 10 Ribbon Reef always fish very well at certain times of the season – and Number 10 fired f or pretty much all of season 2017 – there have been some periods of a hot bites at other single locations over the previous years that stick in the memory. Numbers 5 and 5 1/2 in season 2015. Lena Reef and Number 3 in season 2013. Number 5 in season 2009, just to name a few.
This year the big bite period of October’s end stretched a ll the way from Lena and Number 1 Ribbon Reef in the south up to Number 8 Ribbon Reef in the north (Number 8 Ribbon Reef which always seems to have moments of brilliance mid season). Boats were catching good numbers of fish all the way along this stretch over the same period.
Number 10 delivered as much as it always does particularly around the start of the Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic. And for stalwarts such as Capt. Hay don Bell on Release it continued to deliver right up until season end when after another big fish trip, he reluctantly left to fish down the reef to Cairns.
Linden Bank, known for delivering great fishing to some while others struggle alongside, also delivered some big number days for some among the larger fleet fishing the area. Capt. Corey Hard on Askari had his best day there going 9 from 12 in early November including two double headers.
Conversely Capt. Tim Dean’s Calypso bucked the trend with Tim reporting it was one of the few years that he spent very little time in ‘the Middle’ except for traveling through. Tim experienced good fishing both up the top as well as down the bottom and one was of the many who got sidetracked by good fishing at Escape Reef which produced very well again this season.
Capt. Laurie Wright, fishing that same area and nearby on the Agincourts a few weeks earlier, also on Calypso with the team from BassPro, also enjoyed some spectacular fish including on e particular big fish that was captured in all its glory in some amazing slow motion footage that has been watched by over 4 million fishing enthusiasts world-wide!
Check it out:
View this post on Instagram
Firing into late November
With the absence of a good November tuna aggregation – and we must be due a good one very soon – some lackluster late season fishing has befallen the fleet over recent seasons.
But this year the good fishing continued right through to season end illustrated by several crews finishing the season on a particular high. Capt. Bill Billson on Allure put his season to bed with two big fish on his final day including one at knock off the he put as 950lbs. This was his second double-big-fish day of the season having another big fish day on Lena Reef mid season, releasing two that he put over the ma rk as well as a third in the 500lb range, a day after he released 6 including yet another big fish.
On his second to last day of the season and before taking his charge Amokura south to the Gold Coast at season’s end, Capt. Brett Goetze recorded his best day going 8 from 9 including a nice one in the 850lbs range. He followed up the next day, his final day with his last fish of the season at 950lbs. Brett said in addition to ending on a high note, 2018 was a season of PBs for him. He had his most bites in a single day (14 bites releasing 6) as well as his biggest ever season total and number of fish caught.
Capt. Tom Francis’s Ultimate Lady also marked his final trip with a day to remember. Fishing slightly wider of Linden Bank he released three big blacks as well as a blue marlin in a hot bite over several hours before lunch. Unfortunately they pulled the hooks on two more big blacks in the afternoon that would have put what was already an amazing day into legendary status!
No matter which way you look back on season 2018 it was one that will be remembered for quite some time. As always in addition to the big and noteworthy fish, there was an abundance of small blacks in the 100-300lb range which bodes well for future seasons.
We can’t wait to see what season 2019 will bring!