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Bring on the Billfish
  |  First Published: November 2010



Finally some billfish to report! However, the limited run of small black marlin in tropical North Queensland is a bit of a worry for South East Queensland anglers.

Early in September, Sunshine Coast anglers were treated to a good bite of large size black marlin on the 18 mile grounds. These fish were feasting on some large slimy mackerel schools. Mixed in were a couple of sailfish but the blacks were all 50-120kg with the odd striped marlin.

The 34’ Black Watch Ymer even decked a 23kg mahi mahi, which is a pending Australian and Queensland record on 8kg line class for Daniel Smith.

Local charter boat the 34’ Black Watch Outside Edge set the ball rolling for this action. They had a three fish day then last year’s QGFA champions Reel Capture went the day after claiming the first billfish of the season crown for angler Jeff Oates.

Gavin Hancox’s customised Markham Whaler Slack Attack did a stack of fishing during this bite but was unable to capitalise on a bit of mid week fishing coming up short every time with a few hard luck stories. But boats to make hay while the sun shined included Ymer, Tanjian and Thunderbird. As soon as this bite faded, a mix of black marlin and sailfish turned up on the Coolum grounds and also the 10 mile pilchard schools off Mooloolaba.

The pilchard schools, with the sailfish in attendance, are hanging in there even as I write this and they made for some great statistics for the Sunshine Coast Spring Shootout Tournament. Twenty-four competing boats tagged 84 sailfish over two days, seven mahi mahi exceeded the 8kg breaking strain used with the heaviest going 22.3kg and will be submitted for a record for Greg Tuckwell in case Dan Smith’s doesn’t get up.

Gold Coast boat Cabolero also tagged a striped marlin heavy tackle while fishing north to Mooloolaba to win the heavy tackle prizes. Grant Cooper fishing on Reel Capture scooped all the angler prizes and the boat prizes for owner Craig McCulloch. The Reel Capture team tagged 14 sailfish and also had a line class mahi mahi.

It was no surprise to see Ymer come in second with 11 tagged sailfish and they seem to be perennial bridesmaids to Reel Capture at the moment. Junior Dan Brooks on Ymer took out the junior prizes and Aimee Brooks on Ymer the female prizes.

The 35’ Carribean Bangalee snuck in for third overall, edging out a couple of the under 6.5m class boats. Appropriately named 5.8m Fisher centre console Sailfisher took out that class for owner/skipper BJ Tompkins ably assisted by Conor Lynch. New kids on the block, Raising the Game in their first tournament gave everyone a scare early racing away to a good lead trolling out of their trailerboat but once the bite went to live baiting they were swamped by the more experienced boats. They hung in to take out runners-up in the under 6.5m category.

The week following the tournament the sailfish continued to bite and I was lucky enough to get stuck into them releasing nine for the week on charter. Plenty of other club boats were out and the SCGFC are already up to 75 tagged billfish for the year. This should see them do well in the QGFA and GFAA awards once again.

At the SCGFC end of year presentations recently it was no surprise to see Jeff Oates take out most of the angler categories for the club and QGFA, and Reel Capture the boat awards. Ymer were second once again.

GFAA awards will be awarded soon and it should be no surprise to see Jeff and Reel Capture figure in these, short of someone from Broome or Exmouth in Western Australia having a massive year on the fishing front.

In north Queensland the tournaments are being won on the resident sailfish in the paddock areas between the main land and the reef. There appears to be no good run of juvenile black marlin even though there was a small bite in the Whitsundays, their winter resting area.

The good news is the heavy tackle fishing off Cairns is going great and they had a good run of good weather. SE trade winds have set in now and the fleet is fishing in some ordinary conditions but come November when the doldrums and tuna aggregation start the fishing should be red hot.

Unfortunately there is no good news for Gold Coast gamefish anglers other than for good size mahi mahi on the heavy tackle grounds. These are all good fish over 20kg and a 40kg one was dropped near the gaff by a SCGFC vessel at Noosa Canyons around the same time. Some sailfish have also been caught and seen along the front of Moreton with fellow charter boat operator John Gooding releasing one for his customers recently. A commercial fisherman I know with a gamefish background also reported seeing a black marlin at Hutchison Shoal this past month.

All winter the water temperature has been exceptionally high and it might not be long before we see some black marlin coming south. Shane Steer a local charter boat skipper has always said we have okay years down here in the years Townsville misses out. That was certainly true last season when the Sunshine Coast experienced a great run of billfish when they became trapped in a current eddy that lasted months in our region. Throw in some good bait schools and they don’t readily move off the feed if it is there.

Later this month will see the Hervey Bay tournament on the weekend of the 19-21 November and the Mooloolaba Gamefish Club Billfish Bash will be held the weekend after on the 27-28 November. These tournaments are usually well timed for the start of the run of juvenile summer black marlin. Last year Hervey Bay also experienced an exceptional blue marlin bite.

For me on charter this is a transition period. The winter reef species have been hit hard all winter and are a bit shell shocked and tough to get and my attention is usually drawn to kingfish on live baits. There is a chance spotty and Spanish mackerel may have turned up, but I have also had good soft plastic fishing for snapper under the bonito and jelly bean mac tuna schools right up to December.

I’ve experienced a surprisingly good snapper bite in February and March under the bait schools on bait, both live and dead, so it is not all doom and gloom. My old boat’s record snapper also came in early January despite the tough reef fishing over summer.

Give me a call at South Queensland Charter Services on 0407 574 868 or check out my website, (www.sqcs.com.au) to keep up to date with what I am catching.

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