I find it is always those unexpected sessions that turn out to be the most fun – unplanned and spontaneous fishing adventures that you would often overlook through a simple lack of curiosity.
I had one such session on Lynden Bank in the Coral Sea during the Cairns giant black marlin season just recently. It is no secret that Lynden Bank is a great place to skip or swim big baits in hope of a giant black marlin at the right time of the year, which was the primary aim of the two weeks I spent aboard Michael Kirby’s game boat Gale Force in November.
With provisions and fuel for a week at a time we would camp on the outer reef amongst dozens of other charter and private fishing vessels. Mornings were spent collecting fresh baits such as mackerel, scad, and all manner of tuna; by the afternoon they’d be professionally rigged and skipping away merrily, just waiting for the big girl to bite. This was standard practice, day-in-and-day-out; sure the location would change as the bite moved to other areas, but if you wanted that giant black marlin then this routine was gospel.
It wasn’t until one morning as we trolled over the Continental Shelf on top Lynden Bank, when Michael marked a fair sized school of fish some 100m deep in 120m of water. These markings were present in the same spot weeks earlier and had not moved since. Curiosity finally got the better of us as we scrambled for the 50lb and 80lb jigging outfits and whatever jigs we could find. I tied on a 250g Williamson Abyss jig in chartreuse and dropped it to the depths.
Friend and first mate Daniel Kirby struck the bottom before I did and hooked up almost instantly as he initiated his retrieve. I engaged my bail arm, “Jig, jig… WHACK!” The rod was nearly torn from my hands as 24kg of drag pulled tight on my Salina 3. We both looked at each other and smiled as if to say, “We’ve stumbled upon a gold mine!” Daniel turned his fish and after a tough battle a nice amberjack was on the deck, closely followed by my large rosy jobfish.
Double and triple hook ups became the norm; some fish were landed though many were not. Anything less that 80lb tackle was stowed away and drags set as high as they could go… yet it still wasn’t enough. No drop ever resulted in the same species; a combination of amberjack, yellowfin tuna, dogtooth tuna, rosy jobfish, green jobfish and more came up at any one time.
It was quite a unique experience witnessing these different fish being caught from the same school. With some tuna caught, it also proved to be a successful bait collecting mission for the afternoon’s marlin fishing.
This action was happening amidst tens of boats trolling for marlin, with each skipper keenly watching the next for any sign of a billfish hook up usually signalled by a boat gearing to reverse. As we were the only boat engaged in anything other than marlin fishing, I can only imagine what the other skippers were thinking as we continued to go backwards in order to remain on the bite.
It made sense that these fish were here. The underwater structure was very undulated, with deep chasms and rising pinnacles; providing cover for smaller fish and in turn food for the larger fish that we were targeting.
With a current of approximately 1-2 knots and a depth of 100-150m we found that jigs of 250g and heavier were necessary to reach the bottom; as well as the skipper remaining at the helm to constantly position the boat correctly over the school of fish and to ensure the jigs descended at an appropriate angle.
Williamson Abyss and Vortex jigs worked well due to their ease of use and minimal effort required to impart the correct action, though many other similarly shaped jigs were also employed. While the assist hooks that many jigs come with are fine for most species, I would recommend re-rigging them with wire assist hooks if you know there are toothy creatures in the area.
Using 80lb tackle was minimum; big spinning reels such as the Okuma Salina 3 16000 paired to 37kg jig sticks with a quality metered braid like Sufix Matrix Pro work well, although I did wish we had something even heavier after being driven from mid water into the reef by what I can only assume to be a large dogtooth tuna.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the square wherever you fish. Take a jigging rod if you are heading offshore to target pelagic fish; pack an extra metal slice if you are planning a bait fishing session. Keep your options open, be alert and if you see something that looks promising on your sounder while travelling to your planned fishing destination, stop and have a go. It could turn out to be the highlight of your day.Reads: 2239