Black are back for marlin mayhem
  |  First Published: December 2014

This month should be a sensational one for chasing small black marlin on the inshore grounds off the Gold Coast. With earlier great fishing around Hervey Bay, the southern push of the East Australian Current will see huge numbers of 15-40kg black marlin arrive on the Gold Coast this month.

If the water stays warm these little blacks should be easily accessible in depths from as close as the 12 fathom line this month. If you haven’t caught a marlin before, this is the time to get out there and catch your first one. Good areas to try include the area just north of Jumpinpin Bar, Sullies, Point Lookout, the artificial reefs just north of the Seaway and the Gravel Patch east of Burleigh Heads.

There are many ways to catch these fish. It can be as simple as drifting a live bait out the back just off the Seaway through to trolling teasers and pitching a rigged bait to a fish that has been attracted to the teaser. Lure trolling is probably the most popular method but has a lower hook up rate than bait fishing. Good lures to troll include small Pakulas, Meridians and the locally made Black Snacks that are deadly on these fish. The small Hotlips by Black Snacks has been getting great results this season. I find the best hooks to use on small marlin are 10/0 Gamakatsu saltwater fly hooks in a double hook rig with the back hook rigged on wire in case of wahoo or mackerel. We troll these lures on 8-10kg tackle.

The key to consistently catching small black marlin is to find bait schools. When there are big aggregations of slimies and pilchards around, the marlin won’t be far away. In these situations a slowly trolled live bait generally out-fishes lures. Use circle hooks when live baiting. It gives a more secure hook-up and is less damaging to the fish. I expect catches of up to 10 or more small black marlin in a day to be quite common this month and it looks like we are in for a great season.

Out wider there have been plenty of decent blue marlin turning up and most boats have been getting between 1-5 bites in a session averaging around 150kg. These fish have been biting well on the 200-250m line between latitudes 2740 and 2800. There have been plenty of big mahimahi on the wide grounds as well and a lot of flying fish.

The mackerel should also turn up this month although it is rare to have a season where both Spanish mackerel and marlin are common. The spotted mackerel generally show up on Palm Beach Reef in time for the school holidays and as the month goes on there should be more Spanish mackerel showing in the same area. Small marlin also like to visit Palm Beach Reef so don’t be too surprised when your pilchard takes off and you find yourself connected to a leaping billfish.

As the current is generally strong, bottom fishing will be difficult this month, but recently there was a late run of snapper on the 36 fathom line and the 50 Fathom Reef has been producing plenty of big kingfish and a few amberjack. For the trolling angler this area produces quite a few wahoo in January with the odd monster over 25kg turning up on the wider grounds.


As the water temperature in the Broadwater is generally over 25ºC this month most of the better fishing takes place early in the morning or at dusk and into the night. Target species this month include whiting, mangrove jack, mulloway and trevally. The crabbing should also be good and there have been plenty of big sand crabs throughout the entire Broadwater over the past 2 months.

I like chasing big whiting on poppers in January. The best areas to work are any shallow flats where there is soft sand and plenty of yabby and worm holes. It is amazing how aggressive a whiting can be when it comes to chasing a surface lure. The key is to make the lure imitate a fleeing prawn, and the retrieve needs to be fast. Ideally the lures should spit beads of water in front of it as you work it. Never slow the retrieve down.

I use a mix of stick baits and poppers. My favourite is the Bass Day Sugarpen, an expensive but very effective whiting lure. I usually do my whiting fishing on lures while I’m waiting for my crab pots to load up, and the upper end of Coombabah Creek has been a good spot for big whiting with quite a few between 35 and 40cm turning up in this area on poppers. Three or four good whiting and half a dozen muddies and sandies makes a great meal for a family for relatively little effort.

There have been plenty of good mangrove jack around and most are being caught working soft plastics and hardbodied minnows around the thousands of floating pontoons in the Gold Coast canals. Quite a few fish over 50cm have been caught in the last month and these should continue throughout January. When there is an afternoon build-up of cloud and the humidity is high, the jacks become more active. The Coomera system has been the most productive area this season.

Drifting live baits or fishing deep soft plastics in the Jumpinpin entrance and in the Seaway should produce mulloway, trevally and the odd flathead this month. Most of the mulloway in summer tend to be smaller fish with only a few bigger than the 75cm minimum size limit. There have been quite a few decent yellowtail kings in this area as well.

Overall, January looks like it will be a great month off the Gold Coast for black marlin and if the weather patterns are stable we should enjoy great fishing this month. Have a happy New Year and tight lines!

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