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Big changes at Norval
  |  First Published: October 2016



The MV Norval, the only charter boat that specialises in fishing the remote Marion Reef in the Coral Sea, is being revamped! For starters, there’s a new skipper, Adam Cheers – a young gun with years of experience fishing the northern reefs. Whether you want to bottom bash for reefies, troll for dogtooth or do some jigging, Adam will be happy to accommodate you.

Norval owner Ron Murphy is also sourcing a 6m+ tender skippered by a guide. This will give clients the choice between fishing with the guide, doing their own thing in one of the 4.2m dories, or staying on the mothership.

I fished with Norval earlier this year, and I really enjoyed the bottom fishing and pelagic trolling we did on the mothership. However, luring the reefs from a dory was the highlight of my trip. It’s paradise out there, and the strikes are very different from those you get on bait. The fish absolutely smash the lures, and it’s heart-pounding stuff!

On this trip I shared a dory with Rick from Seaya Boats and Redcliffe Marine. He’s an expert at shallow water luring, and we had an absolute blast. There isn’t room in this article to cover everything we did, so I’ll focus on what lures we used and how to work them, so you have an idea of what to bring on your Norval adventure.

REEF LURING

When you’re chasing the likes of coral trout, it’s all about the pressure points – locations where current pushes against structure, such as a reef edge or bommie. This is where you’ll find the bait and the predators. The predators like to sit just out of the main current, waiting to ambush baitfish that get swept past. You can fish these spots by anchoring just in front of them and feeding out a bait or working a lure towards the reef edge or bommie.

At Marion we found a large pressure point created by a gap in the reef. It allowed the current to pour through, clashing with an upwell rising from the below the reef ledge. Visually, it was a mishmash of every kind of water imaginable – shallow and deep, green and blue, smooth and rough.

In a location like this, the bottom feeders like holding in back eddies and slow water whirlpools, feeding off what comes through into the backwater, including scraps from feeding pelagics above. Pelagics can be found pretty much everywhere; wherever there is bait being brought through the upwell, the pelagics will be there. As soon as you see bait on the sounder, you’ll find the predators. At the time the dories didn’t have sounders (the new dories do), so we trolled around to find the fish.

Some of the best lures were micro jigs. We mostly used 30-80g Samakis and Tactical Fishing jigs, but anything that has a nice, slow flutter, and which you can rip hard when you need to, will catch fish in the right spot. We worked them as we drifted along the edge of the pressure point, and the fish went nuts over them. We lost a lot of gear to trout, GTs and sharks, but that’s par for the course in a place like this.

Plastics also caught their share. Two models that worked for us were the ZMan 4” DieZel MinnowZ and 5-7” JerkShadZ. You need to mix up your retrieves to see what works on the day; e.g. try one big lift and slowly lower the rod, or make a number of smaller hops.

Another gun soft lure was the Zerek Fish Trap curl-tail vibe. You need only small lifts of the rod tip to work these lures, creating the vibrations that draw the strikes.

And while we’re on the subject of vibrations, it’s also worth trying metal vibes. Rick used TTs Switchblades, and got fish using both short lifts and big lifts.

When it comes to surface lures, it’s not all about big poppers. Lots of our fish came on stickbaits, such as the Asari GT, Gladiator Searcher, and Rapala Long Cast Shallow. We trolled them as well as casting and retrieving, and caught a wide range of species.

Last but not least are the diving minnows, such as Barra Classics, Rapala X-Raps and RMG Scorpions. These were fantastic around the shallows, where we trolled them past tidal pressure points.

We lost count of the species we caught – everything from trout to GTs to jobfish. It wasn’t all about the fishing though; just being in such a pristine location is heavenly. Marion is stunning, with azure water, vibrant reefs and gorgeous coral cays. It’s also an amazing place to dive and snorkel, with visibility to 30m.

THE MOTHERSHIP

Back on the mothership, the focus was on bottom fishing, and we also trolled for pelagics between drops. There’s a great atmosphere on board, with lots of laughter and good-natured ribbing. It’s hard not to be happy when so many great-eating reefies are hitting the deck, or when big mackerel and tuna are smashing lures.

Between the 12 of us we caught over 20 species – everything from dogtooth tuna to trout and emperors. You just never know what you’ll hook next, which is one of the best things about a trip like this.

ABOUT NORVAL

Norval operates from Airlie Beach in QLD. This 60ft boat is a long-range specialist, travelling 200nm from land to remote reefs in the Coral Sea including Marion, Diamond Islets, Flinders Reef and Aventong Reef. The boat has spacious, undercover back and side decks, providing miles of fishing room. Clients enjoy home-cooked meals, air-conditioned cabins, hot showers and FREE beer!

For more information and videos, check out www.norvalcharters.com.au. I can confidently say you’ll get an unforgettable experience on this boat!
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