Marlin fever
  |  First Published: December 2016

As we enter into another new year with new adventures around the corner, it’s time to reflect upon the great end we had to 2016. Last year’s season rounded off in a fine fashion with a good return of big black marlin coming to the fore, from the early parts of November right into the December. After a lackluster start in October, the marlin aggregation came beautifully together, with reports of fish being tagged and released on a fairly regular basis. As with any form of fishing, there can be quiet periods, but when the bites began, it was game on!

Operations were registering on average 1-2 blacks per day, for up to a week at a time. Most of the big fish were tagged at the Opal Ridge and Linden Banks over the last month or so, with quite a few surpassing the magical 1000lb mark. Overall there were consistent numbers of marlin between the 250lb-300lb range, with a solid contribution from fish going between the 500lb-700lb scale this season. This region can boast the best marlin fishery in the world thanks to this late season bite. The last of the big marlin tournaments was the Port Douglas Marlin Challenge in mid November over four consecutive days, where there were 29 strikes, 26 hook-ups and 16 marlin tagged, with three fish estimated over 1000lb. Nowhere else in the world will you see fish caught this size at such a good strike rate. This is the reason why you have up to 40 world-class game boats anchored up over night at the Opal Reefs each evening. They are living and breathing on the doorstep of fishing immortality.

On a much more subtle scale, there have been other forms of fishing worth mentioning. Starting with the reef, it has been a challenging few weeks as temperatures begin to really soar. The fishing has been sporadic, especially around the spawning periods, but the best reports have come from fishing not as far out to sea as you think. Deep pinnacles in between the outer reef and the mainland have produced huge numbers of largemouth nannygai, up to 20+ fish in a session, all between the 4kg-8kg scope. On the outer reef itself it has mainly been coral trout, Moses perch, spangled emperor, tea-leaf and bludger trevally, stripies and some pretty handy cobia, which have been around in superior numbers this year. Notably, the Spanish mackerel dried up, barring the odd big rogue mackerel, which live a lonesome life often exceeding 20kg in size.

Inshore, the rivers and creeks have been putting out some consistent catches on mangrove jack during the day, in amongst the shady mangrove banks and some good golden snapper at night in the deeper holes. There’s been a good stream of trevally in most of our systems, and of good size up to 3kg. They have been tending to wander in with the incoming tide and have been most active when this tide coincides with early morning or late afternoon. By the early part of December we are still yet to see a consistent run of rain, in fact the landscape is like kindling, and very dry. They are saying we are supposed to receive a proper wet season this summer, but we’ll have to wait and see. If the long hot dry spell extends, it generally means the fishing will slow down gradually until there is a change in the atmosphere.

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