Trolling up a storm
  |  First Published: February 2005

Last year was good on the whole, although the area suffered with an influx of bait and the reef fish didn’t bite as readily – I assume they were having a nice time feeding on the large schools of bait. As the large schools of tuna, mackerel and marlin moved in they dispersed the bait schools and we started catching reef fish again. The bait must have become harder for the reef fish to catch with the increased competition.

Since the pros stopped netting for mackerel I have noticed a huge increase in the amount of small mackerel on the reefs. It has made it so much easier to catch these fish on small Raiders and slugs. The macks just sit on the reef and clean up anything that passes them, and this makes for very exciting fishing.

I was also excited to see the large number of small black marlin moving off 1770, Bundaberg and Burrum Heads. I often wonder if this can be attributed to the reduced effort in net fishing along our coastline. If so, I can’t wait to see the result over the next decade. We may see more pelagic species like marlin, dolphinfish and wahoo in close to the coast.


The reef fishing in 2003 saw some nice coral trout and red emperor caught during the Christmas season. Last year was no different, with some huge trout being caught two days before Christmas.

I went out with my deckies Dave Woollard and Alex Zorgati, and we had a lot of fun catching a feed for a Boxing Day BBQ we were having. The fishing started off slow, and then Alex (who hadn’t caught a fish all day) pulled up a large coral trout of around 10kg.

Dave, not to be outdone, caught two around the same size straight after. These joined the parrotfish, sweetlip and hussar in the esky and we made an early return home with plenty of fish. The BBQ was great, with some green prawns and scallops accompanying the fish.

Large schools of spotted and school mackerel are all along the western side of Fraser Island and all over the reefs in the bay and right up the coast off Bundaberg and 1770. They are great sport on light gear and aren’t bad to eat as well.


We had a charter with some people from Adelaide who wanted to catch mackerel and tuna without going out into the rough sea, so we took them up the western side of Fraser Island trolling.

The day started with plenty of spotted mackerel, tuna and so forth. Once we reached Rooney’s Point at the northwestern point of Fraser Island I knew we were in for a real treat as large schools of bait were flicking the surface.

On the first pass past Rooney’s the reel screamed and a black marlin leapt out of the water – a healthy juvenile of around 50kg. It gave us a great fight on the 8kg line but after 20 minutes it was at the side of the boat. It was tagged, brought on board for a photo and released in a very active and healthy state. This was our first marlin inside the bay and I was surprised at its size; most reports were of 20-30kg specimens inside the bay. It just shows that with a bit of local knowledge you can catch a small marlin inside the bay. You don’t need a big boat either, as the area is protected from all but the northwesterly winds.

With the weather looking good for the weekend I decided to take my wife and kids up to the northern end of Fraser Island to experience a bit of light tackle gamefishing. As we travelled up the inside of the island we hooked a good mack tuna of about 8kg and the very next fish was a Spanish mackerel.

The day continued to improve, with wahoo and dolphinfish hitting the lures. All of them were large, with the biggest dolphinfish we released being over five feet long and the wahoo averaging 10kg.

And things only got better. As we hit one of our favourite sailfish spots we were inundated by schools of black marlin and sailfish, and we hooked up to 12 and lost another 10 in a two-hour session. If we’d had a full crew of anglers we probably would have handled the multiple hook-ups a lot better. My six-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter were overwhelmed with excitement as they stood beside me in the fly bridge watching the marlin and sailfish swimming right up to the transom, but they didn’t feel confident to tackle billfish; they had already done all right with small macks and tuna. My wife wore herself out fighting these fish and our deckie was run off his feet trying to clear the gear.

The big GTs are still pulling their heads off around the spit reefs. Anglers are having great fun on these fish by blooping poppers on top of the schools of bait that inundate the bommies.


The waters off Bundaberg and Fraser Island will be full of billfish, dolphinfish and big pelagics for at least the month ahead. We are really hoping to do some heavy tackle fishing in February and try for the first 1000lb fish off Fraser Island and Bundaberg.

Watch-Tower will head off to Cairns for the marlin season in September 2005 and then off to Ken Reef to fish some of the most isolated reef in the world. We will be working with a mother ship with full catering facilities. If you’d like to join us, give us a call ASAP at Bundaberg Fishing Charters on (07) 4159 0995 or 0427 590 995 as bookings are filling fast.


1) Alex Zorgati, Sheryl, Peter and David with a small black marlin caught at Rooney’s Point.

2) Dave Woolard with a big trout on Kato.

3) Alex Zorgati and Deb and Tom Wood with a dolphinfish caught on Watch-Tower.

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