Another marlin season has come and gone. While it was better than the 2008 season, 2009 certainly wasn't the action-packed billfish smorgasbord that many had hoped for.
The Banks produced a few fish from early February to April but even on the best days it was patchy. There were a few days with half a dozen blacks hooked but considering there were anything up to 20 or 25 boats slow-trolling or drifting with live slimies, with many fishing until 4pm or 5pm, that's not a great result.
A few lessons were learnt by those who kept their eyes open or were prepared to listen.
Those who kept their trace sizes down seemed to do a lot better and get more baits eaten. We started off using 300lb Momoi Extra Hard but within 10 minutes of putting a bait out on 250lb Marlin Ultra Hard, we hooked up.
There's no doubt in my mind that trace size, or lack of it, contributed to more hook-ups.
Many anglers were still fishing with the mindset that you need heavy and thick trace material to catch marlin but with circle hooks now mandatory for any anglers fishing to NSWGFA rules for live baits, you can get away with lighter trace material.
The issue of circle hooks and trace size for marlin came up quite often on various chat forums last Summer. Some anglers were tearing their hair out at spending countless hours out there and investing a lot of time and money, only to lose just about every fish by not hooking up or having circle hooks come loose after anything up to half an hour.
I even heard some guys saying that they'd be going back to ‘J’ hooks and not claiming their fish for pointscores. We lost a couple of fish to circles coming out this season but we also missed quite a few fish while dragging lures around.
There is definitely a bit to learn and a few factors to take into account when you use circle hooks on marlin.
At present the general consensus relies on matching the hook size to the bait. On big slimies we're fishing Eagle Claw L2004G in 10/0 circles and 9/0s on smaller baits.
We're fishing with 250lb and 300lb Jinkai trace material at the moment because it's softer and bends easily. This allows the hook to roll into the corner of the jaw as the line comes up tight.
Stiff and heavy leader material tends to push the hook clear of the corner of the mouth as the lines comes up tight on the hook set.
Leave a fair bit of length between the hook and the bridled bait. We sometimes use light braid and I like to have about 6cm to 8cm from the bait’s nose to the hook.
Another alternative is to use No 32 elastic bands that will stretch or, better still, break and allow the hook completely free movement as it comes out of the marlin’s mouth.
Don't strike or drive the boat forward when you hook up. Give the fish about 20 to 30 seconds to swallow the bait under minimum pressure, then slowly ease the drag up as the fish is taking line.
This operation needs to be as slow and gentle as you can make it and it should take you about 10 seconds to ease the drag lever from free spool to strike.
As the rod loads, lift it slowly and allow it to fold away as the drag takes up. Once the fish is taking line, get stuck in and just fight it like you normally would.
In between chasing marlin on The Banks and the shelf we managed to catch some kings to 90cm on live baits and jigs.
The better fish were taken on downrigged live slimies while chasing black marlin at The Banks but we also jigged quite a few in Jervis Bay to 75cm.
The old kingfish is a great sport fish. They just pull that hard and never fail to put on a good fight. My daughter Rebecca had a ball jigging for them in JB with mini-jigs over a threadline outfit.
They also taste pretty good on the barbecue or in curries.
There should be a few decent kings about at present with the colder water arriving. I reckon we'll be out having a sniff around The Banks with downrigged live slimies. If they're around in numbers we'll be breaking out the jigs.
As you can see from the photos hereabouts, the jewies are on.
April through June is the prime time to chase one from the beaches and it's also worth fishing in the river with baits or plastics.
Martin Brewster is a mate from Wollongong who fishes the local beaches for jewies. The 30-pounder in the photo is his best fish to date.
Jim Hefferan is mate from Nowra who spends way too much time fishing the Shoalhaven River with lures for bream, bass, flathead and jew.
His recent catch of an 11.2kg jew on a plastic is his best fish and it was taken while fishing for bream near the Comerong ferry. After a fight of two hours and 25 minutes, Jim was pretty happy to finally get a decent jew on a lure, especially on bream gear.
Ironically, he'd been fishing heavier gear earlier that day for jew and decided to go lighter for a bream.
Martin Brewster, of Wollongong, with a 15kg jewie from a local beach.
Nowra angler Jim Hefferan with his first jewie on a plastic from the Shoalhaven River. It was taken on 6lb Fireline and took 2½ hours to land.
Craig Owen doing his best to get a marlin jump shot as Rebecca Finney fights an 80kg black on 15kg tackle.
There's been some good inshore jigging action in recent months and it should continue into Winter. Jervis Bay and The Banks have been producing fish on jigs.Reads: 2694