June 4, 2023
Ringed by coral reefs, the whole area is house to a really promising fishery.

When a sequence of scientific experiences detailing Japanese business longline catches alongside Australia’s Nice Barrier Reef was launched by the federal government of Japan in 1965, the experiences not solely specified how prolific the billfish have been off Cairns, however additionally they revealed that the southern reaches of the reef off Bundaberg additionally produced megatons of billfish and tuna yearly. That they had inadvertently found a brand new fishery.

A look on the Queensland marine chart reveals that the southern finish of the reef is located proper on the sting of Australia’s continental shelf. Earlier than the 200-mile business no-fishing zone was enforced in 1979, the Japanese longline fleet plundered this space, catching not solely giant portions of black marlin, however blue marlin and the a lot sought-after striped marlin as properly.

Watch: We present you the right way to rig the most effective baits for blue marlin: the swimming mackerel.

High quality and Amount

Since these early experiences got here to gentle, the primary Australian fishermen to search out out simply how fishy these grounds between Fraser Island and Girl Musgrave Reef actually are have been the southern Queensland skilled constitution captains as they headed to and from Cairns for the heavy-tackle black marlin season. To preserve gasoline, these vessels would normally chug alongside at a cost-effective 8 to 10 knots. In fact, this ultimate trolling velocity allowed these guys to run a few lures and, very often from the Gold Coast or Brisbane, they hardly ever obtained a chunk till they reached the grounds off Fraser Island. From there and all the best way up previous Girl Musgrave Reef, their journeys have been regularly interrupted by screaming reels, typically leading to double hookups on billfish. Returning to their southern ports from Cairns, the situation repeated itself as they handed alongside this ­productive stretch of water.

A vector map of Australia.
Girl Musgrave is northeast of the coastal group of Seventeen Seventy.

Relying on the time of yr, the bites would come within the type of both striped marlin or a mixture of blacks and blues. This wonderful fishery was talked about for years among the many southern constitution fleet, but it surely’s been solely previously decade or so {that a} handful of captains have taken benefit of the fishing. The few vessels which have spent a while significantly working these grounds have reported excellent catches, and remarkably, two large grander-size black marlin have been caught as properly.

So simply how good can the fishing be on this space of the southern reef? Capt. Tim Richardson, who runs the 49-foot Custom, caught a 1,054-pounder off Girl Musgrave Reef in late November a couple of years again. The next yr, the Gold Coast-based 54-foot Viking Too Simple ­II, owned by Rob Crane and skippered by Capt. Russell Gage, spent a while on these grounds in November and caught a monstrous black marlin going 1,431 kilos. This beast missed out knocking off the long-standing Australian heavy-tackle document caught by Capt. Peter B. Wright off Cairns in 1973 by only a few kilos. One other Gold Coast constitution vessel, Mistress, additionally had nice fishing off the southern reef. In a single brief season alone, father and son captains Brett and Barry Alty fished simply 44 days; throughout this time, they tagged and launched 87 blue marlin, 20 black marlin and 7 striped marlin. In addition they fought and misplaced two big blues over the 1,000-pound mark; even their bycatch of massive mahi, wahoo and ­yellowfin tuna was greater than spectacular.

A crewmate pulling a marlin boatside.
The Cairns constitution boats have been a number of the first to fish the productive stretch of water from Fraser Island to Girl Musgrave, the place they discovered good fishing for blue, black and striped marlin.

Distant and Wild

Fishing these grounds out large of the reef ­presents captains and crews with two points, specifically the altering climate circumstances and the lengthy runs to succeed in the world. Day journeys from the 2 closest ports are actually not an possibility; from Hervey Bay to the fishing grounds off Fraser Island is a run of about 75 nautical miles. This specific journey can be fairly hazardous due to the maze of sandbars and slim channels that have to be fastidiously negotiated across the inside and prime finish of Fraser Island. It’s not a visit to be taken flippantly.

Farther north, the journey from Bundaberg or the city of Seventeen Seventy out to Girl Musgrave Reef is definitely so much simpler, but it surely’s nonetheless a 65-mile run; and even when the climate is common, it’s a protracted, uncomfortable journey on the open ocean. Circumstances can change each day, and even hourly. The opposite subject is that there isn’t any place to refuel or have entry to contemporary water, so boats that intend to remain for an prolonged journey must be utterly self-sufficient.

Right this moment, there are nonetheless solely a handful of vessels from the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Mooloolaba and Hervey Bay fishing these grounds. When climate patterns are favorable, a couple of well-set-up offshore trailer boats from Hervey Bay be part of the larger sport-fishers on the grounds. The trailer boats will load up with additional gasoline, water and provisions, and, like most vessels, they can use the lee of Fraser Island as an in a single day anchorage with a purpose to prolong their fishing time. Relying on the wind or swell course, both Orchard Seaside behind Waddy Level on the northeast tip of the island or Platypus Bay on the higher northwestern facet are the 2 anchorages closest to the fishing grounds. Even then, it’s nonetheless an excellent 30-mile run out towards the continental shelf drop-off earlier than you begin fishing. From Fraser Island as much as Girl Musgrave Reef, it’s a distance of about 100 miles.

A sunset over the ocean of Fraser Island.
The northern finish of Fraser Island gives a considerably protected anchorage for boats fishing the southern Nice Barrier Reef.

Sport On

For a few years, I had heard and browse all of the experiences from these wonderful grounds and have even reviewed a replica of the previous Japanese longline statistics from the world. I’ve been as much as Fraser Island for its famend light-tackle fishing many occasions, however I’d by no means skilled the offshore grounds till not too long ago. In prime-time November a couple of years in the past, I managed to journey together with Capt. Bobby Jones on the 65-foot Precision Merlin.

Jones is now retired after 40 years {of professional} constitution fishing off the Queensland coast. All of his action-packed years of chugging and trolling via this specific space whereas en path to Cairns and again made him extraordinarily all for doing a little severe fishing there sooner or later. The season earlier than my journey, he took Merlin and tagged and launched sufficient blue marlin to encourage him to have one other go at it.

A sport-fishing angler holding up a dolphin fish.
Jumbo wahoo and dolphin are at all times a welcome bycatch.

We cruised the 200 miles from the Gold Coast as much as the lee of Fraser Island to spend the night time in ultimate circumstances. The following morning, our first run out to the offshore grounds was definitely attention-grabbing as we handed via the nasty hazard zone 4 miles east of the island, the place sandbanks and slim channels need to be fastidiously navigated. As soon as away from the shallows, the underside dropped away rapidly, and the ocean took on a pleasant cobalt-blue coloration, with outstanding present strains stretching so far as you would see.

The circumstances regarded so tempting that the crew put out a variety of lures in 70 fathoms, and inside minutes, we caught a big mahi—contemporary fish for dinner. By the point we reached 90 fathoms, we had our first blue marlin hookup, and Jones’ spouse, Lorraine, was within the preventing chair going to work on a vigorous 400-pounder. She did an incredible job, and the blue was rapidly tagged and launched in good situation a short time later.

That was the beginning of some practically ­out-of-control marlin motion. We tagged and launched six blues, with loads of different missed bites and some pulled hooks as properly. A few different Gold Coast vessels working the world close by additionally had loads of bites. Through the week, Too Simple II had an incredible time, with greater than a dozen blue marlin hookups in sooner or later; they tagged and launched 9 blues as much as 600 kilos. That’s world-class billfishing in ­anybody’s language.

An angler pulling a large marlin boatside.
A selection of lures permits boats to cowl extra floor as they troll out large of the reef.
Kelly Dalling Fallon

Heavy Deal with, Wild Fish

We have been all fishing heavy 130-pound deal with simply in case a giant blue turned up. One profit to utilizing this measurement gear whereas catching the typical 300- to 500-pounders was that the battle occasions have been brief and candy, and all of the marlin we launched have been in prime situation. Australian crews additionally make each effort to tag their fish, insisting that it’s not an official launch till it’s tagged. One blue we caught had clearly been hooked and damaged off within the space a bit of earlier as a result of it nonetheless had a contemporary chief hanging from its mouth. This vigorous 400-pounder went berserk once we punched a tag in its shoulder, and we had no probability of eradicating the hooks with out attainable harm to both the marlin or a crewman, but it surely simply goes to indicate that these wild billfish will rapidly eat one other bait after a earlier encounter.

Learn Subsequent: Get to know a number of the photographers who’ve contributed to the distinctive look of Marlin over time.

Day-after-day for greater than per week, we loved nice climate circumstances as we labored our method north. We additionally misplaced rely of the bites we had alongside what we had now christened the Marlin Freeway. We not solely tagged a stack of blue marlin, but in addition had sufficient jumbo mahi and large wahoo to maintain the crew leaping. Our largest blue of the journey was estimated at 550 kilos. This fish went completely loopy, rocketing previous the facet of boat, tail-walking the whole method. Jones had his arms full attempting to spin the 65-footer round in time to forestall the road from dragging alongside, however after some world-class maneuvering, we have been capable of spin into place and again on the fish for an additional fast tag-and-release.

In years to return, these productive grounds are sure to supply many Australian and line-class world information for all three billfish species, merely due to the sheer variety of alternatives. The Gold Coast vessel French Look III has been near the mark many occasions on blue and striped marlin information, and the large 1,431-pound black that Too Simple II caught simply missed out on a heavy-tackle document. If it’s going to occur anyplace, the stretch of water between Fraser Island and Girl Musgrave Reef is a probable contender.

Three anglers standing in front of a large black marlin.
In 2018, the Too Simple II crew fell simply in need of an Australian document with this black ­marlin weighing 1,431 kilos.

Run to Mom

Now that the phrase is out, extra vessels are sure to start out concentrating on these distant grounds; my guess is that somebody will arrange knowledgeable constitution operation using a mothership with a purpose to work out of Girl Musgrave Reef. This magnificent reef has a deep opening to accommodate vessels inside, and it’s moderately well-protected from the ocean swells. It’s additionally located very near the Marlin Freeway that runs all the best way south to the world off Fraser Island. A mothership operation would lower down the lengthy runs from the coastal cities—and Fraser—and subsequently enormously scale back the costly gasoline prices. The opposite benefit that will make Girl Musgrave Reef the best charter-boat base is that it’s serviced each day by two giant, high-speed catamarans for the numerous vacationers visiting the reef from Bundaberg and the city of Seventeen Seventy. These ferries might simply convey out and return new anglers and crews, together with all their deal with and kit as properly.

A viable mothership operation would require a vessel of solely round 100 to 130 ft that would carry loads of gasoline for the gameboats. A high-volume watermaker would additionally assist enormously to supply sufficient contemporary water to maintain every thing clear and salt-free every afternoon, in addition to offering contemporary ingesting water. Restocking provides and refueling might simply be accomplished in cheap climate for a one-day turnaround in Bundaberg. The longer term potentialities of those barely touched and very fishy marlin grounds are ­completely mind-blowing.