Billfish Expo 2011

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Billfish Expo 2011
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This coming Saturday Skip Smith and Mark Sosin will be hosting the 2nd annual Billfish Expo at the IGFA headquarters in Dania Beach, Florida.  Following the success of last years event, Skip has, once again been able to assemble some of the best fisherman in the business. They will be covering topics such as kite fishing, dredging, tournament strategies, electronics and boat handling. Usually the only way you could gain access to this type of information was to go and fish with these guys in the different corners of the world. Here you have them all in one room ready to pass on information to help make you a better fisherman. The knowledge you can gain off these guys is invaluable. This will also be the first public debut for the Obadu Wiring Gloves. If  your there and you want to check them stop by our booth.

There will be some tickets available at the door but if you want to make sure you don’t miss out  you can purchase them at http://www.billfishexpo.com. Hope to see you there.

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Well I finally had the chance to speak with Jason Holtz and find out how his season went in Ascension Is. As I mentioned in an earlier report the boys got of to a great start hooking a big one on their first day out. But unfortunately the fishing was patchy for rest of the season. Jason said the conditions were good, nice clean water,steady current and plenty of bait just a lack of fish. He also said they raised  quite a few sailfish and white marlin which is unusual for Ascension. Years ago while fishing in Ghana Clay & I noticed the same thing, when we were seeing a lot of sails the blue marlin weren’t around. Maybe they don’t like swimming in the same currents.

They raised 3 big fish that Jason called over a grand, 2 well over the mark and one around a grand. The biggest one Jason spotted tailing past the boat and when he first saw her he thought it was a small whale! The big girl came up on the short bait then swam across to the long corner,eyeballing the lures. Jason got a really good look at her from the tower,praying she would eat something but unfortunately she lost interest and swam away. He said it was one of the biggest fish he had seen in a long time.

Ascension Island isn’t an easy place to get to. With only one flight a week in and out and being so remote, the logistics of running charters there can be difficult. Jason was very grateful that everything went of without a hitch, he just would have liked a few more bites. The boys finished up hard releasing 7 fish for their last charter,with the biggest one around  700#. This was well deserved after the huge effort they put in over the season. Jas’ and BT are now back fishing in their home waters of Kona.

What an interesting season it was for the boats fishing the reef. The few boats that started fishing in early september were rewarded with good fishing. The majority of the fleet having multiple bite days with quite a few big girls getting caught. Most of the action was around Linden Bank and a few boats were finding them further north up on the Ribbon reefs. It was shaping up to be a big season. Then in early October the water warmed up, the current started pushing to the north and the fish swam off the edge. When I spoke to my old captain Biggs around this time he told me the water temp rose considerably over just a few days. I remember the old timer’s telling me that for Cairns to have a really good season the water had to stay cool all the way through November. It was never a good sign when the water got to hot to early.

The fishing remained patchy through October with most of the boats struggling to find fish. I heard of a few boats having 7-10 day stretches without even raising a fish. Usually the Lizard Island tournament brings some good fishing as it is planned around the best tides of the  season. I did here of some nice fish being released but there were a few days where there was only a handful of fish caught amongst the whole fleet.  Captain Bill Bilson on Viking 11 won champion boat with 7 fish which isn’t a bad result but I remember some years where you had to catch 20 fish just to be in the hunt. After the tournament most of the boats headed south to Linden Bank. The boats that had been fishing the bank all season seem to be having the most consistent action. When I spoke with Biggs around this time he told me he hadn’t been north of Escape reef. He had been finding most of his bites on the bank and  Opal ridge. There weren’t any big numbers of fish, just good steady fishing.

Around this time my good mate Chris “Sharky” Miles weighed the first grander of the season. The 1177# beast was caught on Linden bank after a short 20 min fight. Big congrats to Sharky, Bevan, Daniel and the angler, Eric. This is the first grander Sharky has weighed in his 18 seasons fishing the reef, although he has let a lot of big fish go over the years. Good things come to those who wait. I would also like to note that Eric is part of a family  from Louisiana that have been fishing the reef since 2000. They usually fish every second year and have been lucky enough to weigh 5 granders, 3 over 1100#.  Well done guys! Also around this time Captain Haydon Bell on the Release weighed a 1037# fish in the middle ribbons. A few days earlier Haydon broke a fish of on the wire he was calling over 1200#. Haydon is usually very humble with his calls on fish size so for him to call one 1200# it must have been a giant. The angler who fought the big fish,Keith Lebrun,was with me on a recent  fishing trip  in Nova Scotia where he caught a 1018# giant bluefin tuna.

Just when it started to look like it was going to be an average season the fishing turned on for the fleet in November. Most of the boats were  fishing around the bank and the ridge and from the reports I was hearing everyone was getting  bites. Some boats were having 3-4 fish days with quite a few big fish mixed in. There were no more granders caught but a few nice 800-900# fish released. There has been alot of ‘Grander Talk’ on the reef in recent years. The fact is some of these captains have never even weighed a grander let alone know what one looks like. You never hear the good captains calling them granders, there just another nice 900.

I think Cairns has been through a slow fishing cycle the last 4 seasons. The fishing was red hot from 2001 – 2006 then in 2007 it  went quite and it has been patchy since then. The last slow cycle we had in the late 90’s lasted around 4 seasons so hopefully the good fishing is just around the corner. Every fishery goes through these cycles and I believe it has to be slow before it can be good again. Even during a slow season the reef is still better than most places and there will always be a bite. It just wont last as long like it does during a good year. It is still the most consistent heavy tackle fishery in the world and it offers you the best chance at a thousand pound fish. I think that if you love marlin fishing you should do at least one trip to the reef in your lifetime.

Overall the reef season was ok. No one caught any huge numbers, just steady enough to keep everyone interested. Captain Tim Richardson on Tradition had the most consistent season for big one’s from what I could gather. It seemed like he couldn’t make a wrong move and steadily picked away at the big fish all season, well done Tim!   As I write this report they are still catching a few with some of the boats fishing wide of the reef around the offshore reefs and tuna aggregations. I also heard of a few blue marlin being released  which just goes to show what a diverse fishery  the Great Barrier Reef really is.

Jason Holtz on the wire

My good mate Jason Holtz will be fishing Ascension Islands over the next 2 months. He’s running the “Harmatan” with his regular Kona crew Brian Toney on the deck. Jas and BT have been on a roll this year. From weighing an 1104# blue back in April to placing in the prestigious HIBT tournament, I’m sure their good run will continue in Ascension. Olaf Grimkoski will be joining BT in the cockpit.  Jas sent me the first report of the season a few days ago. The boys went out for a sea trial and got climbed on by a big girl after just a few hours of trolling. BT jumped in the chair and fought the big blue for around 35 mins. The fish was a real tough one and Bt put a lot of drag on trying to lift her. They eventually pulled the hook and Jas told me it was hard to get a good look at her through all the white water but from what he could see she was well over 800#. Not bad for their first day out!

Ascension Island is still a young fishery but it has already produced a lot of big fish.  The first season “Gods Favour” fished there back in 2002 they weighed a 1337# beast, the third largest blue ever weighed in the Atlantic. Since then there have been numerous grander’s weighed there. I  just know the boys will get a few shots at four figure fish this season.  Jas will be sending me regular reports which I will post on here so keep checking for regular updates.

*Late Report

Just received a report from Jason. He said they are seeing fish everyday,getting enough bites but having a hard time staying connected. Today they went 1 from 3 catching a small fish around 250# from a doubleheader. He also told me the Obadu Wiring Gloves are working well for BT.

 

 

Just fished the annual Los Cabos Billfish Tournament. The 37 boat fleet was treated to 3 days of beautiful flat calm weather and good fishing. Cabo’s having one of their best blue marlin season’s in a long time. This year I’m fishing on the “Sneak Attack” with Capt. Sam Talbert.  By lunchtime on the first day we already had 3 bites releasing a small stripie. There were alot of hookup’s being reported on the radio, mainly little stripe’s with a few small blue’s mixed in. “Fisherman” reported boating a black marlin they said might be a qualifier.

At around 3 o’clock we raised the fish we were looking for. She came up on the big bart teaser and we pitched the mackerel to her. After a few very lazy attempts trying to eat the bait she finally got angry and piled on the blue breakfast. The first time I had the leader I could see she was foul hooked in the gill plate. This made it hard to turn her head and she pulled us around for over an hour with around 40# of drag. I got a good pull on the leader and once again the Obadu Wiring Gloves performed flawlessly.

Nicely Proportioned Fish

Once we had her in the boat you could see she was a short but really fat fish. We ran the tape over her and she came out to around 610# on the formula. While we were waiting to weigh our fish we got word that the “Fisherman’s” black went 713#. Knowing our fish wasn’t close to that we were a little disappointed but still stoked to be going to the weigh station. There was quite a large crowd gathering around as we hoisted our fish up. She pulled the scale down to 629# putting us in 2nd place. We later found out the team on board the “Fisherman” weren’t across the board giving us the chance to take the biggest fish winner take all jackpot. All we had to do now was nervously wait and hope that our fish holds over the next 2 days.

We released a nice stripie on the 2nd day around 150# and missed a small blue. The blue marlin slowed down a little today and the stripes bit really well on the pacific side. We also watched an 800# blue marlin trying to eat a 20#  dolphin fish on the surface almost alongside the boat, unbelievable sight! Sam worked the area for a while but unfortunately we couldn’t raise her. There were no billfish weighed on day 2 so the money rolls over to day 3.

Just after start fishing on the 3rd day we watched “Bandit” put a nice blue marlin in the boat. As they didn’t give an approximate weight over the radio and kept fishing we would have to wait all day to find out the weight. We switched a small blue,around 200#, of the teaser. This gave us some valuable  release points but we were still nervous about the size of “Bandit’s” fish.

Big Fish Jackpot Winner

As we were running in we heard three different weights over the radio,466#,465# and 463#. 2 blues and a black. Very close results but we still didn’t know if any of them were the “Bandits” fish. After we tied up it didn’t take long to confirm that all the fish had been weighed and luckily for us our fish held up and won the biggest fish winner take all jackpot. We also placed second in the team division, won the biggest blue trophy and split the biggest stripe marlin jackpot with the 1st place boat.

The day 3 jackpot was won by the team aboard the “Fisherman”. Their 466# black along with the 713# black they weighed on day 1 gave the team 1st place overall and all 3 daily jackpots. Big congrats to all on board. Everyone that fished had a great time and thank you to Dan Jacobs and his team for doing such a great job running the tournament. Looking forward to the Bisbees now which starts this Wednesday. It could be an interesting tournament this year with the nice size fish that are here at the moment.

Last week my wife Lisa & I travelled to Nova Scotia to fish the 2 harvest days of the giant bluefin season. We were fishing with our good friends Jay & Candace Meyer, Keith Lebrun and Clay Hensley. Our guide for the trip was world-renowned captain James Roberts. The main goal was to try to catch Candace the women’s 130# world record (1170#), and with Nova Scotia experiencing their best tuna season in 10 years,  everyone onboard was confident that we had a good chance. To make sure we were on the fishing grounds for the 6am start, we left Ballantynes cove around 4am in very cold conditions but our foul weather gear provided by Pelagic kept us warm. By the time we arrived the majority of the fleet was already there ready to go.

 

"Got Her On"

"Got him on"

 

It wasn’t long after the first bait hit the water and we were on. Candace fought the fish to the boat in under 5 mins. It turned out to be a porbeagle shark, not the target species but a good warm-up anyway. By now the radio was abuzz with boats hooking up and fighting fish all around us. The sun was just starting to makes its way over the horizon when we got our second bite for the day. This time it was the right species, the fish pulled us around for ten minutes before we broke the leader. A little disappointed we set up our drift, put the baits out and patiently waited for another bite.

By now the sun was up and we were watching boats fight fish all around us. Because your only fishing in around 100ft of water the fish can’t go deep. Instead they make big long runs across the surface and seem to fight more like a big marlin than a big tuna. Your also sharing the fishing grounds with the herring net boats.O ne of the herring boats pulled up alongside us and started to haul in their net. James told us all to watch the net” Their starting to ring the dinner bell”. We all watched in amazement as 800# – 1000# giants starting busting on the surface, eating the herring that were falling out of the net. My knees were trembling, as this was one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen in all my years on the water.

 

Towing home the 803#

 

There was such a good morning bite going on that more than half the boats were already on their way back to port with their fish. Canadian fisheries rules state that once you catch a fish you must cease fishing and return to port. Back on our boat we decided to put the kite up and it wasn’t long before we had a couple of big fish boil on the bait but they wouldn’t eat it. A short while later the deep bait got bit and we were on again. Candace jumped in the chair and this time she brought the fish to the boat in under 10 mins. I only got a quick pull on the leader before the fish bolted and made a short run before pulling the hook. Once again we were a little disappointed but it wasn’t the fish we were looking for.

By now there was only a few of us left on the grounds but we still had plenty of time left to catch one. Luckily it didn’t take long for us to get another bite. This time the fish was well hooked and in a little over an hour Candace had the fish alongside the boat and we started heading back to port to weigh our fish.  We knew it wasn’t big enough for the record but it was a nice one all the same. Back in Ballantyne’s Cove there were some big fish being weighed. The fleet caught over 30 fish for the day with an average weight of 800#. You have to weigh your fish in the order in which you caught it, and seeing we were one of the last boats we had to wait until 1am to weigh our fish. The big tuna pulled the scale down to 803# and we were all very happy with our catch. Big congrats to Candace on her personal best giant bluefin tuna.

 

803# Giant Bluefin Tuna

803# Giant Bluefin Tuna

 

After everyone quickly grabbed a few hours sleep we were on our way back to the fishing grounds. Well day 2 started out a little slower but what the fleet lacked in quantity they made up for in quality. We only had one bite for the day but it was the one we wanted. Keith was up in the chair and considering it was his first time he did a great job. By the way the fish was fighting against the heavy drag we knew it was bigger than the previous days fish. With some skillful boat driving from Heyman we had the fish alongside in just over an hour, tied her of and started making our way back to Ballantynes Cove. The fish had more girth than the 803# but it’s still hard to judge the weight when their in the water.

 

1018# Giant Bluefin Tuna

 

As we tied up we saw a 1217# Giant being weighed! It was the biggest fish weighed over the 2 days and it looked like a Volkswagen with wings. The next boat in line had another big fish over the 1000# mark. Our fish looked pretty big when we started hoisting her up, the scale eventually settling on 1018#! Everyone was stoked, especially Keith. Not bad for his first time in the chair, well done mate! I found out later there were 15 giants weighed over a 1000# on the second day.

This trip also gave me the chance to try out my new line of Obadu wiring gloves that will be available this winter. They performed better than I expected. I trialed the medium weight’s and they seemed to work well with the 250#-350# leader.

It was an amazing fishing trip and I hope I get the chance to do it again some day. Thanks to James Roberts and Darrell ‘Heyman’ Neary for putting us on the fish.

"Mini Grander"

"The Bite's the best part"

The few boats that have already started their heavy tackle season are being rewarded with some good fishing. On their first day out “Viking II ” went 1 from 6 bites releasing a 950 pounder. Also getting off to a great start “Calypso” let a nice fish go that Capt. Tim Dean called over 800#. I also heard “Cool Runnings” caught a 750 pounder on a day trip out of Cairns. “Tradition” just started their season as well and reported raising 3 fish for 1 bite. As long as the current keeps pushing to the south the fish should stay on the edge,fingers crossed. I would also like to congratulate my good mate Chris’Sharky’Miles and the crew of the “Sea Baby IV” on winning the 2010 Townsville Billfish Challenge. Sharky, you’re a tournament ninja! Most of the fleet will be making their way north up to the famous Ribbon Reefs over the next few weeks so hopefully the big girls keep swimming in.