Archive for December, 2010

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.