Time for another heavy tackle report from the reef. I arrived in Cairns yesterday and we met the boat in Cooktown this morning. It’s so nice to be out of what seemed like a never ending nap in an airplane seat. I’m fishing again with Stephan from Germany on his continued quest for a monster. And we are lucky enough to have the charter boat Tradition with the same crew as last season – Capt Tim and mates Carl and Steve. This time we really did get the band back together.
Day 1 – Short plane ride via Hinterland Air to Cooktown early am. We drop our gear on the boat and go get a bite to eat while the crew finishes loading a few things. Cooktown is getting very modern with a coffee shop/bakery next to the marina. The Tradition crew are turning right around after a five day trip with their last group. The weather is ugly with plenty of clouds and 15-20 knots of wind. Rumors of improving conditions help make it seem nice. Today is day four of the Lizard Island tournament and there has been some bites for the 26 boat fleet. The exciting news is the report of several big fish caught or seen each of the last few days. We are bait fishing this morning and will be fishing close today while the wind is up…
We put the heavy stuff out around 2:00 in building wind and sea conditions. Solid 25 knots and big waves. Evasive action needed every few sets to keep the cockpit from disappearing. We get a on bite on the left swimming scaley and end up catching a medium sized fish. Can’t even bring a camera out in these condition with spray going over the bridge while backing. Anchor up behind Ribbon 3 tonight.
Day 2 – Better light this morning with the same strong breeze. After a swim to spear some dinner, we bait fish to the North all morning and put out the heavy stuff at 11:30 and troll up the reef. The sea has settled some and this tack is slightly down sea. No bites for us today.
Having a midmorning spear. Looks like Coral Trout for dinner tonight.
Day 3 – Calm conditions this morning. We throw poppers in the morning along some incredible reef edges. Just some random small stuff biting. Working our way still further North today. Should end up anchoring around the top of Jewel reef tonight. Everything looks great, but the marlin fishing is no good for us. The local fleet reports releasing three Granders down the reef today.
Another popper eating GT comes aboard for a photo. This little one properly tail roped.
Fishing right up to the end of the day.
Day 4 – Flat calm sea today. I’ve never wanted to see a jumping billfish so bad as I do today in these conditions. It wasn’t meant to be however as we didn’t even see one today. We did however catch one of the biggest Spanish Mackerals that Tim has seen, at about 70 lbs. Hmmm, I wonder what the boys will end up doing with this one…
Before – A giant Spanish Mackeral showing her colors.
After – Nowhere else in the world would you even consider pulling this as bait!
Day 5 – A morning chat with the crew of the famous charter boat Nomad this morning. They specialize in all things AU reef fishing in this area. Good tips on certain parts of the reef for catching bait and throwing poppers. The water and the reef colors are truly amazing up here. The variety is off the charts. We catch plenty of scads for swim baits. Also our fill of scaly mackerel and several big spanish. Throw in a few Bonita and a baby Black Marlin on a bait rod for good measure. Did I mention the small Dolphin too. Along the outer edge we encountered small Yellowfin Tuna. These get eaten immediately by the White Tip Sharks if you don’t wind like a madman to get them to the boat. We sacraficed one, and caught two others whole. Then we see a cloud of shiny fish feeding along the outer edge of the reef. Turns out to be thousands of 20lb Milkfish. Never one to pass up one an interesting skipping bait, Tim looks for volunteers. Mate Carl suits up and grabs his gun. If there ever was a time for a surgical strike. The plan is to spend as few minutes as possible swimming in this part of the reef – just on the deep water outer edge with bleeding fish at you side. Two quick swims results in two baits. The sharks were really moving in when Carl climbed back aboard.
We were targeting the extreme size Black Marlin. I guess we forgot to be specific as to which end of the extreme scale.
Just enough left overs for a bit of sashimi tonight. Please wind faster.
I’ve never before seen a Milkfish. Has traits of a Bonefish and a Mullet, but is much larger. And makes a great looking skip bait.
Day 6 – The plan is to head back South from here. We get an early start to take advantage of the morning high tide. The popper fishing should be good in some of the passes. Sure enough, Tim puts us on some world class GT fishing. Then we run down to the Cod hole for a swim and some lunch on the hook. Back offshore to finish the day with the big baits out.
Day 7 – Not much to it today. A nice swim at Secret Garden and some bait catching down the inside. Then we fished our way down to finish the day working in front of number 3. No sightings, no bites. Very quiet for all the boats … except for this one bite on the Release. I know that being close doesn’t count when fishing, but when captain Tim puts me right in front of the action, it counted for me and the camera today. Nobody dared to put a weight on this one, but it made the grade for the locals to call it a “real nice one”, “a giant”, and “a monster”. Ended up pulling the hook near the boat.
Day 8 – Today’s action started out with the vibrant colors of a Bluefin Trevally. These critters always make for a pretty photo. Then the afternoon spent offshore resulted in only one bite. This was from a small fish that ate the swimming scad bait. A few quick jumps and a clean tag and release.
Day 9 – An early start today. The action sounds better back down the reef so we are headed there today. Bait fish down the inside all morning and then put out some lures and continue south. Arrive at Linden Bank around 2:00 and switch over to baits. We end up with 3 bites when the whistle blows. One pulls off a few yards and goes away. Another gets all wrapped up in the leader on the bite and quickly jumps off. And the third one stays on for a tag and release. A late afternoon sky full of Aussie dust makes for a most incredible sunset. Everything was dipped in gold.
The most ideal swimming bait in all the land – the Queenie. We called him Sir Queenie.
Working late in the office.
Day 10 – Nothing for us today. We had one bite on the swimming Scad that looked great. Pulled drag and came off. About a 500lb fish that got wrapped up in the wire leader and spooked. Crazy red sunset again today.
Day 11 – A morning spear on some inside patch reefs comes up with a large Coral Trout. Thrown in the boat just in time as the Bronze Whaler sharks were onto it fast. We spend out day above Linden Bank and get no bites. Only at 5:00 pm did we see any action as the Kekoa hooks a 400lb fish and we make a few photo passes.
Tags: australia, billfish, black marlin, game fish, great barrier reef, tagging, tradition, trolling, weather