Another Black Marlin Breeding Ground Off Queensland

The northern reaches of Queensland’s Hervey Bay, and the even more remote waters east of Fraser Island’s northern tip seldom see much fishing pressure. Although these grounds are revered as fish rich hotspots for a multitude of pelagic and reef species, their remoteness keeps their full potential still somewhat undiscovered.

For many years the northern end of Hervey Bay has been renowned for producing an extraordinary run of baby black marlin over the shallow inside grounds during late winter and spring. In recent years, the offshore waters have also gained a reputation for their exceptional numbers of blue and striped marlin during spring and early summer. This heavy-tackle fishery has lured Gold Coast gameboat Mistress to spend several months running liveaboard charters to these remote grounds. This year they were there in June and discovered a surprising number of tiny black marlin in the bay, catching some as small as 2kg and seeing others so small they proved difficult to hook.

The discovery of these baby black marlin at that time of year is remarkable because it does not match with the timing of the species’ currently—known spawning off Cairns. Considering the phenomenally fast growth rate of black marlin, the marlin caught by Mistress in Hervey Bay during June would have been only two to three months old, whereas fish spawned off Cairns in October/November would be far larger. This has led Dr Julian Pepperell to suspect that another black marlin breeding ground must be located much closer to Fraser Island than Cairns, with a separate spawning event occurring in perhaps February or March.

Dr Pepperell has requested anglers catching these tiny black marlin to keep and freeze the heads of a couple of specimens so that their otoliths (ear bones) can be extracted and examined to more precisely determine their age. This will help lead to the discovery of their other breeding ground, and that will have huge ramifications for anglers wanting to find the giant parents.

World-class marlin fishing a fledgling Hervey Bay attraction

The recently recognised world-class marlin fishing ground off the continental shelf from Hervey Bay could become a mecca for game fishers around the globe, according to an industry specialist.

Barry Alty, the Gold Coast-based owner of game fishing charter boat Mistress, said the fishing ground off Fraser Island was one of the most prolific in the world.

He said last year they recorded an average catch rate of more than two marlin a day, a feat that could not be achieved anywhere else in the world over such a prolonged period.

“It could be one of the best and biggest blue marlin fisheries in the world,” Mr Alty said.

He said it had long been known there were good numbers of juvenile black marlin up to a year old near Fraser Island but because of boat sizes and distances, there had only been a modest fishing effort on the edge of the continental shelf.

“The more we learn about the grounds, the more we’ll catch,” Mr Alty said.

He said because of the variety of marlin in the region, another lure for anglers was the chance of a ‘slam’ – catching three different species in one day.

Already game fishers have travelled from as far as America and New Zealand to tag
and release marlin on the Fraser Coast and Mr Alty said it was a tremendous tourism opportunity for Hervey Bay.

“Game fishers travel the world to fish in the best or different locations,” he said.

“It’s a very expensive pursuit and attracts high-net-worth individuals.”

Mr Alty said anglers spent between $2500 and $3500 a day to charter a game fishing boat and it would be for a minimum of three days on the Fraser Coast due to the distance to the fishing ground, which was about 120km from Urangan and 40km east of Fraser Island.

He said many fishers also brought their partners who stayed in local accommodation and visited tourism attractions in the region.

“Regardless of where people come from, they will normally stay longer than the period they are chartering for, particularly if from overseas,” Mr Alty said.

“Hervey Bay has the added tourist attractions of a Fraser Island visit and whale watching, which may keep visiting anglers around for a while.”

Last year, the biggest blue marlin caught from Mistress weighed an estimated 7001b, or almost 320kg.

Mr Alty said Hervey Bay had similar potential as Kona in Hawaii where the development of the marlin fishery led to an explosion in the number of hotels, restaurants, apartments and charter fishing boats.

“I believe Hervey Bay could establish a major tourist industry from game fishing and bring considerable income to the area,” he said.

Mr Alty said there was also a possibility of the Fraser Coast establishing a giant black marlin season.

He said some black marlin as small as 2kg had been caught, which was significant because it meant they were probably only two to three months old, so it was likely there was a spawning ground near Fraser Island.

It may well lead to another giant black marlin season outside the traditional September to November Cairns breeding period,” Mr Alty said.

There are plenty of fish for everyone and I expect that as we fish the area more we will all learn more and enjoy an even greater level of success.”

The Hervey Bay Game Fishing Club recently hosted the biggest game fishing competition in Queensland from November 15 to 18. HBGFC president Brad Rocke said 41 boats and 155 anglers competed in the 20th annual Game Fishing Classic, tagging 51 marlin.

He said the tournament attracted boats from as far away as southern NSW, Cairns charter companies and anglers from New Zealand and Western Australia.

Article from Bush’n Beach Fishing January 2019

bnbfishing.com.au

Mistress wins more Awards

“Mistress” had a very successful 2017/2018 fishing year which ended on 30June 2018.

All up we fished 92 days on the grounds we pioneered and “discovered” off Fraser Island and Tagged and Released or Released a Total of 199 Marlin. Incidently on 30 June when we were hoping to break the 200 figure we went one from 5. Rubber Hooks just when we didn’t need it? Such is Fishing.

Nevertheless we won the following Awards;

GAME FISH ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA (GFAA)

  • Highest Point Scoring Boat For Marlin. 2nd. David Litchfield Trophy.
  • Sir Garrick Agnew Trophy for Angler who tagged the Most Billfish: Barry Alty.

NSW DPI FISHERIES DEPT (Who run the Australian tagging program and count all tags whereas the GFAA only counts fish tagged by Affiliated Club Members.

  • Trophy for most Billfish Tagged: 2nd.
  • Trophy for Captain Tagging Most Blue Marlin: Captain Brett Alty.
  • Trophy for Angler Tagging Most Blue Marlin: Barry Alty.

THE BILLFISH FOUNDATION.

  • Trophy for Captain Releasing the most Black Marlin in the Pacific Ocean: Captain Brett Alty.
  • Trophy for Angler Releasing the most Black Marlin in the Pacific Ocean: Barry Alty.

All in all a very successful year for “Mistress” her crew, and Anglers.

Fraser Island Marlin Bite Worth the Trek

The waters east of Queensland’s Fraser Island and Hervey Bay, just below the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, have long been known to produce exceptional marlin fishing – for blacks, stripes and blues. However, to reach the open ocean from Urangan harbour it’s a long trip up the inside of Hervey Bay even before you get to Breaksea Spit. The 75 nautical mile journey from the marina to the continental shelf drop-off means very few gamefishing boats ever get the opportunity to sample outer Fraser Island’s rich treasures.

In early summer last year, several gameboats heading south after completing their Cairns heavy-tackle charter seasons stopped at Fraser Island and found the region firing with outstanding numbers of blue marlin. Capt Luke Fallon also took his liveaboard charterboat Kekoa from Cairns to Fraser Island specifically to fish light-tackle on a blue marlin world-record quest for renowned US anglers Gary and Sherrell Carter.

Several boats from the Gold Coast also made their regular trek north to fish the grounds, including Graham McCloy and Barry Alty, both of whom had a burning ambition to catch Australia’s first officially weighed ‘grander’ blue marlin – as recently accomplished in Exmouth, WA. In November, Graham caught a fish on a lure that he felt sure was over the required 453.6kg, but it turned out to be a black so he tagged and released it.

Aboard his charterboat Mistress, Barry Alty has spent more days fishing these grounds than anyone else since 2015. With his son Brett at the helm, for the 2017 season he took his boat north in mid-August and soon found plentiful baitfish and world-class marlin action. Making 3-day-plus live-aboard trips from Urangan, by November 26 they had tagged 114 marlin in 44 days of fishing, comprising 87 blues, 20 blacks and 7 striped. The blues, Barry said, were typically between 180 and 300kg, and the stripes between 110 and 135kg – all fat and in peak condition.

The day before the Mistress team headed back to the Gold Coast on 7 December, Barry released four blues to around 320kg and lost a potential grander blue that smashed a Tornado lure made specially for him with the words ‘Barry’s Grander Lure’ inside the head. The marlin screamed off 100m of line once hooked, then threw the lure, but followed it as Barry cranked it back to the boat, striking it twice more and hooking-up briefly before again shaking the hook free. What a heart-stopping way to finish the trip!

Mistress will be back next year from August to November inclusive, offering live-aboard charters. For details, call Capt Brett Alty on 0417 766 734.