The Fraser Island Challenge

So finally, after many years of knowing about the incredible potential of this remote area, a couple of vessels from the Gold Coast have been spending time exploring the deep continental shelf grounds off Fraser. ‘Mistress’ in particular has now spent a few years there, and in 2016, the Altys won the popular Hervey Bay Game Fishing Club’s annual marlin tournament. Forty-four boats fished the tournament, and plenty of billfish were tagged and released, but no one could catch the Mistress team, with eight solid blues up to 600 pounds released in two and a half days of fishing.

In 2017, during spring and early summer (August to December in Australia), the Altys decided not to go to Cairns, but instead work the Fraser Island grounds. At this point in time, we don’t know how long the season might be, but their results have been absolutely fabulous. “We fished a total of 44 days before Christmas and recorded 94 blues, 20 blacks and seven striped marlin,” says Capt. Barry Alty. “We left the boat at Hervey Bay and flew in and out from the Gold Coast whenever we had a charter or just felt like taking some friends out for a fish. The constant action really hasn’t surprised us.

“Many of the blues have been in the 200- to 600-pound range, and they’re a great size for anyone looking at catching records on lighter tackle,” he continues. “We stuck to our game plan last year and used heavy 130-pound-class tackle because we have always had the feeling a grander blue would be lurking somewhere on these fishy grounds. We were right.

“Among the blues raised, we hooked two that were well over the grander mark, and we know what a 1,000-pound marlin looks like from all our years of catching granders in Cairns,” Barry says. “We were really hoping to catch Australia’s first official 1,000-pound blue off Fraser, but of course, that happened over in Exmouth, Western Australia.” The new year was just a few days old when Capt. Eddy Lawler and Clay Hilbert landed Australia’s first blue marlin over 1,000 pounds in January 2018. Their fish weighed 1,089 pounds.

Tackle and Techniques

I asked these two captains what they are doing to contribute to hooking and tagging so many blue marlin.

“We’ve changed lures and also the hooks in recent years,” Barry says. “We’re raising more marlin than ever on the Aussie-made Tornado lures. They are really well-balanced and run nicely in any position in the spread we put them. The secret to these lures is in the head. If you put an unrigged Tornado on a table, it will roll over to the way it should run through the water. “We also switched over to Black Bart Pa’a hooks, and they are setting far better than any other brands we have tried. We realize you’re never going to stay connected to every marlin you hook, but these hooks go in and rarely come out. Our strike-to-catch rate at the moment on blues is an amazing 85 percent.” The next challenge for the Altys: break a few Australian line-class records on blue marlin. “The current 12- to 50-pound records are within range here, especially on our fast-maneuvering 50-foot Mistress,” Barry says. This Kiwi-built vessel is ideal for these waters on any tackle, and it’s also big enough to live aboard should they decide to stay at the top of Fraser Island when the weather is suitable. Staying aboard gives the team even more fishing time.

Extract from the August edition of Marlin Magazine which featured an article on Fraser Island. Reprinted with the gracious permission of editor Sam White.