Marlin Grander Slam the Second

Great Barrier Reef October/November 2012

Since a whole year had passed since my last fishing trip to the Great Barrier Reef it was time to pack my rods and reels and set off to have a superb time on “Tradition”. This year saw the same crew on board and I was delighted to see Tim Richardson, Scuba Steve Hall, Carl Copeland and our aqua paparazzo Scott Kerrigan once again.

The reef is about 2,300 kilometres long of which some 300 kilometres are home to the hotspots. During the high season up to 40 boats a day set off to hunt Big Blacks.

To begin with I have to say that the light tackle and popper fishing was world-class but the marlin fishing was poor and failed to measure up to our expectations.

Over a total of 12 days we had only 9 bites and hooked only four black marlin with estimated weights of 80 lbs. (while using baitfish), 150 lbs., 350 lbs. and 500 lbs. The other five in the wake of our boat were between 300 and 450 lbs.

If you compare this season’s marlin fishing with recent years it must be said that the numbers of this species on the reef have dropped quite considerably. You could only expect to experience magic moments and catch large specimens by being at the right place at the right time.

At the beginning of this year’s trip we set off for the Northern part of Jewel Reef because we didn’t want to miss out on the popper fishing. On our way out we fought against 25 knot winds and 5 metre waves. For the first time in my life I felt signs of oncoming seasickness. Fortunately we got a bite and a hook-up in the troughs between the mountainous waves and my seasickness was quickly forgotten.

Popper Fishing

On arriving at Jewel Reef we anchored right next to the Nomad group boats – this was surely the right spot to target some decent GT’s.

Our first week’s fishing was during the full moon phase and conditions for popper fishing were excellent. We had found the right spot on the reef and got plenty of takes, some of which were from specimen sized fish. Regrettably I didn’t take any notes on the exact number of GT’s we caught – but suffice it to say there were plenty of them. The average weights were between 20-25 kg. The four largest GT’s to be caught during the trip weighed 32, 42, 44 and 48 kg.

Marlin Fishing

As mentioned above, in spite of having superb lures we failed to find the fish we were looking for although a superb grander was hooked by the boat next to ours. Its crew wanted to keep the fish under all circumstances because of its very large size. After quarter of an hour the marlin was gaffed but it bent the crook open. After another 15 minutes the 14/0 circle hook suffered the same fate and the marlin was free again. Whether or not it survived with the injury to its back will remain a secret for all times.

Light Tackle Fishing

After breakfast we used our light tackle to catch “bait fish” and every day seemed to come up with some surprise or another. We caught a wide range of many different species. The most important thing was to get the fish on the boat as quickly as possible because if you latched on to a bigger fish and needed any longer than 15 minutes to play it you would invariably find only its head left on the hook or nothing at all. Sharks were thick on the ground on the reefs and always first on the scene looking for a free dinner.

Snorkelling and Spear Fishing

At midday we usually anchored up over the reef for an hour or so close to a good snorkelling spot where we speared fish for our dinners. Here again we were quick to get our catches back to the boat swiftly since we didn’t want to drop into our bunks with our stomachs growling.

Fly Fishing for Barramundi

At the start of the trip I dedicated two days to some fly fishing with guide Terry Holeman. We fished the Daintree River on day one and the Johnson River near Innisfail on day two. Conditions on both days were regrettably anything but good. Murky brown water, rain and wind made life difficult. Nevertheless, we caught several smaller barramundis and one beautiful large specimen. By the way, we also hooked a couple of miniature tarpons, queen fish, jacks and almost a crocodile ☺.


On the whole I would say I had a great time in Australia again. I was able to switch off completely and the excitement of reef fishing is simply unique to this area.

Despite the poor marlin fishing the great atmosphere on board never flagged. During the same period two fish estimated to be granders and several other large marlins were caught by other boats while some had even less hook-ups than we did. At times the light tackle and popper fishing was in my opinion world-class – I have never experienced anything like it.

The Great Barrier Reef is certainly the only place in the world where you have a real chance of catching a big black marlin during the season. I have met fellow anglers who didn’t catch their first estimated granders until the ninth attempt – well, that means I’m good for another couple of trips!

For more information on Tim Richardson and his boat Tradition:

For more information on photographer Scott Kerrigan:

Stephan Kreupl, November 2012