6th Attempt at Achieving a Grand Slam of Officially Weighed Grander Marlins.
The intention on this trip was to spend 11 days fishing on board the Amokura with skipper Brett Goetze and his mates Jake Wyatt, Mitch Shiels and Matt Wright. The target: a weighed grander black marlin. The omens looked quite promising since at the beginning of the season (September and October) large numbers of fish had been caught, including some big ones.
It ought to work out this time, but as so often happens in real life things turned out a bit differently...
It started with us having to set off from Port Douglas instead of Cooktown as originally planned due to an unfavourable current with green water along the Ribbon Reefs. On top of that the weather was challenging with winds of between 20 and 35 knots and plenty of rain – hooray!
All the charter boats were having trouble with the green water and the rough seas and we spent the first couple of days mainly on the infamous Linden Bank. Fishing for bait (such as king mackerel, tuna etc.) was also a great deal more difficult compared to the more northerly areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Initially there were up to 15 charter boats including ourselves fishing the Linden Bank. The chances of achieving our goal were in the one-percent range. To make things worse, there were plenty of large sharks prowling around the Linden Bank.
Due to the fact that very few fish had been caught that day and we hadn‘t seen a single fish on our first day out, we decided to steam to some reefs further south the next day. On days 2 and 3 we had a total of 5 strikes from small marlin and hooked two of them.
On day 4 shortly before three in the afternoon it was crunch time. We registered a small and a large marlin on our fish-finder at a depth of about 50 metres and shortly afterwards had a monstrous strike. The fish took our largest bait and dove down immediately. An hour later Mitch, our wireman, was able to get a hold on the leader for the first time. The fish stayed under the boat and didn’t budge an inch. Mitch was unable to hold on any longer and down went the marlin again. The reel drag was set at maximum (sunset) which meant roughly 60 lbs. That is a lot of pressure on the line. After two hours we had a short glimpse of the double leader for the second time and yet again the marlin set off for the deeps. Brett navigated the boat in every possible manoeuvre to tray and unbalance the fish – but with no success.
We were well aware that this could well be the record fish we were after and the gaffs were ready. After some 3 hours and making a combined effort (the drag lever fully locked, both my hands clamped tight and the crew holding on to my harness to help me pull and stop me going overboard) we were able to grab the leader for the second time. Mitch didn’t let go and the marlin’s head came to the surface. Jake and Matt set the gaffs and it was all over very quickly.
The elation was gigantic and we fell into each other’s arms because not one of us ever thought we were going to catch this marlin, let alone see it. It took five of us to drag the fish on board and measure it. Its short length of 147 inches would normally have been sufficient for a grander but regrettably this fish lacked the necessary girth and body mass. According to the formula we calculated it weighed 914 lbs. and we quickly realized that even if it had had a couple of big fish in its stomach it wouldn’t have been enough. Unfortunately a miss is as good as a mile.
On day 5 we had to return to the marina in Port Douglas due to a severe storm with winds of over 35 knots. The following day had to be cancelled, too so we went shopping in Cairns and waited for better weather.
The remaining days turned out to be just as tough with uncomfortable weather conditions paired with green water and very few fish for everyone involved. We caught a further 3 black marlins weighing up to an estimated 800 lbs. and one small blue marlin. During this period we also had a gigantic bite. The marlin shot up out of the water in what appeared to be slow motion and then jumped to and fro in great leaps before shaking off the bait-fish with hook. Bad luck, it was really huge but it is difficult to say whether it would have been big enough or not.
Now after 70 days spent fishing on the Great Barrier Reef 101 strikes and with 55 marlins caught, I had only hooked 2 fish of way over the 1000 lb. mark. One of them had already been gaffed but managed to get away. The other one shook the hook off the leader. In my opinion, anyone who says it’s easy to catch and weigh a grander black marlin down there needs a helluva lot of luck. And there is a tremendous difference between a released grander and a grander actually on the deck. If it were that easy somebody would have achieved a Marlin Grander Slam long ago.
My thanks go to the Amokura gang - Brett, Jake, Mitch and Matt – we really did try everything and worked our rear-ends off. We were usually the first boat to start and the last boat to stop fishing. The next attempt is already lined up for next season. True to the motto – we try harder and never give up ☺
Whenever we got a chance and the currents weren’t too strong we set up our jigging gear and caught a couple of reef dwellers. On the subject of reef inhabitants, many of the fish hooked on the jigs were snatched off by the sharks. Here again, you have to give your upmost and be as quick as a flash, too.
In the evenings when the boat was at anchor and the underwater lights were on we were able to let our hair down with the fly rods - good fun.