Some time ago, Bite Me Gamefishing was contacted by Peter Mumford, a regular Australian East coast black marlin fisherman who was looking for the chance to explore new waters in search of his favourite species, the black marlin. Peter had landed a number of huge fish (including granders) on the world famous black marlin fishing grounds of Queensland Australia and was looking to find a new fishery.
Aboard Bite Me, we occasionally head well offshore and successfully target Blue Marlin on 80lb class bent butt chair tackle but looking for a grander black along Kadavu island’s Great Astrolabe Barrier reef was going to be a whole new experience for us.
We know the big Blacks are here, I have personally seen a black in excess of 16ft swim right under the inshore game boat and resort divers have returned with stories of huge marlin herding them up against the reef…and photos to prove it.
One of my colleagues skippering the charterboat Wai Tadra tagged a black on the Kadavu seamount estimated by BlueWater magazine editor David Granville at 950lbs.
There is no doubt that large Black Marlin cruise the Astrolabe Reef but targeting and catching one was another matter. Peter’s quest gave us the perfect opportunity to give it a serious try.
We didn’t muck around. We flew in Glen Gardener, a friend and professional deckie from Sydney Australia who normally works the deck leadering marlin aboard the charterboat ‘Bounty Hunter’.
Glen brought with him and extra 18″ flying gaff and two of Bounty Hunter’s 130lb chair rods.
We fished ‘Cairns style’ in that we spent the mornings catching and rigging bait, then moved to trolling big lures around lunch time. Lures such as MBT’s 22″Buddha and Pakula’s big Smokin Joe.
Early afternoon, the time we most expected a bite, we switched to just one skip-bait and one swimming bait on the 130s run off the riggers. Strike drag was set at 20kg but when run, the reels were left just in gear with the ratchet on and a large drop-back loop was pulled off the reel and trailed in the wake.
We used shark mackerel (scad) and Narrow barred (spanish) mackerel as baits with the scad generally making the best swim baits.
All baits were gutted, stitched with waxed thread and rigged with a 130lb dacron bridle on the nose to a 16/0 Mustad 39960BL circle Demon hook. The hook was held securely away from the bait with a two inch piece of stiff tubing.
The Penn Internationals were spooled with 130lb IGFA Greenspot Dacron with a 200 yard mono top shot ending in a short plaited double and Yo-Zuri HD ball bearing snap swivel. The 600lb mono leader to hook was then attached to this.
Our preferred fishing grounds were just 10 minutes away, right in front of the resort. It didn’t take long. At 12:55 the skip-bait on the left rigger was engulfed in a ball of spray as a billfish left a hole in the wake. Everybody sprang into action. Peter grabbed the howling outfit and made for the chair as the fish swam away with the circle hook rigged bait. When Peter was strapped in and ready, the drag was eased up, the circle hook lodged in the corner of the fish’s jaw and 250 pounds of angry black marlin took to the air.
I have seen and fought many blue marlin but this was my first black and the differences were amazing. Blues eat hard and fast then pick a direction and go go go with no intention of ever stopping. If you do manage to stop one, they then often sound on you and it can turn into a slug-fest. Blacks are totally different and this fish fought like a typical black.
It charged around, mostly on or just under the surface with no clear battle plan and put on a spectacular show for the photographers. As acrobatic as a Pacific Sailfish and as strong as an angry bull she typified why so many anglers spend year after year fishing for black marlin. What an amazing fish.
It took us one hour and ten minutes to bring the leader to hand. We had her in close fairly quickly but she was so green and therefore a serious danger to the crew, that we eased off and took our time.
At 227lbs she smashed the existing M-130 Fiji National Record and Peter decided to weigh the fish. The first ever documented Kadavu Great Astrolabe Reef black that I know of tipped the scales just shy of 230lbs. Hardly a grander but what a start !
It is our intention to take every opportunity to continue fishing for Kadavu island’s Black marlin and to tag and release enough to paint a clear picture of their habits and seasons.
Given the sightings by divers and our own experiences of huge Black marlin here, our aim is to find Fiji’s first Grander. Sometimes its fun being a charterboat skipper…..