Black Marlin In Shallow Water – Dane Tells Us How

It is funny how we often take the things closest to home for granted as we often plan a getaway to a new destination in search of that next exhilarating thrill. I have personally been guilty of this, however as the saying goes ‘the greatest things in life are often closest to home’. I was fortunate enough that my family decided to reside in Hervey Bay, on the east coast of Queensland and this beautiful part of the world became my playground from as soon as I could walk. It was not until I moved away this year to further my education at university that I really understood just how lucky I was to grow up in such an amazing and special place.

120km of Fish Rich Water

The largest sand Island in the world, Fraser Island, was right in my backyard. With over 120km of fish rich waters it is a popular destination, that every year around the months of October to December, plays host to a multitude of boats making the 30 NM journey to a location known as Roonies Point with anticipation of crossing paths with a baby black marlin. Rumour has it that this could quite possibly be the only place in the world that a marlin can be sight fished on the flats, making it quite a unique experience.

A beautiful baby black marlin is revived after capture to ensure a healthy release.


Time It Right

As previously mentioned the months from October through to December are the prime time to target the marlin, with November traditionally being the red hot month. Coinciding with these months, tides and moon phases do play a large part in individual success rates. Ideally the lead up to the full moon, with the tides building has produced some of the best sessions I have experienced. A midday high tide with the sun overhead makes an ideal scenario for sight casting to slow moving black shadows on the flats. Fishing the last of the flood tide has been the most rewarding as the fish move up onto the shallow flats in search of an easy meal and are not hesitant in smashing a suitable presentation crossing its path.

Hesitant Fish

I have found they become more hesitant on the run out tide and are harder to tempt into striking, often just following the presentation right to the boat and then turning away. One other interesting fact noted, after discussions with experienced local anglers Mark ‘Bargy’ Bargenquast, Andrew ‘Chozza’ Chorley and Scott ‘Scotto’ Mitchell was that it was quite evident the majority of fish seen cruising the flats are almost always swimming south to north along the beach. We aren’t sure why exactly, however we feel it may have something to do with their migration paths, via Station Hill.
Dane with a baby black doesn't get much better than this.

Dane with a baby black …it doesn’t get much better than this.

Presentation Is Paramount

There is more to catching a marlin than just firing off a cast once a fish has been sighted and hoping it eats your presentation. There are a few key steps which if followed will assist in increasing your strike rate. Firstly, positioning the boat to make the correct cast is crucial. Have the boat positioned parallel but slightly in front of the fish, as this makes it easier for the angler with rod in hand to make a nice long cast and present the lure or bait a few lengths in front of the cruising fish. Never place the cast on top of the fish! When retrieved your presentation will capture the marlins attention, believing it is a fleeing bait fish trying to escape so as not to be eaten. I never tire of watching these marlin light up, displaying all their iridescent markings as it becomes excited and hones in on the prey.

Cast Ahead

A common mistake made by some anglers is they either cast from behind and try to bring the lure towards the fish or they cast behind it and bring the lure forward. For a predatory species to have a smaller object either coming towards it or from behind it will often make them wary to eat the presentation as it is not a natural trait.

Gearing Up For Marlin

Picking a presentation to cast at a little black is sometimes over thought by novice anglers, as these black marlin are only juveniles and are very inquisitive to objects crossing their path. A little Billy, if stirred up and hungry, is going to eat and this opens up a variety of presentations and techniques such as skip baits, stick baits, poppers, soft plastics and fly to name a few. My two favourite techniques are using a bridle rigged skip gar on a light wire circle hook and/or presenting a big jerk shad style soft plastic rigged with a stinger hook.

Big Plastics For Greedy Fish

On my most recent trip I experimented with the Zman 8” StreakZ in bubble gum colour and experienced outstanding results. The added advantage of this plastic is its size and profile makes it easy to rig a stinger hook. Another important item in the arsenal that I will not leave home without when targeting marlin is my teaser. This consists of a bird with chains of plastic squid trailing behind it. This tool can often be a game changer on certain days when the fish are a little lethargic and need to be stirred up.
A high-jumping baby black.

A high-jumping baby black.

Handle With Care

I do not agree with putting this amazing species through too much stress due to enduring prolonged fights on light tackle. For this reason I prefer to use a medium to heavy spin outfit, consisting of a 6-10 kg or 10-15 kg rod matched with a 6000 to 10000 sized reel spooled with 50lb braid. This allows me to put more pressure on the fish early on which entices some spectacular acrobatic displays, which is always exciting to watch, but then allows me to get the fish in and released quickly.  

Looking After The Fish

There has been a lot of controversy in the media recently in regards to the correct handling of juvenile black marlin for a greater survival rate after release. From my experience over the past four marlin seasons and after many captures and releases, I do believe that if you can restrain from removing the fish out of the water for a photo then of course its chances of survival are going to be maximised. In saying this it is always a buzz for an angler, myself included, to capture a moment such as landing your first ever marlin with a photo. When doing so there are a few steps which you can implement to minimise the time the fish is out of the water and then once placed back maximize its chances of survival.
Two baby blacks being swum boat side prior to release.

Two baby blacks being swum boat side prior to release.

Make A Plan

  Firstly ensure the crew is organised, with the camera set up and ready to shoot, then don’t just lift the marlin in via the bill, alternatively comfort lift it in supporting its body, quickly snap a few photos and again support its body when placing it back into the water. This whole process should take no more than 20-30 seconds. Lastly but most importantly is the revival swim. I have recently altered the way in which I swim the fish prior to release. Instead of swimming the fish with the boat in a forward motion I now put the motor in reverse and trim it up to create bubbles, oxygenating the water. I have noticed when using this method of swimming the little marlin in this oxygenated water it doesn’t take long before you can see it light up with colour and have its pectoral and dorsal fins going again.

Adrenaline Rush!

It’s virtually like a shot of adrenaline I guess you could say and since using this release method I am far more satisfied with the fish’s health on release. If bringing a marlin on board next trip please try following these few simple steps to ensure the fish is released unharmed and in good condition so that we all can enjoy this magnificent fishery for many seasons to come.
Dane Radosevic

About Dane Radosevic

My name is Dane Radosevic and I am 18 years of age, born on the Fraser Coast and raised in Hervey Bay, QLD. I enjoy participating in all forms of angling from bait fishing to my preferred methods of lure and fly.


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