Billfish … from a tinny

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Broome and most of Australia’s western north coast is blessed with outstanding billfish fisheries. If you’re are keen enough (which was a silly question for us) you can get some great opportunities from a well-equipped dingy, as Kaydo writer Lubin Pfeiffer explains here.

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Ben Little getting the grab on a sailfish.

You’re not going to break any numbers records like the big boats do, but there is more than enough fun to keep you going back for more.

Over the next few days of our no-frills mission, we had lots of billfish, both marlin and sailfish come up to the teasers and snatch baits when the teasers were pulled from the water.

It is an incredible sight to see a sail tearing the water up as it tail walks all over the place. Although when we did the mission, we had the great help from a local angler there Ben Little, there is no reason why anyone who is setup with a reasonable dingy can’t get out amongst the action. What follows is a description about how we went about it.

First things First

Beach launching for billfish, how good is this!

Beach launching for billfish, how good is this!

Firstly, you’ll need a set of teasers. The two we used were both similar but just slightly different to give that added attraction. The first set was rigged with a Williamson teaser bird at the front, then about 6 or 8 pink plastic squids around 10-15cm long in the middle with a clip to finish on the end.

From the clip you can attach either a swimming dead bait such as a small queenie or fish skin strip behind a pusher skirt. From what Ben said it is important to have a bit of scent in the system to convince the billfish it was a meal making all the commotion.

The dead bait is bridal rigged with waxed thread so that the clip could be attached to its nose. The other teaser was the same but rigged with white squids instead of pink. It is a good idea to have teasers constructed of wire because quite often the sharks would swim up and smash them.

Men in Grey Suits

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The Williamson bird teaser doing its thing behind the dingy.

It’s amazing how many sharks are around Broome! The teasers are then attached to the back of the dingy, one long and one short and tied via a rope to the back of the dingy. We also ran a dead swim bait off of a rod out the back of the two teasers. Sometimes this would have a hook attached if the light was on the wrong angle to see what was behind the boat, but mainly it was just used as an attractor with no hook attached.

Trolling the Teasers

Trolling speed averaged around 3-4 knots, which increased to slightly faster if we needed to keep a fish excited. When the fish came up at the spread they were very easy to see.

Marlin appear greenish in colour but the black sails standout like crazy. With the fish in the spread you need to have baits ready to switch over from the teasers and get them to eat. We used a range of different baits over the few days but the best were definitely the ones we collected in the area on bait jigs, such as sardines. These can be rigged with waxed thread attached through the eyes or simply by bridal rigging them with a rubber band. 7/0 circle hooks were ample for the sails we encountered.

Making the Cast

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It pays to triple check your knots and ensure your leader is set up properly when targeting these powerful fish.

The cast should be made reasonably close at the fish and then with a high rod tip, get the bait to skip across the surface. The sails would usually then race over and grab the bait. From there you needed to free spool the fish with the bail arm open and let it run off before setting the hooks.
Once hooked the boat driver, which was Ben in our case, followed the fish and grabbed the leader once it neared the boat. This allowed me to take jump shots of the fish (if I wasn’t on the rod) Most fights lasted around five to ten minutes.

They are spectacular fighters and jump like crazy. I used the same spinning rod I use for targeting kings with back home on the sails but if I went again I would spool it with 15kg mono and avoid using braid.

Scott Gray was stoked this sail during our trip to Broome.

Scott Gray was stoked this sail during our trip to Broome.

A 36 kg fluorocarbon leader is essential as the bills are very rough and make short work of leaders. I cut and retied my leader after each bite. The areas where we found billfish off of the coast we anywhere there was bait. Birds are really a fisherman’s best friend and are your long range eyes while on the water.

Technology helps!

By using a phone app such as Navionics you can pick the contour lines out wide. This is where currents meet and the bait gathers. The conditions change each day and so does the location of the bait, so plan to fish an area but don’t drive past bait if you find it once you’re out there.

We made the mistake on the last day half way out to the area we had been fishing when we left lots of bait to return where we found the fish the previous days.

We still caught fish but the local charter absolutely smashed the sails on the bait we drove past! Also keep your radio on as reports can come through if there is a hot bite somewhere.


‘Billfish are very addictive and even more so, in my opinion, if you can go and target them in a dingy!’




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