Hi All. I posted this report for you all to read at the behest of one very persuasive Roberta. She too played a part in the capture of this fish but Ill let her explain that maybe.
The Fish of a Lifetime
Yak: Hobie ST Turbo Revo.
Weapon: Penn GT220 overhead and Penn 10-15kg Mariner rod ($79 Combo)
Line: 300m Bionic braid 30lb
Leader: 100lb Black Magic Tough Trace crimped to 11\0 Gamakaktsu
Leader to line knot: double uni
Leader to terminal tackle knot: Lure knot
Bait: Squidgy Blue Water Livey Jelly Baby
Fish: Black Marlin
Official Weight: 78kg
Approx Age: 2.5 – 3 years
Hooked: Sunday 24th Feb 2008, 11am
Landed: Sunday 24th Feb 2008, 2pm
Location South West Rocks, NSW
Last chance today.
I have been out every day for 6+ hours with little reward but vermon and a few bungled strikes. Friday’s black tip reef shark and yesterday’s 85cm Mac Tuna, was encouragement enough to believe I still had a chance of snaring a good cobia.
Yak, knots and gear are holding and technique seems correct even if its only by-catch at the moment. No-one else is bagging out, strikes are hard fought through hours of trolling. Every day I have taken away a sign of improvement. I have the area fully mapped in my gps now and have dozens of waypoints where bait schools had been on previous days. Ive got the whole find the bait school, jig the slimeys, bridled and in the water before he croaks, rest in the bait tube thingy happening nicely now after five days of it.
I had tried the new downrigger at the start of the week, but due to almost all strikes being surface and the fact that my foot pedals hit the DR on every stroke, it had been retired to the bench on Wednesday. Must buy an extension for it. The big plastic had a cursory troll on Saturday but the conditions turned the worst of the week at 9:30 am, just when the Mac Tuna struck and the trip home was too rough to trawl. Wind slop waves during that first squall were washing over the front of the yak at half pedal height and the 750m journey to the safety of the headland and bay took over twenty minutes of stomping.
The colour of the water, the tide, swell and wind are the best they’ve been all week. Someone is going to hookup a good fish today.
Lynette and I launched at around 6:30am from the usual spot at the end on the road. What a luxury, No load and unload from the car, no hours drive to and from the nearest ocean launch. Just pick up your fully loaded yak and walk 200m to the beach at the end of the road, launch into a calm aqua coloured bay, framed by a rising sun, paddle 800m round the point break and your in some of the best game fishing waters in the country. What a place to be!!
The most yaks and trailer boats I have seen are close inshore off the jail today. Its great to see so many out. For a good part of the week it was just the two or three of us trolling and working the rocks and schools.
With the congestion at the rocks, we decide to head the kilometer or so out to the mark I had at Gaol Peak. We had only traveled 200m when we noticed fish feeding 10 m in front of us. Neither of us had anything to throw at it so we stopped and watched a while. The fish stopped feeding but the sound, of what I assume was the tidal flow meeting the ocean current, was still rumbling in our ears. We looked up to see the line running way out to sea, with a variety of yaks and tinnies trolling it. Though I had watched this line from the rocks all week, it was either, never present on previous day’s outings due to the tide times in the morning, or the conditions were so bad it was more difficult to identify at water level, earlier in the week.
As we drifted across the line from dirty water to clean, the sounder screen filled with a bait school and larger predators. I hit the Mark button on the GPS and deployed the sabiki and quickly dispatched two livies into the bait tube and one onto a hook courtesy of a small cable tie. Set the GPS to navigate back to the mark, another jig and two more into the tube. I’m getting good at this, mojo levels up today, c’mon fish.
I’m not going to make the previous days mistakes and collect too many livies and not enough trolling. Up till now, two livies a day would have been enough, the strikes were so few and far between.
Lynette and I set off on the line, heading in the general direction of the point, encountering various bait schools and pausing to let the livey drift over the top. Damn those slimeys are tough critters. I let a few go still bridled during the week and they swam away quite happily. If anyone jigs one up still rigged that was me. There not coming pre-rigged just yet. Though Im sure one of the tackle companies will have them soon.
After two or three of these schools and no success, I stopped for a drink, bite to eat and decided to give the big Squidgy Fish a run. Earlier in the week, when the downrigger wasn’t an option, I trolled around a red and white Rapala X-Rap 20ft deep diver. I never got a hit on this so after a couple of days, I put it back in the shame box too. Funnily enough the Smiling Jacks Pillie, I got a good Yellowfin on in Dec 07, had the first run of the week and came up with a good bonito. For a cheap lure that thing has accounted for so many fish. Perhaps it’s the way it wobbles at yak speed. I never caught a single thing on it in the 9.5 years prior to that. The tuna family seem to love it. If we ever see another mackerel in Qld, I am guessing they will too. Im not sure if I have the name of it right. I have had it for ten years or so and someone identified it.
Anyways, about a half dozen of us were playing ‘Mine’s Bigger Than Yours’ over a sundown beer and I trotted out the blue water livey. In spite of Danny's impressive collection of squid rigs, everyone was fascinated by it and when the girls finally put it down, an hour or so later, I rigged it up with hook, leader and crimp and tied it to the old Penn outfit. That’s an indication of how well I thought it would go. However, with the downrigger retired and the XRap in shame, this was the best option for me to run one up and one down, for one last shot.
We just casually pedaled along the line, chatting to kayakers, and trailer boats, remarking how good the conditions were. No wind, very little current, no clouds, trying not to say the ‘home’ word. There are photos of many of you out on the big blue or depending on the day, the big brown. Will try and put them up over the coming week or so. We pulled a wide arc from the rocks, headed down towards the first headland and spotted a path to troll through, close to the rocks and away from other yakker’s and boat’s lines.
GPS plot of the fight
Its just before 11am and we are about half way along the rock wall heading back to the point, 250m offshore and just about to make another arc out to sea along the line. There are trailer boats 25m to our left and a couple of yakkers a little ways off. As I reached for my GPS to hit navigate, the Penn gave a short squeal, followed buy a short line run and then went quiet. I had only learned this week to listen for the nervous run of the slimey just before he’s about to get nailed, A good queue to grab the rod ready for the strike.Hold on a minute, this is a plastic, something has given it a nudge. I reached for the rod. The very next second just 15m to our right, the water exploded and a huge marlin launched itself, flapping and twisting fully out of the water. I remember thinking at that instant… AWESOME, someone has one on, I hope it’s a yakker.
Next split second, as the fish re-enterd the water, the rod in my hands buckled over, the line started to peel and the yak took off.
“HOLY CR@P, HOLY CR@P, HOLY CR@P…… Its meeeeeee!!!!!” I shouted to Lynette. Seconds passed and the yak slowed, the line went slack, I reeled in as fast I could, ecstatic I had achieved what I had come here to do, hook not land a marlin. Then 50m away the fish burst out of the top of the water column again, violently shaking its head, shimmering in the sunshine. The line buckled again, the line peeled and the poor old GT220 clicked and groaned under the pressure of the fish. “WooHoo!!!, I’m still on” I shouted and off shot the kayak again.
I just learnt something new, I thought. When the line goes slack after a peel and you haven’t lost the fish, he’s about to jump.
I have no idea what speed I was doing, Im not sure if I have ever pedaled that fast before. If I had another free hand, a photo of the looks on the faces of some of the charter boat punters I passed was priceless. I actually saw one guy scratching his head in disbelief.
I had my back to land and had only other boats and yaks out wide to get a bearing off. I afforded a quick glance over my shoulder, only to see Lynette and other yaks disappearing behind me. I turned forward again, line peeling, both hands on the rod, muscles starting to feel the strain. I remember thinking I hope the weather holds cos I could end up 10kms out.
The line went slack again, I reeled as fast as I could and sure enough up he came again. “WooHoo!!”, I shouted, and then he jumped again. “WooHoo!!”, I shouted again, rod buckled and off we went again.
I looked down at the reel thinking ‘why this one? why this one?’. There’s a brand new TLD25 with 50lb braid in the next holder. ‘Why couldn’t it have been that one???’. This combo caught two really big cobia and a YF last year. The braid is old and the rachet is shot. It even cluncks when you wind under load and is difficult to free spool. Next thing I noticed is how little line there was on the reel. It was probably only two thirds full to start with.
Use the pedals!! I pumped as hard as I could, trying to make ground on the fish. I’m making a little line back as I wind and pedal but this fish is heading for NZ. I have to do something else. I’m not going to get spooled! I’m not letting go of this fish!!
‘Think, think… What did he say?… What did he say?’. Side on… that’s it… that’s it.
I reached for the Hobie rudder lever and turned a bit. Now I’m starting to skew out to the side of the fish, a bit like a water skier behind a boat. Kayak is slowing, line peel is slowing, “This is working”, I shouted. Not sure whom too, as no-one was around at that stage. I crank the rudder a little more and really apply some pressure on my adversary. The yak slows a little more but now its starting to tip a little on its side. The fish gave another burst and it tipped a little more. The heart rate went up another few notches and I threw the one leg over the back of the yak and leaned back like a yachtsman on the trampoline of an 18 footer. That’s working. I’m glad I didn’t go full rudder straight up, I would have been in the drink for sure.
Now I’ve found a good yak angle against him, the boat has slowed. I looked around again and the support yaks were close now. A very rough guess is about 2kms offshore. It’s still taking line slowly in little tugs but progress is mostly down now and not out. That’s a relief I thought as I looked at the few lonely strands of pink braid left on the barrel of the GT220. I use the Hobie pedals again to get around to the side of the fish as he sounds. Water depth is around 60m now, he’s heading for the bottom. As I circle around him I’m also decreasing the distance between us. At one stage he was well over 150m away from the yak and I had no way of decreasing that. I have half the reel back now, heart rate slowing.
I turned to realize my livey rig is still trailing 60m out the back. Holding the rod with one hand and the butt jammed under my leg on the Hobie deck I reach back and begin to wind in the TLD. With the livey a few metres from the boat the fish gives a couple of head shakes and I grab the rod with both hands again waiting for the next run. I can’t see him on the sounder but I know he is down deep but not too far away.
I notice a charter boat about 80 m in front of me just starting to pull up anchor. ‘I hope they move’, I’m thinking. Getting closer now, down to 40m and I can see their anchor coming up. Whew! They are moving, “c’mon, c’mon, faster” I’m muttering to myself. They start to move and I can see the punters on the decks winding up their lines. “I’m going to make it, I’m going to make it”, I thought. What’s that, “Damn” that’s one of their lines I can see moving through the water at right angles to me up in front, and “Holy CR@P” its across the top of mine. I dropped the rod to try and keep my line low in the water so it doesn’t snag. I can see his lively getting close to my line. “Go over, Go over!”, I’m willing it. I’m moving at such a speed my braid is now lifting out of the water the closer I get to the other line.
“Damn, Damn”, just as the livey passed over my line, the braid rose and the other line did a little swing and now his livey is wrapped around once and hanging off my taught braid, dancing there, taunting me, I’m done, the line is about to go. I’m waiting for that &@*$ing PING sound!!
It hasn’t happened!! I free-spooled and turned to the charter boat now as his line was starting to pull my braid with them as they motored off in the other direction. “Free Spool, FreeSpool”, I shouted at them. I pumped the pedals hard and got to the livey around the line. I have no idea if the fish is still on at this stage and for some reason I tried to unravel the lines instead of just cutting their leader.
I’m shaking now, trying to untangle the lines without breaking them. WTF, I just cut the leader. The line fell away but the livey and hook are wrapped around my line still. I had a closer look. “Oh No, Oh No, Oh No”, I screamed. Somehow my line has got into the eye of their hook. “Aaaarghhhh!!!”, how could that happen? I let the livey go to the water and Red came over to see what he could do. Thankfully he chose to leave it, but I seem to recollect the livey disappearing before I watched the hook slide down my line into the water. That’s going to be a problem later if it lasts that long, I thought.
I cranked the handle on that old reel as fast as I could. He is still there and motoring now. Im down to the last few strands of line again. Time to hit the pedals. Legs pumping, I’m winding to take the slack as I make up ground again and get back out the side of him. Ok, I’m back in a position to fight again. I look behind me to see my TLD completely despooled. There is 600m of braid and mono behind me. How it wasn’t run over by a power boat, Ill never know. I must have put the rod in free spool instead of strikedrag when I wound in the livey earlier. I called to the support yaks and Lynette maneuvered in beside me and took the rod and retrieved the line without incident. Alone that would have become a real problem later on. There is no way I could have wound in 600m of line and fought the fish at the same time.
The line has gone slack again, “He’s going to jump”, I shouted and cranked the handle as fast as I could and waited …. Nothing. Red calls out he is on the surface. I’m fumbling for the gaf now. No matter how many times I visualized this, I seem to have left that part out. My gaff, though it has a heavy duty hook, is a short handled one. I saw that thing jump. There is no way I am going to be able to hold the gaf if this fish decides to take off.
Its well over the hour mark now and my arms are aching. I’ve had one leg across the yak for what seems like forever. “Why is it on the surface”, it cant be buggered yet. I have hardly been applying any drag on the reel for fear the old braid will snap. I can see its tail and pec fins flapping about 15m away. Its mine.
Funnily enough I didnt pedal over to it, I realize now I was just as buggered as it and a little confused about what to do next. The fish was beaten but so was I. I didn’t have the strength to pedal over and finish the hunt. For the last ten minutes or so the muscles in my forearms have been cramping. When one gets too bad I would let go with the rod till it stopped and then the other would go. I’m also aware of a dull pain in the groin region where I have been slamming the rod butt when under each arm became too painful. My head hurts too. Water! I reached for the bottle and poured a half litre down my throat. My bottle was empty and I was still parched. I called and water appeared on the back of my boat.
I’m close now and I can see him starting to recover and thrash around. He descends to about 6 ft as I pedal over the top of him, just in time to see the line unravel from around his tail. Was he tail wrapped and he came to the surface to try and dislodge it? I cant be sure it was so hard to see.
Next minute a tinnie appears with two guys wielding a gaf. One of the other yakkers had sent them over. Three kms offshore and heading out further, if I can get the fish to the surface I might have a chance. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to raise the fish the tinny moved off and left me to the fight.
Fully recovered now, the fish sounds and takes off again. I hit the pedals and have now decided to try and get enough of an angle to turn his head and get him to swim back to shore. If I don’t turn the fish then we have a very long paddle home indeed. The first attempt I didn’t get wide enough and was only successful to a point. The fish recovered and started to head to sea again. This time I got right out in front of him and gradually steered him back towards shore.
I tried unsuccessfully for the next forty minutes to bring the fish to the surface but everytime I got it to within six foot of the surface he sounded to 20m. I pumped the pedal to get on an angle and try to bring him up.
When next I looked up we were only a few hundred meters off the rocks at the first point past the bins below the goal. It was then and there I decided to try and tow him back into the bay. In only 15m of water now the fish can sense something and starts a series of violent headshakes and pulls back hard every few metres I manage to claim with the pedals. The force with which the rod shakes as the fish does, is phenomenal.
I have no idea how long it took to work the fish along the wall but it seemed like forever. As I finally neared the point a paddler came around the heads at a rate of knots. It was Grant. An overwhelming sense of success crept over me. Somehow this is the boost I need to get home. Every fibre straining against the fish, every neuron working overtime thinking about the knot, the leader, why haven’t they broken? Why has such a large fish allowed me to tow it over a km when it appears to be strong enough to fight?
As we rounded the heads I was pleased to see there were no waves. The fish is still allowing me to tow it but as the water depth lessened it started to run. I’m only 250m off the beach now. Every fibre straining, water at 2m, legs pumping and the fish decides to make a run for the point and freedom. I couldn’t see what was happening behind me. The rod buckled over I have my thumb hard on the reel, Im not letting this one go at the last hurdle.
I look up to see a wave of people wading through the water. I turned to see Grant fly out of his kayak trying to gaff the fish. The gaf broke!! He dived and came up with both arms wrapped around the fish. Next thing two more grabbed the fish and subdued it. “I made it!!!”, I just wanted to get to the shore now. I jumped off my kayak 25m out and someone took it and the rod, I grabbed the bill of the fish and dragged it to the beach.
People cheering, my head pounding, the waves and the crowd are deafening, throat dry, muscles aching and now starting to cramp, I fell to my hands and knees beside the fish and dry wretched for what seemed forever. Like a dream, I seem to be floating above my body at that moment rather than in it.
A drink of water helped and as the lactic acid build up took its toll and I posed for photos, the sudden realization that I had done what I came to do and more sunk in. All the reading, asking, questions, thousands of dollars of gear and no sleep for a month before getting there, had paid off. Before I left, I told people I was going to catch a marlin from my kayak at SWR so I could see the reaction on their faces. I haven’t left the house much since getting home, too buggered. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when I show them I actually did.
Later I laughed and I cried. I had no control over my body for a few hours, nor did it seem my emotions. Never in my life before, have my body and mind been put to such a test, over such a long period. I have a new found appreciation for triathletes and other endurance sports people. They are often in this state after a race.
As you’ve seen and heard the fish was foul hooked. Why didn’t the old braid, my knot or leader break? Why did a fish that size allow me to tow him so far. Why didn’t the 100lb leader lassoed around his bill get rubbed away? I grabbed the bill and still have no skin left on one hand. When we put the fish in the back of my ute, I forgot to wrap the bill in a towel. The vibration of the bill against the car over the short trip to the weigh in, caused the paint work on my 2 year old car to be rubbed back to bare metal!!! Off to the panelbeaters today. How the hell did the leader survive 3 hours around his bill?? He was so lightly hooked behind the pec fin it couldn’t have applied any pressure. I have heard it suggested the hook may have been in a nerve a bit like the pressure points we have on our body. Why didn’t the line break when their rig and livey wrapped around mine? When I look at some of the photos, the angle on my rod alone should have been enough for the line to break. The fish should have been free on so many occasions.
To be honest, from the time I rounded the heads until I came back with the car to collect the fish is all pretty hazy. As are pretty much all of the events throughout the fight. It has taken me a few days to piece things together and the plot from my GPS and all the descriptions and photos have helped. Everything I have written I honestly believe happened even if the sequence in which they occurred is not quite right.
It was truly a memorable experience for me. One I will take to my grave. Hopefully, for all those that participated or witnessed, it will be too.