Imagine a fish as big as your average front row forward……a fish, maybe 3.5 metres long. . A superbly streamlined fish from a prehistoric era . ……..A fish, designed by nature as An efficient killing machine ….A fish that has amazing hunting senses, being able to pick up its prey's every movement through its bodies lateral nerves…… A fish feared by all kinds of tunas and baitfish. A fish with blistering acceleration that will catch its prey unawares. ………..A fish that can illuminate the bands and stripes on its body in vivid purples , brighter than any tropical fish you have ever seen. The pinnicle of all gamefish…………………………………the mighty marlin.
It has always been a most prestigious event amongst the different competing boats in each Port to win the "First Marlin of the Season trophy". Naturally on Broadbill we were no different, many times over a lot of seasons we have won this coveted trophy, however I can remember other seasons when we have fished so hard, constantly raising fish but not hooking them or worse still having them fall off half way through the battle. To add insult to injury on a point score for the Game-club on a weekend, a relatively inexperienced boat will charge through the heads, throw out a fizz of lures and jag the first one in ten minutes of trolling. So I reckon everyone has an equal chance. Although it was a professional career I had chosen to pursue so many moons ago, perhaps we had an advantage over enthusiast's boats. As you can imagine a charter boat spending more hours fishing. I did not care "First marlin is first marlin" and that's that.
Thirty years later nothings changed, my son Glenn on his boat Billfisher and myself have always had that competitiveness between us to catch the first marlin…mind you I have seen winters when we have caught marlin every month.
In this case we did not know when the season started or finished, but given the normal run we generally reckon the seasons start from October on and the marlin thin out in June, so it could be 4 or 5 months that we fish without a strike from our favourite specie….By this time we are now suffering marlin withdrawal symptoms. days where we stand on the bridge with coat, beanie and gloves to keep at bay the biting westerly winds with one thought in mind to keep up moral……..t-shirts, summer and marlin……..it kinda gives you a warming ….nice feeling. takes your mind off the cold for a few minutes……..ah! dreams. I am a Pisces after all
Most times early in the season, a marlin strike will come unexpected, it has been months since we have seen a fish so when it comes there is always a certain amount of excitement . The spotter will scream "Fish up on the left rigger" as the huge dorsal tracks its prey in the wash., from this point the fingers are crossed as thebig fish swips at the lure time and time againnext strike may be a solid hook up and everything stays connected. In my early days I would watch with a racing heartbeat as time and time gain the marlin would slash at the fizzing lure only to hook up and fall off or not hook up at all. This would bring a stream of hostilities and a lot of ranting and swearing. These days I have mellowed, having tagged more marlin than I can remember over those thirty years, experience says don't worry well get the next one. These days we very rarely troll lures for marlin unless the hooks are removed then we fish the 'switch and pitch" techniques IE tease them up on hook less lures then throw them a pre rigged bait. ….a great fun, visual way of catching a marlin . This method, however can leave you with egg on your face if the fish doesn't eat the pitch bait, especially when they have been hard to find . Sometimes a well rigged garfish or a head rigged whiting may have got him first go.
One of the more memorable "First marlin" was a giant striped that angler Gavin "Aqua Monster" Sharp caught. It was a glassy calm ocean in October, we trolled a brace of lures behind Broadbill. We were catching some great yellowfin tuna ……No one had thought of long lining back then and we had several big fish up to 85 kg recorded, so far.
As the strike was encountered and the big Shimano reel screamed in pain. My thoughts at first that it was another big tuna . There was something different the angle on the line was wrong for a tuna as the fish swam at breakneck speed close to the surface, only to explode clear of the water. The mystery was solved as screams of 'it's amarlin reverberated from the cockpit below. My pulse quickened in anticipation as the giant of a fish cleared the water by metres, its giant tail propelling air as if to climb even higher ……Engaging reverse gear I prepared for a mile or two of chasing the huge fish blunt end first. The afternoon sun reflected off droplets as they flew, the fishes body lit up in purples . The cockpit a sea of excitement as time and time again the giant fish leaps skyward. Once tagged and released it was a handshake all around… a cold beer for all to celebrate the first marlin of the season. The fish was one of the biggest stripes we have caught we estimated it at 150 kg but I really think that it was 160, certainly the best striped the boat has caught to this day.
It is always a great stir to get on the radio having not relayed the strike to the fleet of the day and say " I wonder who will catch the second marlin for the season?" "Did you just tag one?" is the reply "Yes mate " "Oh congratulations" is always forthcoming but you just know that everyone on board is thinking "lucky bastard" under their breath. Such is the quedos and importance of the first marlin
Some years Glenn beats me others I win but when it happens there is no jealousy between Father and Son as long as it's in the family I am happy.
Last trip my crew made up of all first timer game-fisherman we hoping in anticipation that some luck would be encountered It was a bit of a sloppy day and a couple of the crew had a green tinge about them, this was quickly lost when the first yellowfin strike was encountered. We had just crossed the 300 hundred fathom line when a melea of sheer-waters were spotted the tuna were feeding under them .
The cockpit was busy for the next hour as Little Johnny my deckhand in training ran from rod to rod, gaffing fish and getting covered in blood .The whole show looked like a re run of The Texas chain saw murder . I called Glenn over on Billfisher and he too worked the tuna patch ………We then got a strike on the green Tuna Hunter lure on the right rigger, it was different it was also noticeable that the fish was bigger, much bigger . Calling Billfisher on the radio I suggested to Glenn that I may have a better fish and to keep his eyes peeled in order that he doesn't run over the line which by now was disappearing at an alarming rate. Paul Hobbs is an Ex-Pommie, a nice one however,he never mentioned Ashes cricket all day.
It was his strike and I think he was quite amazed as he watched the 50 wide Tiagra lose 50% of its line in seconds Little Johnny ran around clearing gear and generally worked in a stage of controlled panic Glenn called me back having seen the "First marlin of The Season" jumping 50 metres from his boat and 250 metres from my boat "Good Luck Dad" he said, knowing well that keeping them on is the next problem. We backed, filled and chased the big striped all round the ocean, eventually tagging it after 40 minutes ………. "Job done" I thought to myself as I sprung down the ladder to congratulate the angler and Johnny on tagging and releasing his first marlin on the deck of Broadbill
After we shook hands Glenn congratulated the boat over the airwaves He caught the "first marlin" last year and suggested that it was my turn this year
I wonder who will catch the second?
Striped Marlin 5th November 2005
Ross & John shaking hands
Broadbill crew with 7 Tuna