As I now look back over a lifetime of fishing spanning 55 years it dawns on me that there has been so much joy , so many great memories, so many wonderful fishing acquaintances. Even at the tender age of 60 I still love what I do.
I guess I am lucky that I am still fit and dont suffer too many aches and pains so I can still mix it with the young guys and generally hold my own, but then if I havent picked up a few pointers by now I should give it up.
There are times in winter when it is rough and cold where by I may think that sitting in front of a warm fire watching the football with a cool beer may be better than being creamed in a 30 knot westerly as I head back after a days tuna fishing .
These times however it is the marlin fishing I love and live for .
The summer days with their light nor easters attract me more than tuna fishing in winter . Tuna are great ball busting fun and over the years we have caught our share but they are brute power and hard work ...marlin are visual and are more of a challenge they are the fishermans fish....and I love the whole gambit of it all.
So here we are 40 odd years of marlin fishing on and Im keener now than when I caught my first fish
The hours of trolling when the fish are scarce. the rush of blood when the cry goes out "fish on the teaser" the scream of the reel and then the superb jumps as a wild marlin flies high.......Yeh! thats what I love.
The season of 2005 was shaping up to be a beauty whilst we were still fishing the waters of Sydney. This is quite normal that Billfisher and Broadbill fish the early part of the season from late November to end January from Sydney .
We had a little success with half a dozen fish tagged, but it was steady going, so we really looked forward to the 05 Pt Stephens season, hoping that it would be a good one
We set a course for Pt Stephens January 28 with our first charter around the second of February.
We like a couple of days in Port to rig gear, do a little boat maintenance for the 110 days of marlin fishing ahead of us.
I spoke to my friend Tim Dean a week prior to departing Sydney Tim said "We are catching a heap Roscoe its looking real good "he adds
Having spent 3 days on tackle and general tidying we headed out on our first days charter from the Port. As always we moored the boats at Soldiers Point marina approx 5 nautical mile from the Tommaree headland and the sea
The cruise to the heads is most enjoyable experience.. Often we are visited by the resident dolphins of the bay as we enjoy a morning coffee and a general conversation which can be anything
A small black flies high on BILLFISHER
from what happened at the club or pub last night too thoughts on weather and anticipation of how good the fishing will be to day , always an unknown factor.
The waterways of the port are pretty special and all were enjoying the scenery on the steam out seaward
The twin Cummins burbled lazily as we cruised down the bay past Corlette it was a near perfect summers day. The smell of sunscreen wafted to me on the bridge from the cockpit below every one was in fine spirit all looking forward to a day on Mother Ocean.
My anglers were a really nice family from Victoria They had never seen a marlin before let alone catch one so it was with great anticipation that we wanted to beak their duck.
The mother Jenny Hill booked the charter from Melbourne we had not met before. She was a lovely lady who had not fished before and wanted her husband Rob to experience the raw boned excitement of game-fishing as a special treat for his 60th birthday. Their son was famous footballer Essendon ruck man AFL footballer David Hill Along with daughters and boyfriends we all were looking forward to getting hubby a fish to fulfil his lifes ambition and they had travelled 1300km to do it, but fish do not care about anglers feelings ...they are quite callous at times..
Upon reaching the shelf it was obvious that things looked great ,bait redded out the sounder ,feeding shearwaters hovered over the feeding fish .
We dunked a bait and within half an hour had tagged a big striped of 140kg
The action continued and we returned to port with four tag flags all big stripes. ......job done and done well our clients had a marlin experience that they would remember forever..........We were very happy that these nice people had realised their dream.................... a good start
We new that if it remained like this 05 was going to be a screamer but we also knew that it doesnt take much for it to turn the other way.
I recall the previous year when the water got hot and ran hard and every striped marlin within "coo ee" ended up 200 mile down the coast in the cooler water.
They came back but it was a lean couple of weeks while they were gone.
The water remained the fishing just got better and better.
We had 22.5 degrees Celsius a light tide run into the north west
Hooked up 'n fighting on BILLFISHER
the weather generally remained superb and every day that Billfisher and Broadbill returned to Port we were flying multiple figure tag flags
Glenn on Billfisher tagged 17 one day whilst our best was 16 ...
Bearing in mind that these were not small fish the average weight was around 85 kg whilst we had a personal best of 18 marlin tags in a day in 97 they were small blacks that could be tamed pretty quickly....so these were very busy days with generally one or two double hook ups involved, bites were generally 10 minutes apart so we were pretty much playing fish all day. No rest for the wicked but we did not come here to rest .we were loving it.
Glenn excelled for the season winning champion boat day four in the Interclub also winning champion lady angler in the same tournament . This may not sound much but take into account that there are 280 boats fish this tournament so it really is quite an achievement He also won champion boat in the Northern Waters tournament and ended up champion boat for the season in the port by tagging 148 marlin for the two and half month stay............a feat I was very proud of even if he did beat his old man by a few fish as long as its in the family I am happy
Having worked ten days each boat our tally was around 80 marlin tagged and released ....................a good season ...............shit yes!
However on the Eleventh of February we had the day of days a day that I may never see again in my career a day that left me with a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my days.
We had a rest break in between charters ,we purposely do this to recuperate after the long 14 hour days ,but the word had got around how good the fishing was and we picked up a job with a bunch of guys who had fished with us on occasions before in
A whale shark visited us on the marlin grounds a thrill for the anglers on BROADBILL
They had caught tuna and dolphin fish but the three were all marlin virgins so it was with great hopes that they turned up at 6 am at Soldiers point that to day would see them all going home with hopefully a marlin each.
Nick Vitalle, Carlo Panello and Mick Ross...were really keen anglers certainly a lot keener when they had heard the buzz about the red hot fishing at Pt Stephens .
I fired both donks up ,backed out of the pen as Soxie started on his duties, one being to take down the 11 tag flags off the rigger from the day before.
It was a light west wind that greeted us as I turned Broady past the break-wall, the sky was cloudless and as we headed to sea a flat calm ocean welcomed us.
I eased the throttles on pushing us to a nice cruise speed of 20 knots it would be an hour and 20 mins to the grounds on a course of 100 degrees.
I can recall my early days when I would gaze in absolute envy at my peers back then as they steamed home with two or three marlin flags on their riggers......those early days when boats barely had sounder let alone GPS, that invention was still twenty five years away.To catch three marlin in a day was a pretty special event but here we were taking it for granted that a dozen or so was almost the norm. Certainly in 25 years technology has come a long way as well as the quality and sea keeping and speed of the modern marlin boat.
There would have been a much greater population of fish back then but we were not as skilled and did not have the big sounders and GPS systems that we rely on in the year 2005 I guess in a way it was all a bit relative.
One thing for sure there was no long lining so our stocks of marlin were not plagued like they are to day so obviously they had little pressure and would have been more plentiful
As I mentioned before we drove out of Pt Stephens in 97 having tagged 248 for the season including 18 in a day that season left me believing that we had fished maybe the best marlin season that I would fish...but records and milestones are made to be broken I guess and on the eleventh of February with three anglers we blew that one out of the water with a day and a record I may never experience again
Ross's longest serving Deckie The bat releasing a nice Striped One of the 248 marlin tagged in ' 97 on BROADBILL.
It was one of those days where you cannot feel anything but confident after all we had already caught a lot of marlin for the season and to day was perfect for it ...no wind ...flat calm ocean and very little company.
. I glanced southward and spotted a boat on the horizon apart from that it seemed like we had the ocean to our selves.
Sometimes that can be an advantage ,sometimes it is better when a few of the mates are around as we swap info via the radio such conversations as "Weve got a truck load of bait in "03 and just let one go" and so on can help guide as a guide as to the most productive spot .
The good thing about fishing at the Port is that the skippers are all good friends and help each other all the time, after all the better the reports and results the busier we all are.
Upon reaching the bait grounds in 75 fathoms I eased the throttles back to trolling speed as Soxie made ready bait jigs, rods ,bridle needles and tag poles . We trolled the grounds in looking for the bait schools, the sounder redded out with vast schools of blue mackerel under us
"Give it a jig here Soxie?" I suggested from the bridge.....Rob dropped the bait jig in and pulled a full string of beaut big mackerel baits the boys helped Rob take them off the jigs and dispatch them into the live bait tank......three more drops and we had a tank full of giant mackerel baits on the fourth drop three striped marlin followed the bait jig up and swam around the transom of the boat we quickly bridled two baits and hook up two fish they were both over 100 kg ... the day had started with a vengeance. The big fish danced every which way as I tried to figure which one to target first the fish on the left side stuck his head up I backed over and we released that one.
Captain Glenn Hunter and his 40 foot Cairns Custom Craft BILLFISHER
One down, one too go The next one took twenty minutes and he too swam away with a tag for the trouble only one marlin virgin to go . As I glanced seaward I could see a bunch of shearwaters working a bait patch We steamed the 500 meters to inspect when we arrived there was a massive bait ball ....thousands of yellowtail balled up on the surface by a school of striped marlin like I had never seen before.
There were perhaps 40 to 50 marlin tearing around the panicking bait balling it tighter and tighter until at a given moment they would attack the frenzied bait
We backed over to the ball, threw in two baits and hooked simultaneously two stripes up straight away .
We would then chase them down release and then back the bait for two more.
We could have thrown five baits in and hooked up five but that would have been too messy and busy ...two was still a challenge these were all big fish and did not always head in the same direction.
Many times we slewed Broadbill on its keel to change direction in order to chase the fish one around the bow then one to the stern it was a captains dream to back up on this sort of action.
We fished like we were in a frenzy and with in four hours had tagged 16 marlin, it still only 3 ÔO Clock
One of the boys said "Hey Ross isnt your previous best eighteen?"
This is how it's done Ross pushes BROADBILL hard chasing another marlin .....it was how it was all day.
"Yeh! Lets see if we can beat it" I agreed, knowing where they were coming from.
We had the ocean to ourselves so there was virtually no one else competing for the bait ball so it made it that much easier.
If there was other boats, the fish may have spooked but this day we just kept going back to the baitfish and just kept hooking them up ...
The lads certainly were not virgins anymore and by 6.30 pm we released our 21 st marlin for the day...we were all exhausted but the adrenalin rush and the wild fishing was keeping us fired up
When we caught the last fish they were still snapping we could have caught
We backed the boat into the pen that night at 8.30 pm.
It was a tired team that night as we struggled down the ladder from the bridge , it was now 15 hours since we first set foot aboard this morning and that is an honest days work, but no pain no gain some fool once said.
Soxie and myself had to wake the anglers who had slept all the way home and quite understandably
Milestones were only made to be beaten, wether or not we will ever achieve such a feat again is debateable. we had fished the best marlin day of our career , a day when every thing was right ..the calm seas .the lack of opposition boats and a schooled marlin population like we had never seen before.
I refer back to my days as a wet behind the ears, lure trolling marlin fisho in the seventies,. those days when I longed for the day that we may be lucky enough to catch a multiple of marlin in a day. I had seen a boat that caught three in a day and just gazed in awe at the flags.....and dreamed that one day it may be my boat with that many flags on the rigger.
Soxie traces a wild one A good deckie was needed to catch 21 in a day"
In the cockpit below 35 years later Soxie is putting 21 flags up the rigger.
Putting it in perspective I must admit that I was personally very proud I consider that I have served my apprenticeship well over the years I also needed the best crewman to help me achieve the result and in Soxie I had that.
check out the MARLIN tag and release flags on BROADBILL