Blue marlin mayhem at Shootout

THE Cabo Hatteras Billfish Shootout has become one of the most popular tournaments on the east coast with monetary rewards for tag and release, as well as the largest fish weighed. The Friday night Calcutta adds plenty of excitement.

The fishing leading up to this year’s tournament at Port Stephens was inconsistent to say the least, due to the amount of funky water around after the big floods on the NSW Coast.

The 109 boats in the tournament ventured far and wide. It was apparent that enough blue marlin were being hooked for us on Viking 11 to target these magnificent fish.
It was the right call because as soon as we ventured into a little deeper water, we were hooked up on our first blue. For the fish to count they had to be over 150kg, and this one was well over that weight. 40 minutes later the 60kg line we were using had this nice blue coming our way, and then it happened … the hooks pulled. A few choice words came to mind, but in the end “bad luck” was all we could say.

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Our luck did not change and two smaller blues lost brought us to end of a frustrating first day.

Day 2 and we were out still full of hope; the 176kg fish that had been weighed for the first day, was beatable, especially if we could find one the same size as the day before. Arriving where we were fishing at the end of day one, I noticed the water had changed, and was not looking pretty at all. I went wide looking for the same water. A small black marlin ate the stinger lure, but again fell off…

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I found some new structure that I was not aware of, and the water was good, I worked it and the long ‘rigger band cracked and the 130 International started howling. Another 200kg plus fish was smoking up the ocean. It went crazy and we still stayed attached, the hard work was done it had burnt itself out, and it was just a matter of using the heavy tackle to get it to the boat. All was going well, and my anglers were even starting to do the breakup of the winnings, then 45 minutes into the fight the hooks pulled again … our hearts went to our throats. “Bugger” I said or something like that!!

The tournament was slowly coming to an end, and still it was opened for a bigger fish. We found a sperm whale which appeared to be feeding on squid, and as well as being good entertainment, it also showed me that we were in a good place.

Half an hour left to go, and mayhem happened: a double header on blues, one angler in the chair, one with the big 130lb just in a waist gimbal. Both fish were not in the ballpark for the money. But as Conner my crewman was bringing in the other lures, a true keeper came in and grabbed the lure right at the boat.
Three blue marlin hooked up at once! The big one started window wiping on the surface, and you guessed it, it fell off; the angler trying to handle the big gun, as a stand up outfit lost his and our only fish for the tournament we got alongside quickly and it was tagged and released.

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What a crazy couple of days. But that can be lure fishing for you. After 40 years I wondered if I needed to go back to school on my lure fishing; wrong hooks, wrong rig, or just bad luck? One thing’s for sure, I would rather be lucky than good any day.

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