Reader’s Story: Fishing for Unicorns

THIS journey started approximately five years ago: the search for the elusive marlin, or as I like to call it, “The Unicorn Fish” a mythical beast that is rumoured to be found in the waters off Swansea on the NSW Central Coast.

Son Luke and I decided that we would like to expand our fishing horizons from the normal bottom bashing and lure casting to try to catch a marlin.

The bank balance copped a bit of a hiding but soon we were set up with four nice shiny new outfits, a pile of surefire success lures, and ready to do battle.

Reality soon bit and the long haul to the shelf, approximately 30nm from Swansea, and endless hours of fruitless trolling soon took the shine off game fishing.

Sure, we had a bit of success with some yellowfin and dolphin fish but that first marlin was still a pipedream.

We fished the Interclub at Port Stephens a few times and were subjected to the worst possible weather you could imagine with no fish. I tried my best to “berley” a fish up on one occasion but alas, no luck.

Things did improve a couple of seasons ago though and we actually raised some striped marlin and had seven strikes but failed to hook up properly, which was very frustrating to say the least.

Out of desperation we charted Tim Deans’ Calypso twice with no success, just a nice boat ride.

Then our luck changed.

We had very warm water off Swansea this year and with it came a good run of small black marlin which according to reports were regularly being taken on lures, which apparently is not the norm for them.

Luckily one day the wind dropped enough for us to get out to go for a troll.

We had decided to fish in closer and see what we could find. The plan was to troll till we got sick of it, then go for a bottom bash on the way home. We took a quick run down the coast towards Norah Head with the plan being to troll back to home port. There was a bit of a swell but it was a smooth run in the trusty 685 Cruise Craft.

The lures had only been in the water for about 10 minutes when the short corner growled and Luke yelled, “shit we’re on!”, I turned and saw a small black airborne no more than 15 metres from the back of the boat.

There was mild panic as I cleared all the lines as Luke played the fish.

It was a great thrill to watch this marlin’s aerobatic display and now I understand why this type of fishing is so addictive. They are a magnificent fish.

We got the fish boatside after about 10 minutes and we decided as it was our first marlin, we would take it for the table. I grabbed the gaff and thankfully did not stuff it up and the fish was ours.

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Michael with proof that “unicorns” do exist. His first black marlin taken off Swansea. 

As I gazed at the fish laying on the bottom of the boat I felt the same emotion you feel when you are hunting and have grassed your quarry, it is excitement tinged with sadness. You cannot explain it, you have to be in that position to understand. It was very special to share this moment with my son, it’s something I will never forget and an experience every dad should have.

After much back slapping, hand shaking and photo taking, the lures were put out again and we continued trolling back towards home. About an hour later the long ‘rigger went off and we were on again.

This time it was my turn on the rod and it was a real thrill to play this fish. I soon had it boat side, Luke traced it and popped the hooks out then we swam it for a few minutes till it strongly swam away.

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Luke Bennett with his first marlin prior to release.

As we had the first marlin lying on the bottom of the boat we decided to get back home ASAP so as not to spoil the fish.

I sent my good mate Kev a text and he and his dad Nev were waiting on the jetty for us with huge smiles. It was a pity they were not with us that day as we normally fish together. They have generously given us the benefit of their experience over the last 20 years or so which is hugely appreciated – welcome on my boat any day.

The marlin we kept was around 45kg which was a good first fish. We caught one on a Joe Yee Apollo in Evil and the other on a Pakula Sprocket in Lumo. We had changed all our hooks on our lures to Gamakatsu Big Game 9/0 and 10/0 which are very fine gauge, very strong and wickedly sharp.

The boat was cleaned, the fish processed and it was time for a celebratory Glenfiddich 15 year old single malt – and to plan our next trip.

The Unicorn Fish was no longer a myth.

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