Not long after the episode of the big Mako, My wife Maia and I had the incredible luck to be able to join two of our great friends, Terry and Jean Mathews, for a 9 day live-aboard trip out of Cairns, in North Queensland. This is almost certainly the best destination in the World for big Black Marlin, and I greatly wanted to see from the experts, just how to handle really big fish. I was not disappointed !Right from the start, we had incredible action, and I don’t think we had a single day without almost constant excitement. our skipper was the legendary Charlie Chambers, who had been Max Lawson’s captain for 12 years, and Bob Dyer’s skipper for another 17 years. Charlie was one of the World’s top skippers of his day. The two ‘deckies’, Maurie and Tim, were great guys, and the whole trip was a real fun adventure, full of laughs and excitement.
I have never seen so many huge marlin as I saw on this trip. A grander was termed a ‘horse’ , and that what everyone hoped to get. If the fish was under 500 lbs it was called a ‘rat’ and not worthy of note, so every effort was made to get it up and release it without delay, so that the boat could go after a ‘decent’ fish !
We actually saw film star Lee Marvin catch three granders in four days,almost alongside us. He seemed to get a strike almost every time he passed us by, but we had fish up to an estimated 950 lbs, but the grander eluded us. No matter, we had the most incredible fishing, and in the 9 days, we tagged 17, and boated 2. I learned a lot from a World class crew, and for me this was the best thing I have ever done. The techniques and methods used in Cairns inspired me to modify and adapt our own techniques here, to good effect, enabling us to get big sharks as well as marlin here too.
Each evening we’d go in behind the reef to anchor for the night. Some of the reef gaps were narrow and in behind the reef were many ‘bommies’ (coral heads) so it was usually necessary to get in while it was light enough to see them. This is where I learned an interesting trick from Charlie.
One of the other boats had been fighting a fish into the dark, outside, and could not see his way in in the dark. we were already anchored behind the reef and Charlie was directing him in by radio. To do this, we used our radar to spot where the reef-break was. Charlie spread a sheet of tracing paper on the radar screen, and when a wave reared up to break on the reef, he would see a momentary spot of light reflected off the vertical face of the wave as it broke. He would mark each spot of light with a pencil, and after some time, the reef-break would become apparent, with no pencil marks there. He could then direct the incoming boat to enter through the unmarked channel !
This could be something worth remembering, for those who have radar.