Wind: light NW throughout
Swell: about 1m E
Water temp: 24-25°C
Current: at Doggie Beach reef, northerly
Launch point: Doggie Beach
Participants: jaro, jimbo, diesel, sunshiner
Keen Angler Program: Zip
I must admit to being a bit edgy about launching at Doggie Beach today. Jaro had checked it out yesterday arvo and reckoned it was OK for a launch but I'd gone down a couple of hours later to see for myself. By then it was what I would rate as marginal for a safe launch so I spent a restless night because I never get casual about a Doggie Beach launch.
Anyway it was up and at 'em when the alarm went off (05:08). Live weather feeds were showing a light NW at DIP and I could feel a westerly coming in onto the verandah. Offshore, nice! Now if only the swell is friendly.
In the Doggie Beach carpark diesel was sitting in his Forester with his prowler on the roof when I arrived. I hadn't been expecting him but it was good to see him anyway as he has only been a Noosa Yakker two or three weeks. So this was to be his first outing with us. Jaro and jimbo arrived and the four of us meandered down the path to the beach to check conditions.
There was just enough light to see that some waves were breaking on the outer bank, maybe 150m out from the shore break but we all noted the gap in which white water rarely appeared, so doable it was.
Then we were assembling on the beach.
Diesel impressed us by jumping in first. Possibly he has done this before? Or maybe he just doesn't know how unforgiving this launch can be. Off he went and as he paddled out he got quite a bit of air under his Prowler when cresting (just in time) the last wave of a set as it crossed the outer bank.
I hung back to get the launch pics. My excuse, anyway!
So diesel's out the back wondering whether we three are ever going to get the courage up to go. But we're waiting for the sets to go through and sure enough, the sea flattened out and the three of us exited using the same lull, jimbo, jaro and I. Safe out the back. Almost, but not quite, dry bums!
Out here there were a few terns dipping and splashing so clearly there were baitfish near the surface. No splashes from below though, but still… Jaro opted to try a bit of a troll around just out the back while diesel decided to follow me out to our Doggie Beach Reef mark, 1500m out. I must admit I was tempted to try a troll close in as we have encountered feeding longtails here and at this time on several occasions. Jimbo came up on the radio and informed us he was going to head to A-Bay Reef.
***** Jimbo's contribution starts
Having made it successfully through the surf zone, and noticing Sunshiner, Jaro and Diesel had headed generally east out to the Dog Beach Reef marks, I decided I would head NE to the A-Bay Reef area, primarily intent on doing some bottom fishing once there.
However, I did troll a pilchard set up on a weighted 3-gang hook lure with a trailing treble, see pic below showing how an XL pilchard would be attached.
As I set out for A-Bay Rf, I noticed a few birds casually working an area about 500m off the headland between Doggie Beach and A Bay, so decided to troll generally through that area on my way to A-Bay Rf. As is often the case, when I got to that area, the birds seemed to migrate to an area about 200m behind me, from whence I had just come. As it was early, and I had only about 2 km to go to A-Bay Rf, I circled back to troll once more through the same area. Of course by the time I got there, the birds had once again disappeared, so I set out once again for A-Bay Rf.
I had only gone about 200m after completing my circle when the trolled rig started to growl, but not a real hot screamer. As I picked up the rod and looked back I saw a fish clear the water standing vertically about 40m behind me, possibly a mackerel by its silvery colour and shape. But as I didn't see a line attached to this fish, and my line was still angled down into the water behind me, I assumed it must have been another from the same shoal. In hindsight, it probably was my fish ... read on. So I was now retrieving "my fish" without too much resistance, when only about 20m from me a sailfish/marlin bursts from the surface tail-standing for a second or two before falling back into the water and going for a short-lived run … Woohoooo!!! I'm hooked up to a billfish, albeit a relatively small one.
It only took about five minutes before I had the fish on a "short lead" when it twice more performed a brief tail stand only 2-3m from the yak, but I could now gauge its length to be about 1.3m. My immediate thought was … Is it long enough to keep? A quick call to Sunshiner assured me that if it was a sailfish or marlin, I could definitely keep it.
With the fish along side the yak I gaffed it cleanly, but I was of the opinion it was still too "green" to bring on board. So with the gaff up through its head, I was able to hold the fish in the water but held firmly against the side of the yak. This strategy worked well as the fish quickly succumbed but not before propelling the whole kayak through the water at about 2-3 kph. It was like having a small outboard motor attached to the side of my yak.
I pulled the fish on board and Jaro kindly came over to take a photo for me.
I eventually continued on to A-Bay Rf and another mark just to the south, where I bottom fished for a couple of hours. I was fortunate to land a nice fat sweetlip about 48cm on a prawn bait, but that was the only other serious bite for morning.
At around 0930 I decided to pull the pin and head back to do battle with the notorious Doggie Beach sand monster which had a bad habit of showing up while you are out fishing.
*****back to sunshiner
Conditions glorious. Diesel and I were drift fishing the Doggie Beach Reef and being carried south quite quickly, much quicker than the wind alone could achieve. Then jimbo came up on the radio asking for the size limit for "swordfish". Flabbergasted, I passed on the news to him that there were no restrictions on such fish but was unable to glean from the info that jimbo gave me what the species was (marlin probably, sailfish less likely). At this time I was about two kilometres from jimbo but jaro was much closer and offered to rendezvous with him and get some on water pics as jimbo does not have a camera on board.
Meanwhile, diesel and I were catching nothing of note on the bottom out at Doggie Beach Reef. Oh, except this…
The bottom fishing where we were was dead. Jaro was now fishing in the same area with succulent baits and raised a couple of hits but nothing in the boat except grinners. But jimbo was hot today as he nailed a lovely grassy on prawn near A-Bay Reef as he told us by radio.
By around 09:30 I was starting to get bored and I'd also lost two SPs to various munchers down there. They take surreptitious half moon bites out of the SPs, gradually converting them to debris. I was ready to battle the sand monster, really ready.
So I headed for the beach and was exhorted by jaro to find the best way past the sand monster so I could act as a guide for him and the others. Sure, jaro. Trust me.
Anyway I hit the beach the right way up after a great ride on a steepish wave which carried me over the outer bank seriously quickly and into the deeper water adjacent to the shore break.
Jimbo had secured his two fish really well because he knows how vicious the Sunshine Beach sand monster can be. By radio I directed him to my chosen path but he came in from the north rather than the east and just a teensy bit too close to the break zone, I thought. Uh oh! Next thing I see he's valiantly trying to get his Espri pointing east because coming from that direction was a mini-mountain of water steepening by the second as it encountered shallower water. He almost made it too, got the angle right, but the wave broke just as he went up its face. He stayed on the yak for about a second, going backward in a giant washing machine look alike then over he went and the yak was upside down. Fortunately (or not?) jimbo has had a lot of practice at what to do next and soon he was back on and returning to the out-the-back holding area to have another go.
His second run, from further out, was perfect and he let the sets go through then turned toward the beach encountering almost no white water this time. Diesel had come in at the same time as jimbo so they hit the beach almost together, only metres apart. Jaro came in a little later, same place, and just took his time, working his way through the encountered waves, also avoiding the sand monster.
Jimbo by now had dragged his "swordfish" out of the Espri fish hold and was attracting quite a bit of attention from the many beach strollers enjoying the magnificent beach weather.
Hopefully jimbo will leave a personal account of this capture on this post. C'mon jimbo, tell us what it was like!
Note: I originally identified this fish as probably a sailfish, but consultation with experts showed that the fish was in fact a black marlin, likely 5-6 months old. The main basis for this identification is repeated here for future reference.
Email from Jeff Johnson, ichthyologist at Queensland Museum
The more I looked at your fish the more I was convinced it was not a Sailfish, but was no closer to working out what it actually was! I queried a number of my ichthyologist colleagues throughout Australia about your fish, but none except for Julian Pepperell could say. His answer follows:
Yes, I saw a different pic of this fish yesterday (sent to me via Facebook). It is definitely a black marlin (istiompax indica). Over many years, I have seen many juvenile billfish, plus lots of photos. Early on in my career at NSW Fisheries, I receive a whole specimen of a very similar size to this one, which was identified as a black marlin, partly via x-rays and vertebral count. I have now seen enough of them to be very confident about this ID. One of the diagnostic features is the second dorsal fin being anterior to the second anal, which, among the istiophorids, is the case only for the black marlin. A blue marlin of this size would have virtually no bill while a sailfish would have a much higher first dorsal. Striped marlin of this size would have a relatively higher first dorsal anterior lobe, which would be noticeably rounded. I have quite a few photos of all the species at small sizes if you're interested. One last point just in case you weren't aware of a feature that does not seem to appear in the main literature. Black marlin only have rigid pectoral fins above a size of about 15-20 kg (the pectoral girdle ossifies). This fish would be around 5-6 months old, by the way.
I hadn’t previous heard the bit about the pectorals not being rigid in juveniles up to 15-20 kg. One of the posts in your blog had mentioned the pectorals could readily be folded flat, so I discounted a black very early in the piece. This process was informative for me as well, so thank you for cutting me in on it.
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