The escapades reported (and no doubt embellished) here are centred on Australia’s Gold Coast, edited only to remove the most outrageous slander. We fish with cameras – so some of the pages will take some time to load. Please be patient!
There were a few unusual (and unrecorded) catches during this year’s Flathead Classic… After two days of no success in the pursuit of flathead, day 3 started with the usual phone call to awaken our Team Captain…
It was a slow start – and a very quiet day. And the best bit? Ken actually caught the bait… Australia Day weekend 2004 – and all the planets were alligned. Ken Douglas (my marlin fishing coach) was back in town…
For years I’ve wanted to catch a marlin on a spinning reel, light tackle, switch and pitch – all adds to the adrenalin rush of catching these magnificent fish. In September of each year, the Townsville Game Fishing…
Sunday was one of those days you want to forget. We came home empty! We decided to go back out again on Tuesday…
NOT the Flathead Classic!
Location: Australia – QLD – Gold Coast – Seaway
Words: Robert Coddington
Pix: Ben Biggs (he’s a better anchor man)
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After two days of little or no success in the pursuit of flathead, day 3 started with the usual phone call to awaken the Team Captain John (Marlin Boy) Polson as Ben and I roared with laughter at the grunts and groans on the other end of the phone.
The boat was loaded and we headed to the seaway for an early morning chat with President Tony Devine and Kim Jones from the organising committee of the Flathead Classic. With a cup of hot tea in hand, the conversation soon turned to the new 150 Squidgies. So with lines in, and the gently moving up and down in my favourite Kingie spot, hopes were high.
The peace and tranquility was shattered when Marlin Boy said something like “Oh bother – I’m on!” It was at this point that he showed all his previous big fish habits – and got his name! “Give it some stick” came the response – and mayhem erupted.
The cut down Interline Pro-Caster (due to a car door accident in it’s early days) was doing the job easily – and I noticed that it was combined with a little Shina SAF Regency baitcaster. I remember thinking “never seen one of those in action before – hope the drag system is up to it”…
Now here’s the situation… We have JP almost over the back of the boat after having the fish confirmed as a Kingfish, the ever excitable Benny standing with his gob open in stunned amazement at the amount of stick that John was giving this fish. With the kingie on it’s way to Tipplers, Benny sprints to the anchor rope and, with me yelling instructions, pulls the boat (with kingie attached) against the ripping current. Making some of the strangest grunting noises I’ve ever heard, he pulls the pick. If there is ever a Gold Medal event for anchor pulling – I’m backing him all the way.
Floating not-too-blissfully up the broadwater we passed two blokes in a tinnie casting dead prawns into the hole at the end of Wavebreak Island. Seeing the bend in the rod, and the mayhem on board, they pulled their lines (thank you boys) and watched as JP leapt and bounded around the boat.
Benny was on the camera – belting off film like paparazzi on Oscar night, Marlin Boy was still (by some miracle) attached to the fish – that now thinks that the Jumpinpin Bar was a better option. Yours truly? – well, I’m praying that we don’t lose the fish! Things were starting to look up – when the fish did just that – and headed for the nearest sand bar, which was only meters away.
Trying desperately to rectify the drift we were on, (starting the motor was out of the question) it seemed that Benny might have to start paddling, when the kingie turned and headed for the large rock bar where we had started from, taking us with him. I’m almost sure that he head butted the bottom, sending up a big cloud of sand, trying to get rid of the jig head pinned inside his mouth. Talking to people since, this is common in shallow water.
The last hurdle was the gaff (which still had the plastic tube over the point that does all the work) and, after another frantic call to Benny for a knife, the tube was removed and all was ready for the final show down.
Three times to the boat – and three times seeing John – then Benny – then me – this was one of the most hyperactive kingies I’ve ever come across – even on fly gear. This fish was all over the place. The fourth time he came too close to the gaff – and it was game over – much to my delight as I had promised that we had a good chance of hooking up in this spot. Something I will never do again.
Marlin Boy needed some quiet time, and another cup of tea after that – and with good reason – it had taken half an hour to subdue the fish. This might not seem long but only after the fight was over he told me he was using just 80 metres of 20lb braid – the fish was 97 cm long and 26lb gilled and gutted!
We all knew that Procaster Interlines are tough rods (even before the modification!) and Fireline “punches well above its weight” but all this speaks volumes for that little SAF baitcaster. Over 30 minutes on almost full drag – and it wasn’t even warm!
If there’s a down side to the whole episode – it’s the fact that I haven’t got my jig head back – and I doubt that I ever will.
Location: Australia – QLD – Gold Coast Offshore
36 Fathoms East
Words: – John Polson
Pix: – Chris Hurst
Bait Catcher: – Ken Douglas
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Australia Day weekend 2004 – and all the planets were aligned. Ken Douglas (my marlin fishing coach – and fish stealing mate) was back in town – Jim Dalling and his 55 foot Reel Chase was home from a successful Lizard Island season – and the annual run of baby blacks had begun…
We couldn’t miss… yeah – right!
There was plenty of bait on the sounder – but the surface temperature was just over 26C – and the bait was down deep. We trolled for hours – due East of Surfers Paradise between the 36 and 50 fathom lines. We set a snappy 15 minute strike roster – just to keep the 4 of us (Ken Douglas, Chris Hurst, Paul Revie and me) focused – and we had my brand new Black Magic stand-up harness ready for a track testing…
They say that game fishing is 95% boredom and 5% blind panic – and so it was…
Ross McCubbin on Lucky Strike was close by and we could hear him chatting to Jim on the radio – they had caught 2 and dropped 2 – and lost a couple of Ross’s favourite lures.
Ken was spotted helping Wade catch the bait (he was determined to catch something!) Paul had gone into the cabin to begin writing his weekly fishing report – and I fell asleep in air-conditioned comfort…
I don’t wake easily – and when I staggered out on deck Ken thrust a can of (I thought) soft drink in my hand and muttered something about me never having caught a marlin without one of these…
But who was on strike? And who had the harness on? Paul had his big chance – he was timing the roster and could have told me anything – I would have believed him… but he’s an honest chap… and NOBODY had the harness on…
By the time I found the belt and got it on (didn’t get the harness bit fastened) Wade had cleared the other 4 lines – and passed me the fish.
For a little fish it performed remarkably well – but with a Penn International 30 – spooled with 30lb Berkley Trilene, and with the Master on the helm, things were stacked in my favour – I thought…
Ross McCubbin (Lucky Strike) had come in closer for a look (probably wondering why it was taking us so long to set the hook!) and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. Ken was muttering unhelpful stuff in my ear – and I was not anxious to drop such a small fish in front of this particular audience… 10 meters from the tag pole and the fish changed its mind – we were all set to trace it in to the port side – and there it was – airborne – 20 metres off the starboard aft quarter – and me (for a chilling few heart beats) with slack line! Shit! Get it back – Quick…
And thankfully – I did…
And the tag certificate? Well – 40kg – but…
…and that’s how it should be…
Surprised (and delighted) to find that this all rated a mention on the Reel Chase website – and thanks Anne for not mentioning the size!
Location: Australia – QLD – Townsville – Cape Bowling Green and Wider Reefs.
On board Reel Chase – Capt. Jim Dalling.
Words & Pix: John Polson – with a little (out of focus) help from Ken Douglas
But I’m getting ahead of the story!
In September of each year the Townsville Game Fishing Club holds its Billfish Challenge. This is held in the reef areas east of Cape Bowling Green which, at this time of the year, has a world wide reputation for its numbers of juvenile black marlin and sailfish. A few years ago Captain Jim Dalling (then skipper of Orca) created a world record catch of 32 black marlin tagged and released IN ONE DAY! “Marlin come in waves” says Jim… Huh? Really?
We left the Casino Marina at 0700 on September 28 and headed east – where else?
Reel Chase is 18 metres or 55′ in length and cruises (!) at 32 knots – so – even with pausing to catch live bait we had set the teaser patterns and started trolling by 1100.
The plan was to run two “daisy chains” of teasers, skip baits off each rigger and hookless lures off each flat corner. When the marlin entered the pattern – the teasers and hookless lures would be retrieved and whoever was on strike would grab a spin rod and pitch a pre-rigged live bait – according to JIm’s directions – over a loudspeaker from the tower. Simple really… NOT!
The picture (above) shows the two spin rods racked above the live bait wells on each gunnel. I’ll go into some detail here because one was the boat rig, and the other a rig I wanted to test. The boat rig was a Penn SpinFisher 9500SS on a 7′ 10-15kg Ugly Stick, the test rig was an Okuma Epix EB80 on an OuterMark Topaz 7′ 8-12kg rod. We’ve sold dozens of Epix in the last 2 years, but never really given the drag systems a serious work out… The new Topaz rods had quickly earned a huge reputation, but were they really as good as an Ugly Stick?
So – where was I? 11:00am and trolling – OK…
Somebody once said that game fishing is 95% boredom – and 5% sheer bedlam.
This day the bedlam started early – and to give you some feeling of the atmosphere on the back deck – I’m going to use some “trade talk” – an international scoring system for game fishing based on 3 numbers – much like AFL – but easier to calculate! 1-1-1 means (for instance) 1 marlin raised “into the pattern” of lures, 1 marlin hooked, 1 marlin caught or (in our case) tagged & released – unharmed.
So – again… it’s 11:00am and trolling – OK…
Day 2 started with a lot of promise – the first marlin into the pattern within half an hour of getting the teaser pattern set… It checked out each of the hookless lures, and we got the pitch bait right on its nose – but nothing… By 1100am we had raised 6 marlin and 1 sailfish, hooked up on 3 of them, and tagged NONE. The score was now a much less impressive 21-12-7.
Someone had slipped a hooked Halco LaserPro into the pattern – and when a very impressive spanish mackeral nailed it – we decided to take the afternoon off – and ‘go fishin’.
Into the freezer went the “spanish,” 14 nannagai, 2 golden snapper – but not the large red emperor, which Anne served that night with her famous mango and chilli sauce. Hard life really, 50 odd miles offshore, anchored up in a tranquil reef lagoon – and demolishing piles of 5 star food and very good wine!
But the score was still 21-12-7.
Day 3 was spent trolling for mackeral. Lots of spaniards – straight into the food freezer – and lots of shark mackerel which make good skip baits for marlin – during next month’s heavy tackle season start at Lizard Island.
We had a very impressive production line working. Deckie Wade cleaning and filleting – the rest of us bagging and packing into the freezer.
Day 4 and we decided to tow lures as we returned to the marlin grounds. The mackeral bite was so hot – they were belting the lures before we reset the pattern! By the time we changed over to the teaser pattern we had 15 spanish mackeral and 8 shark mackeral in the freezer.
And very sore arms…
The pitch baiting began quite early – with 2 marlin coming up to look us over – we failed to hook either of them. Things began to improve when we hooked each of the next 4 – and although Garry dropped his right at the boat – we managed to tag and release the other 3. Not a bad score for the day at 6-4-3 – and as we returned to Cape Bowling Green for our final night – the total was 27-16-10.
Day 5 was to be our final day – and dawned very crappy. Rain squalls and big seas – but we set the teaser pattern and got on with it.
At 1000am on the dot – the first marlin for the day raced into the pattern – jumped onto one of the skip baits – Ken set the hooks – and had the fish to the boat – tagged and released in less than 20 seconds!
The first marlin for the day? Yes – well, it was also the last marlin for the day – but Ken would remind us (over and over) that he had achieved the only perfect score for the day at 1-1-1.
Nine of the marlin had been caught on spin – and 8 of them on my OuterMark Topaz rod and the Okuma Epix EB80 reel. Both were very impressive – the rod performed every bit as well as the Ugly Stik next to it – and when the boys stripped down the Epix to check for drag damage – not a mark – they just changed the grease – and it’s back in action already.
There were two advantages to the Epix over the SpinFisher – the Epix was much faster in retrieve than the SpinFisher – but more importantly (given that we always use circle hooks) the Epix has very positive (infinite?) anti-reverse which resulted in much smoother hook-ups.
We never lost a marlin after hook-up on the Epix – whilst we pulled the hooks on several with the SpinFisher’s “clunky” back lash.
Ken now has the rod in his collection in Melbourne and has just sent me a cheque for his own Epix – so that would seem to be the ultimate test!
Personal scores? 3 each for Ken, Gavan and me – and Garry got 2 – no one was complaining – and we all needed new eskis to get the mackerel and reddies home – thanks Qantas!
Reel Chase and Captain Jim Dalling were – as always – 110% – and it was fantastic to have Anne out of retirement for the week.
The following week Reel Chase went on to win the Townsville Billfish Tournament – with 12 marlin tagged and released.
(1 lousy fish better than us).
Anne also won the Individual Award for Best Angler!
That’s our Coach!
Location: – Australia – QLD – Gold Coast
Spot X & Deep Trag – on the 40 to 50
fathom lines – East of Southport
Words & Pix: – John Polson – with a few lucky shots by Ken Douglas…
Date: 24 January 2006
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Sunday, 22nd January was one of those days you want to forget. Clients (and good friends) on board – they trust you… Polson has an un-blemished record – somebody ALWAYS gets a marlin – Right? – WRONG!
We trolled for 9 hours – non-stop. Water was good – plenty of bait fish – few too many boats perhaps (like 50 something!) but that’s an excuse. We came home empty! SKUNKED!
Pic 1: When Geoff and Sue Adsett and John and Carolyn Bainbridge left us at sunset – it seemed that the best defense was to attack! We would go back out again on Tuesday.
My old mate Ken Douglas was holidaying on the Gold Coast with his family – and (kind soul) offered to help ‘break the jinx’ – he’s good like that… always eager to help.
Pic 2: 0700 – we leave Marina Mirage and power out 20 miles to the 40 fathom line at ‘Deep Trag.’ First baits were in the water, and we were fishing by 0800. Reel Chase is not a slow boat! Ross McCubbin, in his new boat ‘Adrenaline’ joined us five minutes later, and was hooked up on his first marlin by 0815. Cheeky bugger.
I’m going to let the pictures tell the story and, as you read on, you will need the photographic evidence. A very funny thing happened, but I’m getting ahead of the story…
Pic 3: Ken – wondering why Ross got the first fish…
Pic 4: Ken – waiting, waiting.
Pic 5: Ross – catching, catching.
Pic 7: Wade (deckie) with tag pole at the ready – about to tag. One hopes.
Pic 8: He did – but the marlin was not impressed, and jumped – the wrong way.
Pic 9: Then the other way… but Ken gets it in and it’s released.
Pic 11 and 12: And kept heading South…
Pic 13: Wade – about to set the tag – and release the fish – and me!
Pic 16: Nearly a very nice photo…
This marlin must have heard all about Victorian Police Officers – and no way was it going to ‘come quietly’. Ken did (finally) win the fight.
Pics 17 and 18: 0950 – Marlin number 4 takes a bait – I fumble the hook set – too fast – and drop it… Bugger!
Now, at this point I decide it’s time to break out the video camera, and just as I go below, marlin number 5 jumps on and Ken grabbed the rod. Up until now he was playing nice, now he’s back to his old marlin stealing tricks… But I did get some video of it and if I can figure out how to insert it here, I will… Then again, maybe not!
Then – a VERY strange thing happened…
Pic 18b: Reel 2 screamed, then reel 3, then reel 1, in that order, despite what Ken says! Look closely at this picture, lines can be seen entering the picture at each of the three numbers, and connect TO THE SAME FISH at position “X”. Not a bad picture under the circumstances, camera in one hand, fish in the other… I’m on reel 2. Ken’s on reel 3. And reel 1 is still screaming its head off – so Wade grabs it.
Now what? Who’s going to take the photos?
Pic 19: Wade decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, and cut his line. I squeeze off one last photo of him, hand him the camera, and get my other hand back on the reel – it seems to work better that way!
Pic 20: Ken and I settle down into the strangest duet, and we get the fish to the boat, still connected to two lines, still arguing over who it belongs to. Wade takes the pictures – and tags the fish! Marlin number 6 – and it’s not yet 1400…
There was (or should have been) marlin 7. I would not have mentioned it, but Ann already has, on Reel Chase’s website – so I had better tell the whole story…
Pic 21: I had this fish subdued (I thought) and only about 20 metres from the boat, I called up to Jim in the tower that it was a bit placid, and the marlin must have heard me! It jumped straight towards me, fast, and I only managed to get back the loose line as Wade yelled ‘tag in’. Got him! WRONG! He dived hard right, under the boat, my rod locked in the gimbal, the fish jumped on the other side and cut me off on the keel, and left me draped over the gunnel. For once in his life Ken had been quick to pick up the camera!
Pic 22: So there we were – the bite shut down at 2pm – with the score at 10 raised, 7 hooked, 5 tagged and released. We trolled for another two hours and then headed for home…
It just left one little issue…
Ken and I were still arguing ownership of marlin 6, when Wade put the tag certificates in front of us for signatures, and there it was – the perfect solution… a tag certificate in 3 names!
I don’t care what NSW Fisheries Department makes of it. The important question is what will Ann Dalling do with it?
Will she issue 3 tag certificates with 0.33 of a 55kg black marlin in three names?
Or do I have to do it all in Photoshop?
More from John’s Story…
|1967||1970||Into, and Out of, Africa|
|1971||1980||A Quieter Life|
|1981||1990||The IVF Years|
|1987||It takes Three to Tango|
|1991||2000||Going it Alone|
|1998||A House Somewhere|
|2001||2010||A Change of Pace|
|2005||More Fishing Trips|
|2011||2020||If We Make It|