Trailerboat Interlude With a Cairns Beast

With the weather in Cairns coming good in early September, Nathan Bolton organised his friends, hookedup his six-metre trailerboat with its 90hp outboard, and before driving off, called out to his mum, “I’m going to catch a marlin!”. Little did he know that this statement was about to become much more than a joke.

Nathan and his mates hit the water in Cairns Harbour at 4am and headed straight out wide. At Jenny Louise Shoals, on the outer reef, they stopped to jig for coral trout, but caught only a small Spanish mackerel, a trevally and a barracuda.

Since they live in Cairns, Nathan and his mates, Jason and Nat had toyed with idea of chasing marlin, but had never devoted any time to it. But with little action on the jigs they decided to use their catch as bait and troll around for a while. Using their reeffishing gear of stand-up rods with heavy braid, they pushed a rubber band though the nose of the mackerel and attached it to a 9/0 Jobu hook. Then they hooked the ’cuda though the bottom jaw and trolled them along with a Witchdoctor teaser that they’d been given. An hour or so later the mackerel was eaten, the rod bent over and line peeled off, but they didn’t hook-up. Nathan re-rigged and jammed a circle hook through the nose of the trevally – then the barracuda was hit – but again no hook-up.

Now with just an old lure and the trevally, they circled back over the spot. Sure enough, the trevally was hit almost straight away, but this time it was different. The shadow and swirls behind the trevally weren’t like the others – they were enormous!

The 50W screamed and the rod buckled, nearly snatched out of the dory’s light rodholder. Nathan slipped on a harness and the battle began. After the initial short run the fish didn’t fight too hard and was easily led to the boat on the stout line. In crystal-clear water, the boys peered over the side of their tiny boat – that’s when they discovered the monster they had hooked! An enormous shape loomed about 25m below them, then realised it was hooked and blitzed more than 500m from the reel, snapping both of Nathan’s harness clips in the process. Thankfully it slowed, but Nathan could not budge it from its cruise 60m below. It was two hours before the beast leapt out of the water, followed a few minutes later by a jump that cleared the fish’s entire body above the waves. It was almost as big as the boat, somewhere between 800lb and 1200lb!

Eventually, more than five hours after hook-up, the marlin was brought within 30m of the small boat. But with day transforming to night, and with the wind increasing, Nathan made a final attempt to bring the huge marlin alongside. It didn’t work; the 400lb leader snapped at the crimp and the beast swam off to inspire some other lucky angler another day.

Perhaps it was for the best – after all, what do you do with a mackerel gaff, a six-metre trailerboat and a grander marlin? At least the memory of their encounter will live on in the lad’s dreams for many years to come.