2016 Season Round Up

We had a very busy season chartering between July to Mid-December and ended up with a
year end tally of 99 billfish – 94 blue marlin, 1 black marlin, 1 striped marlin, 2 sailfish & 1 shortbill. The average weight of the blues was 135kg versus 119kg last year.

BMM never missed a beat during the season and she is now up on the hard for a few months, recieving some TLC in preparation for 2017 season.

Sincere thanks to my angler clients for the support and in accounting for some awesome catches this season which included 12 blues between 300-450kg …. notebly my best big fish season for many years.
Special thanks to Murray Winks (Muz) my business partner for the support and free hand to keep chasing the ‘blues-dream’. Muz spent a few weeks chasing blues and to his credit tagged a beauty … est. 380kg. On that day there was just the two of us on board. Muz set the pattern, cleared the gear on hook-up, played the fish, lead the fish and then tagged it. It doesn’t get much better than that …. a bloody good effort to say the least.

Last year, our first season with BMM, we ended up with 83 blue marlin with eight between 200kg-300kg …. and this year an increase in average weights over all and of particular note, twelve fish 300kg plus.

We took out the Top Tagging International boat for the NSW tagging program (1st July – 30 June 2016)… a great start for BMM and based on this years result we should do a litte better for the pending season.

2016 was a VERY unusual season …
1. Water temperature was on average +2 degrees warmer than last season
2. Skipjack biomass was notebly absent for most of the year … big runs only began late in November
3. Yellow fin schools were present but not concentrated … average size 8-12kg …. bigger fish (60kg plus) arrived late November
4. Mahimahi were scarce all season … week after week went by without sighting any concentrations
5. Wahoo …. similarly scarce all season
6. Current dynamics …. significant changes during the season and we never got the usual upwellings of cold water from the Tonga Trench ….. hence the high water temperature all year.

It is difficult to get a handle on dramatic changes over a normal season but I think it was related to an extended regional El Nino cycle.

I don’t get billie skunked all that often …. but this season I was knocked off my perch …. more in one season than the previous 15 season’s together. They say fishing is a great leveller ….. I am now a believer!

Overall we had a brillant season with some very impressive blues in the 300kg-450kg range and amazingly, all were caught off the long-rigger-positions …. a complete contrast to the previous years where most bigger fish were caught off the short corner or long flat positions.
I am not entirely sure why this occurred but early in the season we had a run of bigger than average fish smashing long rigger lures and in response I started running bigger lures in the spread but still retained big lures running off the short and long flat positions.

2016 was a mile stone for me personally …. having passed the 2,000 blue marlin tally since fishing Tongan waters. We start the 2017 season with 2,034 blues under our belt.

2016 Blue Marlin Catch Stats …..

29% were under 100kg 55% between 100-190kg 4% between 200-290kg 10% between 300-390kg 2% between 400-450kg

The average weight this season was 135.78kg. This represents two consecutive years of significant increase over the previous decade which averaged around 100kg.
Given the high water temperature all season and the lack of primary skipjack bait …. I have no idea why we had a run of much larger fish other than the impact of a prolonged El Nino cycle.

On yellow fin catches, our heaviest fish was 73kg plus six fish between 50-68kg … the balance of fish were all between 8-40kg. We had more school size (7-10kg) yellow fin than skipjack this year and this is now the 2nd consecutive year recording significantly reduced biomass of skipjack.

Lure Performance …. Top performers were Red Gill RG4, RG8, Bonze Hercules, Illander, BTK, Mongel Dog & Here for the Party, Fathom – Pepal Grande, Meridian Demon & Ahi and Bart 1656. A few very good fish were also caught on a Shane Wilson Custom Lure – est. 350kg, a Top Gun Angle Face – est. 370kg and a Black Magic Pusher – wgt. 303kg.

A special mention for angler John Lea …. an est. 450kg blue, so close to the magic 1,000lber.
An epic battle that lasted some two hours with Stu McNicoll and Zanek finally holding on to the bill being tossed around like rag dolls. You never forget a fight like that no matter how many blues you encounter. The sheer power and stamina was simply awe inspiring. Stu McNicoll also released our 2nd heaviest blue for the season … est. 400kg.

We never got to do much live-baiting for most of the season due to the lack of skipjack …. when the run finally kicked in we baited with Stella 30000 gear and had a ball. It is a different technique using spinning gear and with the continued advance in fishing gear technolgy designed to handle bigger fish, I can see this aspect of the sport will become very popular. The biggest fish we caught was est 170 kg … it was a very tough battle and thankfully the blue never went deep. I doubt we could have lifted the fish with the standard switch rod.
From this experience, a shoulder harness is a must have. The rod needs to have harness clips and I would love to see the Stella with a refined drag adjustment system (the drag itself was fine)… it just takes too long to adjust the drag …especially when you need to back it off under considerable pressure. A refinement similar to the bait runner system would make it more functional.

I am hoping IGFA will ratify the proposed changes to the current standard line class regulations. For example … running any backing line of choice (e.g 60kg) then top shotting with the line class (15, 24 or 37kg) as an example. With the advancement of reel, rod, and line technology, anglers will be able to legally fish using much lighter weight gear. We should have a decison early in the new year.

The battle on imposing international regulations for sustainable commercial fishing is not going well and in Pacific waters, the international commercial fleets are increasing in numbers especially with the recent expansion of Asian operators. In our region there is a significant reduction of skipjack, big eye tuna is near collapse and yellow fin catches now account for 60% of the world catch… 15 years ago the figure was 30%. The regulatory authorities are simply being rolled over by the big commercial players and the small pacific Island nations are selling out for ‘mere crumbs’. I don’t know what the solution is ….. but we all need to fight harder to gain more recreational fishing voice in the decision making process.

To one and all have a great Xmas break and prosperous New Year …. come fish the Blue Tongan Warriors ….. tight lines.

Best Wishes
Capt. Steve