OK, the summary is easy for this one. This last set of trips had the best all round variety of fishing action we’ve ever seen anywhere – ever!
We’ve had fishing that is just as good in other locations, and sometimes better, there is no doubt about this, but not for the same variety of species and with the same range of fishing styles. We did everything from catching 900lb marlin on heavy tackle through to drifting a 2m deep coral reef and catching 60-70 assorted reef fish on poppers in a day. We had crazy GT sessions catching 30 GTs from one boat before lunch in very rough seas. We pitch baited sailfish that followed the boat while we were bait fishing for giant marlin baits, there were big dogtooth tuna to be caught jigging and trolling, massive spanish mackerel were also a consistent catch. We even had a day catching mangrove jacks and fingermark bream on baitcasting gear up a remote river on Cape york. We then went and caught yellowfin on poppers, and wahoo as well, the very next day.
Bligh and Jewell Reef Comments from guests on the trip
Back in NZ now and cleaning up. Just a short note to thank you guys for a memorable week. Fishing was spectacular and as usual service was the best. Really interesting place and Peter the driver’s commentary on the road back to Lockhart River was informative and hilarious!Thanks again”
Graham Stevenson, New Zealand
“Just wanted to say we had an unbelievable trip to Bligh Reef. The fishing was incredible, the setting idyllic and the crew as wonderful as ever. Thanks to the Nomad team for going “above and beyond” again. My whole group of 5 had a terrific time (and they all caught great fish).If you can manage it Bligh Reef should become a mainstay of the Nomad calendar and be advertised as “fishing for everyone for everything” rather than just a hardcore GT trip.Thank everyone for all their efforts.Cheers”
John Martin, Sydney
“Hi,I was going to write to thank Damon and the crew for the best week’s fishing we have ever had but you beat me to it. We both had a great time and we enjoyed the company of your other guests. Please pass on our thanks to Damon and the crew, we had a great time.Regards”
John Hardy, Sydney
TRIP REPORT PART 1 –
Bligh Reef by Roderick Walmsley. Rod has been guiding for us now for 6 months, and is a regular contributor to many Australian magazines. He has fished extensively in many parts of the world.
Bligh Reef Week 1
The first day of charter at Bligh Reef kicked off with Tim taking the Contender south and myself taking Tight Stick north. We needed to cover some ground as neither of us had ever fished the area before and although the area looked extremely fishy we did not know what to expect. Little did we know just what we were in for! The morning actually started fairly quiet for me working the inside edges of the reef with only one smallish GT to show for our efforts, it wasn’t till I moved to the outside edge of the reef that the action really started. I made my way around and stopped on a bit of shoaly ground that protruded out from the main reef. The boys were all using poppers and as Dave’s popper landed, a mobile red bommie of red bass jumped all over it. He hooked up only to drop the fish. It didn’t matter as another one grabbed the popper before it could float to the surface. I heard Dan shouting and turned to see his rod bending as well. His fish turned out to be a GT around 15kg and was returned with the red bass. A few casts later and it was Graham’s turn this time a coral trout was swung over Tightstick’s gunnel. After a few quick pics it was released. Several red bass and one more GT followed before I decided to move a bit further along the reef. On the next point we spotted a patch of fusiliers and the first popper that touched down was monstered by a GT. While I was frantically backing the fish away from the reef Dan hooked up to another red bass. The action continued throughout the morning with a variety of species continuing to keep the guys happy. When I eventually called for an early lunch there were no arguments. All the guys wanted a bit of rest. None of us could work out accurately just how many fish we had caught for the morning, but the highlight had been a 30 odd kilo Maori Wrasse that had grabbed a jig on the drop – who knows where we had found the time to drop a jig! The colours on these fish are absolutely amazing and I felt really privileged to see one in the flesh.
After lunch we moved a bit further north and stopped on yet another promising looking point. Dave cast first and a huge fish materialised out of nowhere and swam over to his popper. It turned out to be another big wrasse. It grabbed the lure but fell off after a few seconds, then swam over to Dan’s popper and had a swipe at it before disappearing into the depths. We thought we had blown the chance of another one but it came up again and hit Graham’s popper and this time the hook up was solid. Maori Wrasse number 2 for the day! After a few more red bass and another GT, I suggested moving out to the drop off to troll some skirted lures for a chance at a marlin. I wasn’t sure of our odds but at least we would be out there having a go. The lures were deployed and a spanish mackerel jumped on straight away. It was released and the lures held in till I drove the 100m further to the drop off. The shelf is actually right up against the reef at Bligh. The lures went out again and we settled into a steady troll zigzagging along the shelf. I was chatting to the boys when the bright lumo skirt disappeared in and explosion. The fish didn’t hook up and as I shouted to the guys to look, the bill came out the water as a black marlin of around 200lb slashed the lure. It hooked up on the second attempt and the reel screamed as it took line. Unfortunately it was short lived as the hook pulled shortly after, but we had all seen the fish and were pretty excited after only having lures in for 10 minutes.
We trolled for another 20 minutes with one more mackerel trimming one of the skirts. Tim radioed me to say that he had just landed a doggie not far from me and had two bust him off on the bottom so we pulled the lures in and moved over to join him. The action on the jigs was much the same as the poppering, thick and fast with a major variety. First drop was a big eye trevally, followed by a coral trout, followed by a red bass. The sharks then moved in so we decided to head for home. It had been an amazing first day and as we approached the mothership Damon radioed to tell us that he had come across some awesome action in the shallows and that we should come over. He was fishing on top of the reef in about one to two metres of water so we pulled up about a hundred metres from him on some similar stuff and started flicking lures around. It was absolute mayhem. Almost every cast resulted in a hook up or a bust off with trout of all varieties and red bass taking the lighter tackle to the limits. The flurry of activity ended with Graham catching the third Maori wrasse for the day. We all sat and watched the sun go down on the back deck of the mothership later that evening reliving the day’s highlights, it was truly a day to remember and it was only the first day of the charter.
The rest of the week went by in a blur of constant action with a lot of the focus being on the shallow water flats fishing. The variety was truly amazing. This revolved around drifting across the flats in 1 to 2 metres of gin clear water watching fish rush across to whatever lure you were casting and hammer it. It was then a tug of war to get the fish to the boat before it managed to bury you on the coral: GTs, red bass, coral trout of all types, blue fin trevally, job fish, boarfish, sweetlip and numerous cod species. Quite a few GTs were hooked on light tackle in the shallows each day and quite a few were landed. One session that really sticks in my memory happened in a blue hole. One of the guys hooked a GT and as he was fighting it a massive school of red followed it to the boat. For about half an hour every small lure that was cast at them resulted in a hook up. The red bass excited more GTs and they started competing with the bass, actually it was more like barging them out of the way to get to the lures. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it. This scenario actually repeated itself each day in a different area and we managed to get some of it on film.
The week eventually came to an end and after thinking about it we realised that we had actually been fishing the entire week in 20 knots of wind, but because we had been able to fish in the shelter of the reef had not even noticed it. Definitely looking forward to the next week.
Bligh Reef Week 2
Week two of our Bligh Reef trip started much as the first week ended. Our new guests were very excited by the stories of the first week’s fishing and after a bit of a bumpy ride to the outer edge of the reef on the first afternoon we started to fish. A couple of GTs, some red bass and a few coral trout gave the boys a taste of the action to come. We started the first full day on the water the following morning. Damon was driving the Contender and I was driving Tight Stick. We needed to work our way south to Lizard Island during the week so headed off with the intention of fishing down the reef. The edge of the reef I started on produced a few red bass and coral trout casting poppers. I then moved over the top of the main part of the reef into one of the blue holes. A huge trout came up on Jimmy’s popper and was back in the reef before he could even react. While the boys were still trying to recover from the sight of the big trout, Sean hooked a big GT in a narrow channel between a few bombies. I had to chase the fish through the bombies with Tight Stick, just managing to get on top of the fish and stay there with Sean hanging on for dear life. The result was a 35kg GT boat side and plenty of yahooing.
The action was constant with a variety of species being caught. As the tide started to run in I made my way to a bit of shoaly ground at the mouth of one of the gaps in the reef. We put out three rods with minnows and started to work the edge of the shoal. Spaniards, shark mackerel and one solid trout stopped us from going very far. At one stage the boys decided that it was pointless putting the rods in the holders and simply held them as I trolled around. It may sound a bit hard to believe but it is very hard to put into words just how many fish we were catching in this new area. This was also the first day that we really worked out just how good a fishery Bligh is for Doggies. Muddy got the first one of the trip and what a cracker it was. He hooked the fish on a 50lb spin rod and although it screamed line out, didn’t brick him. It was about 65kg and had us all jumping up and down on the boat. With the first good one landed we went in search of more.
The trolling rods were replaced with jigging rods and on the first spot we tried we found them. A triple hook up resulted in Mort landing his first doggie around 60kg, Sean being bust off and Muddy landing a cod of around 50kg. Mort then got another, Mud got bust off and Sean landed the head of a 30kg doggy. Shortly after this the sharks moved in and we decided to call it a day. Damon’s day was very similar with just as many stories of bust offs and large fish landed. The game boat had not seen a marlin but had caught plenty of wahoo and yellowfin tuna with several of the yellowfin coming on poppers and GT spin rods.
Every day from then on we moved south fishing different areas of the reef. The fishing was no different except that the guys became a bit more accustomed to the techniques and also more specific in the fish that they wanted to target, but every afternoon was dedicated to chasing doggies and both Damon and myself got Doggies every day of the charter which is an amazing feat in itself. One little afternoon session stands out though amongst the many others. It started with a triple hook up of Doggies on the troll. By now we had realised that Muddy’s fish was definitely the exception and copious amounts of drag was necessary to try and stop these fish getting you in the reef. The triple hook up resulted with Damien sprawled on the deck in the corner with a very empty Tiagra 30 wide, Jimmy winding in his slack braid and Locky landing a 20kg fish. After this debacle we decided to troll only one rod and concentrate on it. This worked a treat and we landed a few more doggies with the largest being 55kg and a few monster spaniards. It was as if the big fish switched on for an hour and we were right in the middle. When the last of the boys’ minnows was finally taken by a doggie that simply did not stop running and found the bottom in 100m of water, we decided it was definitely time to head back. The beers definitely went down well that night.
Chucky hooked and landed a 300lb black marlin with Ed in the game boat in the last 5 minutes of fishing on the last day of charter, after experiencing some of the most unfortunate luck during the week with missed strikes and fish jumping off. Everyone on the game boat kept it a secret until the video was replayed back on the mothership after which everyone jumped up to congratulate Chucky. It was the cherry on the top of the cake as far as the guys were concerned. They all left with the parting words of “See you next year at Bligh Reef” Oh and did I mention that Sean actually trolled a pink vibrator on the last day and caught a spaniard on it just for laughs? Mmm maybe I shouldn’t have.
Both Damon and myself believe this venue to be the best we have fished for sheer numbers of fish and for variety. It was a memorable experience guiding at Bligh Reef and we all cannot wait to get back.
See you out there – Rod.
TRIP REPORT PART 2 –
Jewell Reef by Damon Olsen.
After an incredible start at Bligh Reef, we were hoping that the excellent fishing would continue at Jewell Reef into the 3rd and 4th weeks of the trip. The weather for the start of the 3rd week was not kind, blowing a consistent 25kn, but this did not stop the guys on Fascination heading out to find some black marlin, and it also did not stop us finding some great action in the shallows in the 25ft centre consoles.
The outside edge of hicks reef was extremely rough, but it seemed that the GTs liked it this way, and in the first half hour of fishing we had landed 6 GTs over 30kg. After this prolific action, we headed into the inside of the lagoon to find some sheltered water and have a cast around the shallows in search of some coral trout and red bass. The wind was quite ferocious, but the action in the shallows was intense, with a huge variety of species being encountered. We caught bluefin trevally, GTs, coral trout, in 4 different species, about 4 species of emperors, trevallies that we had never seen before, small maori wrasse, small spanish mackerel, long toms and barracuda.
On the outside of the reef, the guys in the 2 big gameboats we were using were having some excellent action on yellowfin tuna and Saltaire had released a small black marlin of around 300lbs.
The next day was one to remember. I had John and Mark, along with Owen and Graham fishing in the 25ft contender, and we decided to try the outside of the reef directly in front of where the mothership was anchored, literally fishing 500m in front of the mothership. The theory was that the rough weather would have turned on the GTs on the outside of the reef. This proved to be correct, and while not having room for a blow by blow account, we released at least 30 GTs before lunchtime, and then retreated back to Odyssey for a relaxing lunch and a few drinks. The morning had been filled with action that is very hard to describe. The very first cast of the day was marauded by a pack of at least 50 GTs, and then every single cast after that that landed in the shallow water on the edge of the reef was mauled by multiple GTs. When I say every cast, I am not exaggerating here. It was a case of cast into the shallow green water and have your lure attacked, every time, every cast for 4 hours straight. It got to the point that I think we maybe all felt a little sorry for the fish, because they were just being so stupid!! I think we could have thrown anything in there and they would have eaten it.
We guessed that the fish were spawning on the outside of the reef, and this was why there were so many of them, and also why there were about 40-50 fish following every popper. We spent 4 hours and only fished about 1.5 nautical miles of reef edge, and on that edge I could not even begin to estimate how many big GTs were living there. There had to be somewhere around 5000 GTs on that edge alone, and most likely a LOT more. What we saw that morning was something truly extraordinary, and something we may never see again. We must have just found a huge mass of spawning GTs and it was some of the craziest fishing action I have ever seen. Huge waves, lots of wind, crashing surf, massive fish, bright sunshine, beautiful purple water crashing onto a green reef edge, and some very tired anglers at the end of it. Just a spectacular experience.
We did find a few very interesting things whilst catching these fish. The first was that we had to use lures with only 1 hook. What happened was that when the first fish ate the lure, the other 50 of his mates decided that it also looked good, and that they wanted a piece of the action as well. The fish that ate the popper first was pretty much “bashed” by his mates as every other fish also tried to eat the popper out of the first fish’s mouth. If you used 2 hooks, it meant having straightened hooks most of the time and landing no fish, or it meant hooking 7 different fish on the one cast and then having the hook pulled out near the boat by another one. We even had one crazy scenario where we caught 2 x 25kg GTs on the one lure, with only 1 barbless 9/0 Jobu!! Hard to believe but true.
While all this crazy action was happening, the guys on Saltaire were trolling around the reef passages, and landed lots of nice sized yellowfin, and also landed a 50kg and a 70kg dogtooth on the troll. Emidio landed the 70kg dogtooth, and he later added a 500lb marlin and a 40kg GT to his tally for the week. We told him not to expect that sort of crazy action on every trip, but there are not many people lucky enough to have landed 3 fish like that on one trip.
The truth is that there’s not enough room here for a blow by blow account of these 2 weeks of fishing. However some further summaries are as follows:-
MARLIN FISHING – Saltaire and Fascination marlin fished every day for the first week, and in 5 days fishing between the 2 boats, they landed 8 black marlin between 200-700lbs. The usual routine was to popper fish or troll in the morning, and then marlin fish in the afternoon, starting at around 11-12am. We had a couple of days seeing lots of marlin, but overall, we’d have to say the marlin fishing was about average for this area, not slow, and not great either.
During the 2nd week we just had Fascination marlin fishing, and with rather ordinary weather, and one day of 35kn that did not allow us to marlin fish at all, we released 3 marlin with2 fish around the 200-300lb mark, and another beautiful big fish of around 900lbs released by Peter from Germany. Peter had come all the way over just to catch a marlin, and was rewarded with a beautiful fish.
The other fishing for GTs, spanish mackerel and general reef fish up in the shallows was also excellent, and very similar to what you would have read about Bligh Reef. The thing we are starting to learn about Jewell Reef is that it has some amazing marlin fishing mixed in with the awesome popper fishing and general sportfishing action. Jewell Reef may not have as many dogtooth tuna as Bligh Reef, but it more than makes up for this with excellent marlin fishing. The other aspect of these trips is the ability to go fishing and have a great time even when it is windy. Bligh Reef probably has a little better shelter than Jewell, but even at Jewell it is possible to have a great day and catch heaps of fish in 25kn of wind. Sure, we’d all prefer it to be flat calm, but it was amazing to see the fish bite so intensely when the wind started blowing.
As I write this report, we’re heading back to Jewell for another couple of trips, so stand by for another report in a few weeks time.
See you out there.
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