1972 - Cairns, Australia

    Year after year came the glowing reports of the fantastic Black Marlin fishing at Cairns, Australia. It was like some kind of mirage - over the horizon - just out of reach and unattainable. All it takes is a little time, a few dollar$, and a long plane ride. And so, my good friend, Dr. Sanbo Sakaguchi, and I decided to give it a try. We wrote away to the proper contacts, came up with some dates, and scheduled a trip accordingly for October, 1972 signing up for 10 days of fishing. In those days the boats were kind of expensive, but nothing like what they charge now. I think it was like $250 a day plus another $250 a day if the service of a Mother ship were required. I understand that it is at least double that now if not more.
Upon arriving we found that the skipper of the boat that we had reserved had been stabbed in the chest by a marlin bill while trying to leader the fish. He was in a hospital and arrangements had been made for another boat. The boat, Kalimah (?), had been built by a family, father and two sons. It was certainly sea worthy and comfortable. Unfortunately, Cairns is located in a deep bay and takes almost two hours of running time to get to the edge of the barrier reef. Another hour or two is then spent making bait. Everything they catch is eventually rigged and trolled, from scad mackeral to large tuna.
The best fishing is from noon on so there is plenty of time to make the run, make bait and then go fishing. The barrier reef drops off quite rapidly and so you are fishing immediately outside the reef and very close to the breakers. You must quite fishing while still light in order to make your way back through the reef before heading back to Cairns.
Sanbo and I took turns with the one who was "up" getting the chair. We caught a number of "rats" (300-400 pounders) and finally hooked a big one - not a "grander" but estimated at 850. The skippers on these boats have an great knack at accurately estimating the weights of these fish. The large fish are all females and frequently are accompanied by 1 or 2 of the smaller males. As luck would have it it was Sanbo's turn when the big fish hit. Not only that, we had a double hooking up one of the smaller "rats" along with the big one. Thus, while Sanbo got into the chair I was forced to handle the other fish standing up, with 120 pound tackle and no butt belt. Considering that they put about 45 pounds of drag on those drags this was some effort. But they back down rapidly on these fish and when the deckhands get a hold of the trace (heavy wire leader, that is) they (using heavy padded gloves) don't let go until the fish are tagged and then released. How I managed to hold onto that rig I'll never know, but we did "get" and release my fish before going after Sanbo's. But I did manage to get the last Marlin for my Grand Slam award. My largest fish for the trip was estimated at over 600 pounds.
Most of the boats have rollers on the swim step or at the transom door. They tie a line to the fish, run the line forward through the cabin, out the front window and then use the anchor winch to crank the fish on board. Below is a picture of Sanbo with his fish:
The last three days of the trip we stayed on the boat, anchored up for the night inside the reef and did some diving in the beautiful clear water. A sad part was that most of those great fish were taken back to port for weigh-in and photos and the next day taken back out for shark bait. Nowadays they weigh only fish thought to be granders or above, but still the fish are dumped at sea. Most of the Mother ships have weighing facilities and most of the fish caught are tagged and released.