The Magnificent Billfish…

Billfish :

The Billfish family includes three species of Marlin in  Australian waters. Striped Marlin, Black Marlin and Blue Marlin. To the untrained eye they look very similar. Blue Marlin and big Striped Marlin are often confused even by experts.

Two other Bill fish are also found here, Broadbill Swordfish and Short Billed Spearfish, both spectacular in their own right.

Blue Marlin :
Game Fishing at its best...
The ultimate Game Fish

Blues are the largest of the Marlin reaching nearly 800 Kilo’s overseas. Here in Australia they have been caught very close to 450 kilo’s but around Sydney 350 kilo’s is big the average being around 150 kilo’s.  Much to the embarrassment of even experienced anglers big Striped Marlin are often called in as Blues.

Blues are fish of the open ocean and are usually found wide of the shelf hunting Yellowfin and other smaller gamefish. Trolling lures is the accepted way to target them and because of their size heavy tackle is generally used.  A Blue’s first run after taking your lure has to be seen to be believed. There is generally no indication they are there they just hit hard and go so fast unprepared anglers have been spooled within minutes.

Just to confuse matters there is often a showing of Blues in November following schools of Yellowfin and I have caught them in as close as 12 Mile reef – nothing is cast in stone.

Striped Marlin :
A Striped Marlin ready to tag...
Striped Marlin…

I like Striped Marlin they are spectacular fighters spending a lot of time jumping and greyhounding. They are not heavyweights averaging around 75 kilo’s but are occasionally caught over 150 kilo’s late in the season and down on the South Coast. They can be found in numbers around bait schools and though often hard to hook on lures are not finicky feeders. You will usually see them chasing your bait or lures hitting them with their bill. It can be frustrating but if you tease them you will get the strike but staying hooked is another matter.

Live bait or skipping baits if you have located bait schools is I think the best method for catching Stripies as you get a better hook up. If there is not much bait around then either smaller lures or teasers and the  ‘bait and switch’ method work well.

Stripes have a greater tolerance to a wide range of water temperatures than any of the other Marlin.  In fact fishermen have caught Striped Marlin in every month of the year. I have caught them in water down to 16 C. and in a mid-summer temperature of 24 C.

Black Marlin :
A Black doing its thing...
A Port Stephens Black…

Blacks are the most coastal of all the Marlin and don’t mind the green inshore waters.  Often on their migration down the coast they are found in water less than 10 fathoms deep. However they may also be found well out over the shelf. In New South Wales waters  Blacks seldom weigh over 200 kilo’s unlike their North Queensland cousins where 400 Plus kilo fish are regular catches.

Blacks spawn in North Queensland and every year there is a migration down the coast. By keeping up with fishing reports you can follow their progress as they travel down the coast.

From the numbers of Blacks at the Cape Bowling Green tournament in August you get an indication of how many fish could move down the coast. By Christmas or New Year they are generally at South West Rocks and mid-January are pretty close to Port Stephens. This is an indication of the main body of fish, however some do travel down quicker and you will often hear of encounters even weeks before the main body of Blacks arrive.

A word of warning these Blacks can be dangerous and many anglers have been injured by them. They move and jump very quickly . If you have one on the trace and are leading it it is pointing straight at you. it doesn’t take much to imagine what can and has happened.

Spearfish :
A Spearfish for David...
Spearfish for dinner…

These are a by catch of Marlin fishing. Over the years they have become more common but are not by any means predictable. They put up a good show and are quite good to eat.

Their first run is very fast, quite like a Blue Marlin but it doesn’t last and they are easily subdued.

Broadbill :
A Sydney Broadbill...
Phil Webster’s trophy Broadbill…

Until quite recently very very few Broadbill were caught on the East Coast. Fishing at night in very deep water drifting with squid set at varying depths was the only method.

Overseas fishermen started experimenting with daytime fishing. Dropping baits down 300 fathoms and either letting it drift back up or anchoring it in the depths.

It is history know that the daytime method really works. The hot spots are down in Tasmania and the Victorian coast. Off Sydney a few Broadbill have been taken but lots of people are trying.

Summary :

What I have written is a general summary of what the Marlin fishery is about. All I can say is expect the unexpected and good luck…


Bureau of Meteorology
N.S.W. Bluelink

Other links:

Archived Fishing Reports



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