Australia's striped marlin fishing is nothing short of world class, with large numbers of big fish possible if you know where to go.
Striped marlin frequent a wide temperature range in Australia and can be found in waters anywhere from 16 to 28 degrees C, but are most comfortable in waters between 19 and 23 degrees. Their cold tolerance means that they venture further into temperate waters than any other marlin, and the striped marlin is the only marlin species to visit the more southerly Tasmanian waters.
Striped marlin are prolific all across the Indo-Pacific, and while evidence points to localized concentrations in areas like Mexico's Baha Peninsula and New Zealand's North Island, Australia's East Coast is one of the most reliable destinations with a year-round fishery.
Striped marlin venture from Queensland's Coral Sea all the way south to Tasmania, but if you want the biggest striped marlin in the country then you need to head to New South Wales, especially the Far South Coast. Every year, striped marlin ride the East Australian Current south, congregating around places like Jervis Bay, Ulladulla and Bermagui. The fishing really heats up when the slimy mackerel schools stack up over the offshore reefs and canyons, and like nature's answer to a takeaway shop, the striped marlin are quick to congregate around the counter. The best fishing occurs between January and May.
After feeding heavily on the South Coast the striped marlin population migrates north along the NSW coast before branching out into the Coral Sea to spawn in the late winter and spring. Northern NSW and Gold Coast anglers can experience some good fishing as the marlin migrate through, however the bite is usually short lived as the fish continue north.
Striped marlin can be caught with a wide range of techniques from trolling lures to pitching live baits. The key is to know which method the situation calls for.
Lures can help you cover a lot of ground when fish are hard to find, and certainly account for plenty of striped marlin worldwide, but where they often fail is in the hook-up rate. In fact, during a recent hot bite at Bermagui boats were reporting in as much as 20 strikes but still came home empty handed which highlights just how bad the conversion rate for striped marlin can be on lures.
Some anglers run with the theory of smaller hooks catching more fish, while others prefer to run larger single hooks but the jury is still out as to which setup works best. The best advice for consistent hook-ups is to maintain attention to details like super- sharp hooks and reacting immediately when a fish is raised.
Baits on the other hand offer a very high catch rate, especially with circle hooks. Trolling speeds for natural skip baits are considerably slower than with lures, however, meaning you can't cover ground as quickly. Because of this, skip baits are best used in productive areas like over offshore reefs or structure or where there are already concentrations of bait. And while you may not be able to cover as much water as you can with lures, when you do encounter fish the chances of a solid hook- up are very high.
When the bait really starts to stack up tightly or you locate a productive-looking bait ball then live baits are your best option. Slow-trolling livies around the edges of a bait concentration is absolutely dynamite on striped marlin. Running multiple baits only increases your chances of a double or even triple hook-up.
Like most pelagics, striped marlin are opportunistic feeders but can be fussy and zero in on one particular prey species. This is often the slimy mackerel, which show up very distinctly on decent sounders and are easy to identify. Otherwise, you can simply "test the water" by dropping a bait jig and see what comes up.
Sitting on top of a bait school with some livies out and jigging up baits can be one of the best ways to get a striped marlin's attention. In fact, when they are really on the chew getting the bait jig back before a fish nails it can be a real challenge.
Switch baiting gets the best out of both lures and baits. Running hookless lures at around eight knots allows you to cover the ground effectively, then once a fish is raised you pull the lures and feed a natural bait rigged on a circle hook back in its place. Striped marlin can be quite aggressive, and with this technique they will rarely refuse your offering. You'll need an alert crew that's ready to go with a rigged pitch bait the second a fish is raised. Switching is a real team effort that can be highly effective when a crew works together.
Pitching baits to fish tailing on the surface is a little used technique that can be deadly in the right hands. Casting a live bait is accurately on the nose of tailing fish isn't easy but the resulting bites can be explosive. Seeing the bite is what striped marlin fishing is all about!
AL'S TOP STRIPER SPOTS
Jervis Bay: Feb/March
Port Stephens: Feb/April
Crowdy Head: Sept/Oct