• Published:November 4, 2020
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Most offshore anglers around the globe have Australia on the top of their "must-fish" list. Although locations like Cairns get a lot of attention worldwide, there are actually many ports on both east and west coasts that offer outstanding billfishing.
Like most places where pelagics roam, Australia's fisheries are seasonal, so knowing when to visit a particular spot can mean the difference between hitting the jackpot and heading home skunked.
To get the local intel, we turned to Aussie fishing journalist and photographer David Granville who offers his top 10 destinations Down Under and when to fish them.

10. Townsville

Townsville is located in far north Queensland but falls in the shadow of Cairns so rarely gets the recognition it deserves. Townsville is often the first port of call for juvenile black marlin as they migrate south. Indeed, the southern ports wait with baited breath to see what sort of season Townsville reports as it often reflects what will happen down south. When conditions are right, the waters off Cape Bowling Green can be thick with juvenile black marlin with a healthy supply of sailfish in the mix as well. It is a long run to the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef from Townsville and subsequently rarely fished. While the Cairns fleet is busy to the north from September to November, a few dedicated souls head wide off Townsville to the likes of Myrmidon Reef and do battle with giant black marlin pushing the grander status thereby proving that Cairns and the Ribbon Reefs aren't the only place the big girls turn up to spawn.

9. Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour is located on the north coast of New South Wales and is popular with fishermen due to its close proximity to the continental shelf and its safe harbor that provides easy ocean access. Coffs can be a little hot and cold but when it's hot it's red hot. There is an excellent blue marlin fishery in Coffs Harbour that doesn't receive the limelight of many other ports simply because it doesn't get fished by as many boats. Excellent inshore and bottom fishing keeps many local boats in close as well.

8. Fraser Island

World Heritage listed Fraser Island as the world's largest sand island best accessed from the port of Urangan or Hervey Bay, both about four hours north of Brisbane by car. The northern end of Fraser Island features a large sand spit called Breaksea Spit where masses of juvenile black marlin and sailfish congregate to feed. Some of the smallest black marlin you will ever see come from here, and it's even possible to sight cast to baby blacks on the flats in 6 feet of water. The shelf off Fraser offers amazing bottom topography and the nutrient-rich currents that hit these canyons provide a food chain that draws blue marlin in big numbers. Fraser can fish well all year but the warmer months from September through March are definitely more consistent.

7. Mooloolaba

Being only 100 nautical miles north of the Gold Coast, Mooloolaba has a very similar fishery but can feature a longer season with far more consistent congregations of baitfish. When big schools of mackerel stack up on the inshore reefs off Mooloolaba the sailfish and juvenile black marlin fishing can be world class. The sailfish often turn up early in the season -- August and September -- and the juvenile blacks really kick in by Christmas time and stay right into March. Mooloolaba offers a safe harbor entrance that is very popular with trailer boats. Accommodations are plentiful but this port is a bit light on charter boat options. Like the Gold Coast you'll find great beaches, surf and nightlife.

6. Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is better known for its great surf but also sports a consistent billfishery, with a run of juvenile black marlin, a healthy supply of blues and a spattering of striped marlin. The juvenile blacks follow the coastline and trailer boats regularly catch mini marlin just a few hundred meters from the beach. The blues are much further out though with 30 nautical mile runs being the norm. Most of the blue marlin average between 250 and 400 pounds but every year you hear of someone tangling with some real animals. The Gold Coast offers endless accommodation options and a good charter fleet. October through April represents the prime time to fish the Gold Coast but January is best for juvenile blacks and March for blues.

5. Bermagui

Originally put on the map by Zane Grey, who pioneered these waters in the 1930s, the sleepy little town of Bermagui is on the far south coast of New South Wales. Short runs to the continental shelf make Bermagui a very popular port for trailer boat anglers. Being the closest consistent billfishery for anglers living in Melbourne, many Victorians make the pilgrimage to Bermi each year, and when big mobs of mackerel move in on the shelf the striped marlin are never far behind. Being so far south, Bermagui relies heavily on a push of warm water from the EAC (East Australian Current) but when it all lines up off Bermi, the stripeys are present in plague proportions.

4. Broome

Heading north from Exmouth to the Kimberley region in Western Australia you'll find the historic town of Broome. This area was originally made famous for its pearls, but when Broome fires up it sees some of the best sailfish action in all of Australia. What Broome sails lack in size they certainly make up for in numbers, with triple hookups on light tackle being commonplace. June, July and August are good months to target sailfish in the northwest.
"Blues, blacks, stripes, sails and even swords call the waters of Exmouth home and many believe that Exmouth has one of the most consistent big blue marlin fisheries in Australia."
-- David Granville

3. Exmouth

Exmouth is a relative newcomer for Australian billfish hotspots go but is certainly making waves as more anglers start to explore this remote Western Australian port. As mining and tourism booms in Western Australia so has Exmouth's population and subsequently more boats are now plying the waters to the west of the magnificent Ningaloo Reef. Blues, blacks, stripes, sails and even swords call the waters of Exmouth home and many believe that Exmouth has one of the most consistent big blue marlin fisheries in Australia. Despite being a little hard to get to, Exmouth is worth the effort, and lodging and charter boat options are now top notch. The area fishes well all year but hurricanes are a potential threat in the summer months.

2. Port Stephens

Port Stephens is on the central coast of New South Wales, about two hours north of Sydney by car. It hosts Australia's largest game fishing tournament, and gives anglers one of their best shots at scoring a grand slam of blue, black and striped marlin in one day. The continental shelf off Port Stephens can hold masses of baitfish (mostly mackerel) and subsequently the billfish turn up en masse to take advantage of this feed. Striped marlin are usually the most prolific along the shelf off Port Stephens but no one is surprised when a black or a blue joins the party. January, February and March are the three prime months to fish Port Stephens.

1. Cairns

Cairns is arguably Australia's most famous billfish destination, and for good reason. Nowhere else in the world offers the chance of battling a giant black marlin as the waters of the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns. Located in far north Queensland on Australia's east coast, Cairns plays host to a vibrant charter fleet from September through November. The giant black marlin congregate on the edge of the reef to spawn and if a grander black is on your bucket list then this is the place to go.