• Published:February 20, 2019
  • Share This Article:

For the big-game fishing fanatic, Cairns, Australia is synonymous with giant black marlin.

During October and November, anglers come from all over the world to fish the 150-mile stretch of reef from Cairns north to Lizard Island. The 2018 season was without a doubt one of the best seasons on the reef in years.

Big marlin were seen, caught and released consistently throughout the season from the first grander caught in late September to the very final day of fishing.

Capt. Steve Ahlers on Hellraiser said 2018 was one of his best for big fish. On his best day he caught three over 1,000 pounds and recorded 14 over 700 pounds on the season. Steve says that he saw some monsters and released fish larger than the 1,098-pounder he weighed in early November.

For Capt. Darren Haydon, christening his new 47-foot O’Brien Adventum, the season was a standout for big fish. Darren and his crew caught big fish for every single group they had throughout the season, including a mammoth 1,260-pound black for Adventum’s owner Kevin Hodgson.

Bounty Hunter’s Capt. Ross Finlayson also noted a consistent bite but he saved his best for last with a fish he called the biggest of his year landed on his final day (and that’s saying something in light of the 1,140-pounder he weighed a few weeks earlier). It was big fish number 15 for him and a season-ending high.


Capt. Luke Fallon’s KEKOA was on the pulse of one of the best bites of the season that saw the middle Ribbons fire at October’s end. Luke and his crew recorded two particularly outstanding days of fishing with eight and seven releases respectively. KEKOA also recorded eight big fish among 23 releases in five consecutive days fishing that week. More than half of his 14 big fish for the season bit during that memorable stretch.

Capt. Craig Denham’s Hot Shot also recorded his best day of fishing for the season in the same area on the same day as Luke, going 10-for-16. Capt. Adam Jordan’s Iona II also put in two big days going 6-for-10 and 5-for-9 with several big fish among them. Capt. Tim Richardson’s Tradition likewise put his solo angler through a couple of days of heavy winding releasing five, and then seven with the last two fish hooked on a double header. That’s over 50 big black marlin among four boats in just three days fishing!

One-time crewmates and now skippers of their own, Daniel Carslon and Daniel Klein, were among the new generation of skippers who put up their best numbers during this period. Daniel Carlson’s Little Audrey went 7-for-8 during the late October bite on the Ribbons. He backed it up again a week later south of Cairns catching 6-from-6. Capt. Daniel Klein at the helm of Onsite also netted his best day as a skipper releasing seven on a hot day of fishing at Linden Bank.


When the fishing was at its hottest, it wasn’t confined to one location as it has been most often in recent years. While Linden Bank and Number 10 Ribbon Reef always fish well at certain times of the season, there have been some periods of hot bites at other locations over the previous years. This year, the big bite period of October’s end stretched all the way from Lena and Number 1 Ribbon Reef in the south on up to Number 8 Ribbon Reef in the north. Boats were catching fish all the way along this stretch over the same period.

Number 10 delivered as much as it always does particularly around the start of the Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic. And for stalwarts such as Capt. Haydon Bell on Release, the bite delivered right up until season end when after another big fish trip, he reluctantly left to fish down the reef to Cairns.

Linden Bank also delivered some big number days, and it was here that Capt. Corey Hard on Askari went 9-from-12 in early November including two double headers. Conversely, Capt. Tim Dean’s Calypso bucked the trend saying it was one of the few years that he spent very little time in ‘the Middle’ except for traveling through. Tim experienced good fishing both up on the top as well as down on the bottom and got sidetracked by good fishing at Escape Reef which produced very well.
Capt. Laurie Wright, fishing that same area, enjoyed some spectacular fish including one massive marlin that was captured in all of its head-shaking glory in some amazing slow-motion video that has been watched by more than 4 million fishing enthusiasts world-wide! (Check it out here.)


With the absence of a good tuna aggregation in November, some lackluster late-season fishing has befallen the fleet over recent seasons, but that was not the case in 2018. Capt. Bill Billson on Allure put his season to bed with two big fish on his final day, including one that he called 950 pounds. This was his second two-big-fish day of the season, having another on Lena Reef mid-season, releasing two that he put over the grander mark as well as a third in the 500-pound range. And that was one day after he released six including yet another big fish.

On his second-to-last day of the season and before taking Amokura south to the Gold Coast, Capt. Brett Goetze recorded his best day going 8-from-9, including a nice one in the 850-pound range. He followed up on his final day with his last fish of the season at 950 pounds. Brett said 2018 was a season full of personal bests for him. He had his most bites in a single day (14) as well as his biggest ever season total and number of fish caught.

Capt. Tom Francis’s Ultimate Lady also marked his final trip with a day to remember. Fishing slightly wider of Linden Bank, he released three beastly black marlin as well as a blue marlin during a hot bite. Unfortunately, they pulled the hooks on two more big blacks in the afternoon that would have put what was already an amazing day into legendary status! 

No matter which way you look back on 2018, it was one that will be remembered for quite some time. As always in addition to the big and noteworthy fish, there was an abundance of small black marlin in the 100- to 300-pound range which bodes well for future seasons.