Fishing for marlin in Australia is one of the most productive marlin fisheries in the world. The edges of the reefs on the continental shelf up off Lizard Island is the largest known breeding congregation of giant black marlin in the world. Every year around late November, these massive fish congregate to spawn in the deep water off the ribbon reefs on the edge of the Coral Sea. The lizard island game fishing tournament attracts many big game fishermen from all over the world along with millions and millions of dollars worth of boats and fishing gear in hope that they will catch a grander, being a fish upwards of 1000lb. A big black marlin is basically the most sought after of the game fishes and are known to reach at least 1800lb. There are stories of larger fish being hooked and lost.
One of the biggest problems in landing a fish of this size is the length of the fight. A large fish may have an angler strapped into a game chair for over 4 hours and with a large fish in panic mode for that long they nearly always get sharked. I have seen a photo of the head and bill of an estimated 1700lb fish and it was the size of a large man. The rest of the fish had been totally eaten by sharks. Marlin are a type of billfish being any of the large pelagic fishes with an extended spearlike upper jaw. The purpose of the bill is to stun fish whilst hunting. The marlin will shoot up next to its prey and whack it with the bill before turning around to engulf it. Large marlin feed exclusively on mackerel and tuna schools so when looking for them, an active school of feeding tuna is always a good place to start.
Marlin are fairly solitary creatures but sometimes you will encounter them in small packs. With striped marlin in particular you will normally find a few together rather than one. Larger fish are generally well offshore while I have seen small fish hunting up on the sand flats on the northern beaches on Fraser Island. High speed trolled lures work best for the smaller fish of up to 150kg but bigger fish will usually require specially rigged swim or skip baits. The bait is normally head rigged and towed around the area until a marlin is spotted from the tower. The fish will normally be lit up with electric blue stripes when they are in feed mode and when the bait is hit it is important to freespool the marlin until the bait is swallowed. The reel is then pushed up to strike drag and the hook is driven in. A hooked marlin will often spend more time out of the water than it does in as it tail walks across the surface tearing drag at high speed from the reel. It is up to the skipper to keep the pressure on with the boat as a tail walking marlin will throw a lure with ease if any slack line is given.
Another high adrenaline way of fishing for marlin in Australia is called switch baiting. This requires a tub full of live baits and some hookless teasers. The teasers are towed across the surface, skipping and flashing and making a lot of noise. Surface active marlin will home in on these teasers and once a marlin is spotted in the wash, the teaser is slowly retrieved to the back of the boat tempting the aggressive marlin up. The teaser is then lifted from the water and is replaced with a live slimy mackerel. The marlin will usually jump on the slimy mackerel like a fat kid jumps on a cupcake... from there its all on.
Remember, marlin are not rated as a food fish so when fishing for marlin in Australia please practice tag and release fishing.