This week was our last charter for our 10th anniversary season at the Montebello Islands. We had a mostly returning crew, with some new faces. 12 out of the 13 guys were from Warrnambool, Victoria and the odd one out came from Port Mac in South Australia. Due to having a larger group the guys decided to book 2 boats Blue Lightning and our 36ft Marko jet boat “Huntress” to give the guys more room and some extra chances to chase some Billfish.
Day 1- Two Boats of Fun
The boys awoke, some in better shape then others after their first night celebrations, to a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was barely a breath of wind on the ocean. The boys split up between Blue Lightning and Huntress and we headed out toward the Montebello Islands. The crew aboard Huntress started out trolling some lures close into the Dampier coastline while Blue Lightning headed further out towards some prime Mackerel grounds.
Ashley was first up on Blue Lightning pulling aboard a nice Mackerel on a Rapala Xrap, to start off his 4th trip out with Blue Lightning. He was closely followed by both Sharpy and Bruce who also lured good sized Mackerel to the boat using Rapala Xraps. Meanwhile over on Huntress the boys were also on the Mackerel with 4 good sized toothy Mackerel being hauled aboard. Nev was the odd one out managing to coax a tasty Cobia to jump onto his lure.
Blue Lightning steamed on towards the Montebello Islands, stopping at a couple of good looking bottom grounds to see what the boys could jig up. Marcus was first up on the soft plastics, hauling up his first ever Rankin Cod. The boys were rewarded well for their jigging efforts with Red Emperor, Rankin Cod, Coral Trout, Golden Trevally all making an appearance. With Huntress off in the distance chasing the elusive Billfish, Blue Lightning was left to troll towards the islands, with a few more Mackerel coming aboard and even a couple of hungry Golden Trevally coming up for a look.
Once we reached the incredible Montebello Islands and with Huntress in our wake, the returning boys were astounded to see that the islands hadn’t at all changed in the 2 years they had been gone. The new guys were in awe of the beauty and scenery that greeted them as we come into the bay. The Blue Lightning pontoon, the “Cod Cave”, was a welcome sight, as we pulled up alongside, the boys jumped off the boats to swap stories of the first day of their 7day live aboard charter. Nev was crowned angler of the day for his Cobia and Coral Trout.
Day 2- Huntress in her element
The crew kicked off day 2 with a group heading off on Huntress, they were excited to be going out trolling for Billfish. We started with some hard body lures, managing to attract the likes of a few Mack Tuna and Shark Mackerel. After the boys had some fun with the smaller of the Mackerel and Tuna families, we threw out a spread of skirts and headed off in search of the elusive Billfish. To our excitement we didn’t have to wait long, within 5 minutes of the skirts being in the water, we had a nosey old Sailfish come up to have a look and a bit of a play with a skirt. Captain Chad did everything to entice this Sailfish to jump on a switch bait, but even with copious amounts of experience under his Captain’s hat, this Billfish wasn’t interested and swam away leaving the boys itching to try again another day. We bought the skirts in while we hit a few lumpy bottom grounds where Marcus, the silent fish assassin in the corner, picked up his first ever Coral Trout. Before long he then pulled in a pair of decent Rankin Cod. Wooly joined in on the fun, adding another Rankin Cod to the tally. Burgo and Wooly did well to entice a coral trout each on soft plastics in the afternoon.
Over on Blue Lightning the guys were having a great day hitting a few good bottom grounds. Youngy picked up his first ever Red Emperor and a good sized Spanish Mackerel on the troll. Meanwhile Ash and Bruce both picked up Spanish Mackerel with Bruce topping it off with a lovely Rankin Cod. Nev was on fire getting his personal best Coral Trout and a beautiful Red Emperor. They finished the day off with some nice fish including Red Emperor, Coral Trout, Rankin Cod and Cobias. The guys were impressed by the various species they were seeing throughout their trip so far, and we were only on day2!
Day 3- In search of Billfish
Huntress headed out once again searching for the Billfish while Blue Lightning took the boys to a few new bottom grounds looking for more PB’s and firsts. The guys on Huntress headed out from the bay casting a few lures and poppers trying to entice a GT (or two) to come out and play. Captain Chad put the guys up around some ideal GT spots but unfortunately they were playing hard to get. We had a couple of follows but unfortunately our only hook up was Sharpy hooking our deckhand Bree. He didn’t quite open his bail arm properly and did a good job to cast the lure around a corner and past 3 other people to hook her in the leg.
More Mackerel Fun
We headed off and rolled a spread of skirts out the back, but after no interest from any Billfish, we switched to hard body lures and were excited to find a big school of Spanish and Shark Mackerel smashing up some baitfish, who were only too happy to have a go at our lures. With a couple of nice Spanish Mackerel on board Captain Chad put us on some prime bottom ground. Jezz picked up a lovely Coronation Trout on a soft plastic, his first ever, and Sharpy nabbed a great Rankin Cod on a knife jig. We moved off with the skirts trailing along behind us, when we noticed the teaser rope was looking a little light on. We had lost our old faithful teaser! These Sailfish were proving to be hard to entice.
Personal Bests Galore
Meanwhile on Blue Lightning, the guys were having a brilliant day, with PB’s and firsts coming in thick and fast. Marcus bought up a PB Coral Trout as did Bruce, while Belly reeled in a huge Scarlet Sea Perch. Wooly had great fun catching a PB Rankin Cod, but had less fun turning his 2 piece rod into a 3 piece. Oops! Matt was on fire catching a Maroon Sea Perch, Longnose Emperor and a nice sized Spangled Emperor. The story of the day goes to Rhookie, who was valiantly winning the fight over a huge Spotted Cod, when all of a sudden a very toothy shark decided to give him a hand and take half of his fish for his own lunch! Rhookie, reeled in what was left of his fish, still with a grin on his face. Great job Rhookie! A typically awesome array of Montebello Islands fish were added to the tally on day 3 including, Rankin Cod, Cobia, Long Nose Emperor, Spangled Emperor, Robinson Sea bream, Coral Trout, Maroon Sea Perch and Scarlet Sea Perch just to name a few.
Day 4- The Montebello Islands Giant Trevally
The weather was really turning it on for this, our last trip of the 2016 season. Huntress started the day casting in the shallows for Giant Trevally (GT). We had a few follows but it was Bruce who managed to get a hook up. After a furious fight and some perfect positioning skills from Captain Chad, he had his first ever GT onboard weighing in around the 12-15kg mark. Once we had a few happy snaps of Bruce’s catch and it was back in the water happily swimming away, we headed off to see if we could find some more perfect trolling grounds. The boys had just put their lures in when there was an almighty CRACK. We all spun around, just in time to see Rhys’ Daiwa Demon Blood rod complete with his Shimano Stella 20000 heading overboard attached to a fish. The rod had snapped clean off at the butt. We turned around to see if we could find the lost rod but unfortunately it was long gone. We didn’t have long to console Rhys as there were 3 reels screaming on the back deck. Rhookie, Sharpy and Wooly had a 3-way hook up of Bludger Trevally. Which they managed to land all 3.
Yummy Yellow Fin Tuna
We reset the lures and it wasn’t long before Sharpy was on again, this time with a lovely little Yellow Fin Tuna. Sashimi was sounding pretty good for entrée tonight. Rhys and Bruce, were the only 2 on board who had never caught a Billfish before, so they drew straws for whom would take the reel first if we were to get a hook up. Bruce drew the short straw, which he would later find out that, for once, that was a good thing. We had the skirts out for only a matter of minutes, when suddenly the line was running away. Rhys jumped into action madly reeling it in while everyone else was wondering if this was the real thing. Rhys got the fish to the boat quickly to find out we had another Yellow Fin Tuna for our sashimi tonight. We reset the skirts and waited to see if today was going to be our day. Bruce was eagerly awaiting the screaming reel, having had a somewhat unlucky morning, breaking the tip off his rod, sitting on our morning tea and sending it flying, and crashing into the bait board knocking it off its legs. We knew something special was about to happen when Captain Chad ran toward the back of the boat. It was a Billfish, our hearts collectively started to race as we all eagerly watched from the back deck as Captain Chad and Deckie Bree tried for over 8 minutes to get a nosey Billfish hooked up to a switch bait, it sure was fussy! Once the Billfish finally decided to play the game, Captain Chad was looking for someone to hand the rod to. All other lines were in except for the one lure the Sailfish was hooked up to. Everyone was yelling at Bruce to grab the rod and wind in the fish, in rush of excitement he grabbed the wrong rod and furiously started winding it in! We got him sorted pretty quickly though and gave him the correct rod with the fish attached, and the fight was on. He was determined to get the fish to the boat and nothing would put him off, not even the shower he got from Captain Chad reversing through a couple of waves, drenching the whole back deck! (Sorry guys but we all know Captain Chad will do ANYTHING to get you a Billfish)
The billfish fought hard and Bruce handled the fish well, getting it to the boat and released all within about 20 minutes. He was stoked to claim his first ever Sailfish. There would be some stories around the dinner table tonight.
A Montebello Islands mixed bag
Over on Blue Lightning, the boys were having a cracker of a day also. Marcus scored his first ever Scarlet Sea Perch. Burgo caught his first ever Coral Trout and Pete and Youngy pulled in a pair of Cobia to top off an awesome day. The boys managed to catch a great array of species including Rankin Cod, plenty of Coral Trout, Scarlet Sea Perch, and Cobia to top off an awesome day at the Montebello Islands.
Day 5- Heart Starter at the Islands
Day 5 was our designated Heart Starter day, the day we get the guys out on our boston whaler “Heart Starter” to get the crew in and around the islands searching for GT’s. Ash, Jezz, Wooley and Sharpy were first up, they loaded up their gear and jumped onboard. While the boys were out chasing GT’s, the rest of the crew boarded Blue Lightning to head out to some close-by reefs to try their luck for some bottom fish. This turned out to be a good option, with a range of tasty fish being caught including Coral Trout, Scarlet Sea Perch, Maroon Sea Perch, Rankin Cod, Long Nose Emperor, Cobia and deckie Brody even picking up a big Spangled Rmperor. They guys had a troll around on the way home, and found a big school of feeding fish, picking up a good sized Spanish Mackerel.
The boys on Heart Starter were having a great morning with Ash and Wooley both nabbing Coral Trout, a little Mack Tuna smashing a stick bait and Ash picking up a 7kg Big Eye Trevally. The real excitement came toward the end of the morning though, with Jezz having the fight of his life with a huge 28kg GT. It was his first ever GT and to say he was exhausted after the 20 minute fight would be an understatement.
At the end of the morning, we headed back to the pontoon to re-group, swap stories and have some lunch with the rest of the crew from Blue Lightning. The afternoon saw Rhookie, Youngy, Burgo, Marcus and Rhys all board Heart Starter to looking for a GT of their own. Lucky for them we didn’t have a long wait as within his first 12 casts Marcus hooked up to his first ever GT! Although it was on the smaller side, roughly 6-8kg, it put up an almighty fight, which is what these fish are renowned for. The rest of the guys who had headed out on Huntress, were having a great time going for a snorkel with Ash managing to catch a Coral Cray. We all headed back to the Cod Cave. On our arrival Jezz’ first question was did anyone catch a GT bigger than his? To which the boys all hung their head’s. Maybe tomorrow.
Day 6- Heart Starter in her element at the Montebello Islands
After the boys had such a great time on day 5 they chose to spend day 6, their last full day at the Montebello Islands back on Heart Starter. Rhookie, Ash, Rhys and Marcus went out on Heart Starter while the rest of the guys headed out on Blue Lightning.We started out trolling on Heart Starter with Ash picking up a Coral Trout, which was his first on a trolling lure. We wound the rods in and headed up to the rock faces where the guys set about casting lures to entice the GT. The GT weren’t interested, however Rhookie was able to lure a nice Coral Trout out of his hiding spot and into the boat. With no GT interested in our stick baits, we headed back to meet the other guys for lunch with Marcus nabbing a Coral Trout on a Rapala Xrap.
Crayfish & GT
The crew on Blue Lightning had quite a morning, and were looking forward to the afternoon sessions. The boys decided that the afternoon sessions would be spent taking in the historic weapons testing sites and hunting for some yummy Crayfish for entrée. Meanwhile Ash, Jezz, Sharpy and Wooly headed out on Heart Starter to see if they could raise a GT. The guys tried all afternoon to get the pesky GT to hook up, with Sharpy and Jezz both losing what could only have been very big GT. The rest of the guys had a few follows, but the fish just weren’t interested enough to hook up.
Montebello Islands History in the flesh
Over with the island crew, the guys were amazed by the weapons testing site and the beauty that remains on Trimouille Island. They took a walk and found a beautiful little bay, where they were lucky enough to see some turtles frolicking around in the shallows looking for a suitable place on the beach to lay their eggs. Wonders never cease at the glorious Montebello islands. The guys went for a snorkel and deckhand Brody and Captain Chad both picked up some Painted Crayfish to have for entrée before we all headed back to the Cod Cave to enjoy our last night at the islands.
Day 7- Time to say goodbye
Well all-good things must come to an end and today was that day. It felt very bittersweet for us all as this marked Blue Lightning’s final day at the Montebello Islands for our 2016, 10th anniversary season. Being our last charter for the season meant there were a few extra chores to be done before we headed out. There were freezers to move, roofs to pack down and to be tied down. We were heading out of the beautiful bay and on our way home for the last time this season. Emotions were running high. Jezz and Rhookie headed off on Heart Starter; Bruce, Youngy and Burgo headed off on Huntress and the rest of the guys were on Blue Lightning. As we left the islands we threw out a spread of skirts, hoping to raise one last Billfish for the season. To our utter excitement the incredible Montebello Islands decided to give us one last awesome memory for the 2016, 10th anniversary season. Belly’s reel went screaming off. Ash was up in the wheelhouse at the time and said to Captain Bill “I’m going to go down there and tell Belly that I saw a Billfish to get him all excited”. By the time Ash got to the back deck of the boat, the Marlin was aerobically throwing itself out of the water, Ash no longer had to pretend, Belly had the real deal! The Billfish was feisty, strong and completely unwilling to come to the surface. This Black Marlin made Belly work for every minute of the 55minute fight. Once Belly got the Marlin to the boat, the necessary photos were taken and the fish swum before he made a bolt back down to the depths. Once the high fives and the congratulations were over we moved off towards Dampier once again. We threw a few hard body lures out the back and Sharpy was happy to lure up a Spanish Mackerel to finish off his trip. While we were all sad to leave the Monties but we couldn’t of asked for a better end to the season than a 75kg Black Marlin. The guys had a ball and were all saying how they couldn’t wait to come back again soon.
Some of the highlights from the week were Jezz’s GT and Belly’s Black Marlin, also the snorkeling. It was exciting to welcome these guys back on board Blue Lightning Charters as some of these guys were here when we towed the Cod Cave (our pontoon) out to the bay, and also some of the guys were on board when Captain Chad had his best day bill fishing catching 31 billfish. They were all amazed by the awesome improvements we have made over the last couple of years to make the Cod Cave even more special.
Until next time
And so we bid farewell to our incredible island home for another year. Even after spending 6 months of the year up here for 10 years it is still sad to “See ya later” to these incredible islands.
Chad, myself and the whole Blue Lightning Charters team would like to say a massive THANK YOU to all the customers who joined us for the 2016 Montebello Islands fishing season. This year marked our 10th consecutive year at the Monties and it was as special as ever. The Montebello Islands put on a great show in 2016 with some sensational fishing. We were also lucky enough to have some awesome customers joining us including some old favourites and brand new faces, thank you to each of you for making our 10th season at the Monties one we will never forget. We have now arrived safely in our “other” home Mandurah in Southern WA where we are looking forward to sleeping and then starting single day charters in just a few short weeks… you know what they say… no rest for the wicked!
Until next time…. Happy fishing Leah
P.S Thanks to Bree also for helping with this week’s Blog
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