Halco Abrolhos Islands Tournament 2017
Wow!!! Where has the beginning of the year gone?! We’re at the end of March already which means its time for the annual Halco Abrolhos Islands Game Fishing Tournament for 2017! This year skipper Chad put a team of keen anglers together to tackle one of the most prestigious fish in the sea; the billfish. After a hectic week of planning and preparations the crew were ready to leave Mandurah. With Captain Chad, Pete, Leon and Leah onboard they headed to Mindarie to pick up the last 2 crew, Justin and myself, Bree.
Blue Marlin fun
We awoke to a beautiful day and headed out to the open ocean just in time to catch the wonderful sunrise. We had an uneventful, but enjoyable day cruising the coast North, until we slowed down to trolling speed to see if we could raise an inquisitive Billfish. It was a fair wait time, seeing nothing for the first few hours. It wasn’t until most of us were not paying attention, that Captain Chad who was doing a fabulous job as per usual, and Batfish (Leon) and his trusted sidekick Kiwi Boy (Justin), heard the best sound in the world; the ratchet and peeling line off a Shimano Tiagra. A mad rush ensued on deck as we all raced to get our lures out of the water as Re-Pete prepared to fight his fish. We got a good look at the fish as it cartwheeled across the water; we had what we had came for, a Blue Marlin. After a short but furious 20 minute fight Re-Pete had his second ever and personal best Blue Marlin alongside Reely Black to start our week off on a very positive note. The fish was released back down to fight another day. We were all smiles and full of excitement as we celebrated Re-Pete’s catch.
Could it be? Another Blue Marlin?
We reset our spread and resumed our previous positions not at all expecting another bout of excitement. But that’s exactly what happened. Within 5mins of all the lures being back in the water, the line on the long corner was peeling off with another beautiful Blue Marlin which was dancing across the top of the waves majestically. It was my turn and couldn’t help but be both amazed and full of adrenaline watching the line fly off. Once I got myself set up in the chair the fight was on. The line would come back on the reel slowly, then proceed to go back off the reel again, this all lasted about 30mins, but my arms were on fire! I got the Marlin to the side of the boat with Captain Chad calling it in at approx. 150kg. I had my first ever marlin and couldn’t be happier, what an amazing feeling. Definitely a dream come true, I was on cloud 9.
It was getting later in the day, we were starting to watch the sunset over the ocean when Captain Chad made the call to reset the lures and see how lucky we were. Well that certainly paid off as we only waited about 40 minutes and as the sun started to touch the horizon, the line was once again peeling off the reel. We had a quick glimpse of the fish as it barreled across the tops of the waves and off into the beautiful sunset. All hands were on deck as Leah proclaimed “7.00pm who catches marlin at 7.00pm”!! Kiwi Boy was up next and was hooked in fighting this valiant fish with as much gusto as he could muster, trying desperately to land this big girl before we were completely in the dark. Now handling a boat backing up on a marlin is challenging enough for most people; but that job is made much much more difficult once you can barely see the line. Captain Chad, handled the boat like the pro he is, while Kiwi Boy handled the reel as well as a well seasoned fisherman. Although both the boys and the crew did everything they could to get this fish to the boat it wasn’t to be, with the Marlin spitting the hooks only meters from the boat. That was to be our ‘one that got away’ story. But what an eventful afternoon and evening, in 2 hours we went 3-3-2 from blue marlin. We put the lures back in, in the hope of perhaps hooking up again but it wasn’t to be. We pulled the lures and steamed off towards the islands for a good nights rest.
Abrolhos Islands wildlife
We awoke bright and early the next morning to a couple of seals playing around in the bay. The wildlife at the Abrolhos Islands never ceases to amaze me. We made the most of the quiet morning cooking up a yummy bacon and egg breakfast before pushing off to go see a bloke about some fuel. We grabbed what we needed from the fuel barge and headed off. While trolling to the Wallaby group Captain Chad decided that on the way we should make the girl look pretty using our West Coast Boat Polish products, we all got polishing, and before long Reely Black was sparkling from top to toe.
We decided to go for a snorkel to get some Crays. Captain Chad came through with the goods while Leah and myself checked out the local snorkeling sites. Batfish (Leon) tried with all his might to get a Crayfish or two, but was let down by Re-Petes forgetfulness and wasn’t able to have much luck with the crays leaving without a snare. Re-Pete didn’t live that down for a few hours. Nonetheless the crays were super tasty.
Halco Abrolhos Islands Tournament Briefing
We made our way to Big Pigeon Island to get ready for the briefing night that was to be held at the local watering hole. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces and new faces at the briefing night and swap some old stories of last year’s tournament. Once we had our formal instructions, introductions of each boat, and the stories had run dry, we headed back to Reely Black for Captain Chads famous espresso martini’s. We enjoyed our night of visitors and guests and eventually it was bed time.
Competition Day 1
Well we certainly weren’t lied to about the following days weather, we awoke to howling winds and a rocking boat, and we were still tied up to a jetty in the safety of the bay. Today was the day to get the rods and reels ready for the next 5 days of tournament fishing. We unspooled and spooled reels, checked drags, and geared up some skirts. The afternoon saw Leah, Batfish, Re-Pete and myself head over to the one and only Spags’ (the unofficial Mayor of the Abrolhos Islands) place for a chat and a beer. Batfish and Re-Pete got cosy in the sauna, whilst Leah and myself checked out the island. We had a chat to Spags, the stories he has, I could listen to all day. The Abrolhos Islands certainly is a one of a kind place. We headed back to the boat for dinner and worked out our plan for the following day. We couldn’t wait to head out and try for another Marlin.
Competition Day 2
We were up early on day 2 of the tournament, all ready and geared up for an awesome day of fishing. We headed north of the islands in search of some primo grounds where some sneaky stick faces may be hiding. The weather was still quite rough and the seas were pretty rolly, proving a little too much for some to handle (ok it was only me then!!). Captain Chad, never one to miss a good opportunity snapped a quick picture of me checking out the prop to compare to the one from last year. Yep, seasickness really does suck sometimes!
We spent hours trolling around the depths of the ocean but today was not our day. The water looked amazing and the temp looked good, everything was right for Marlin, but someone forgot to tell the Marlin to be there. Pete Berryman from Getaway Outdoors – Geraldton on board his boat Balek III had a cracker of a day going 7-6-3 on billfish for the day. Way to go guys, a great way to start the tournament.
Tournament Day 3
Day 3 came around quickly and the sunrise was outstanding. The sun was throwing beautiful hues of red and orange across the sky as we headed out. We had the lures out and even though the spread looked promising we had a long wait on our hands for our first hook up of the day. Just when we thought it wasn’t to be our day again and with time running out as lines out was at 4pm sharp. We had just turned towards home as the ratchet started screaming and we all bolted to the back of the boat in time to catch the last of the acrobatics from the blue marlin that was hooked up. Batfish as sore as he was, was hooked up and in the chair while the rest of us were rushing to get the rest of the gear in. Batfish having never caught a marlin on a rod and reel before was handling the fight like a champ, even in the rough weather! After a long 1hr 50 minute fight, Batfish was exhausted, as his first ever blue marlin weighing about 150kg came up to the surface. He was absolutely stoked getting his first ever Marlin. We headed back to the islands all excited for what tomorrow might bring.
Abrolhos Islands Day 4
Day 4 was Leah’s day to shine. We made our way towards the fishing grounds still talking about Batfish’s first Marlin from the previous day, and excited for what the day ahead may hold. The day was travelling along nicely when all of a sudden around midday, Justin jumped out of his favourite resting place pointing to the long rigger. Before he had confirmation from Captain Chad as to whether he actually saw something, the long corner had a hit. We had a small Marlin playing in our spread! Leah quickly ran out and grabbed a live bait, which we rigged up earlier and she pitched it towards the cheeky marlin. The rest of us quickly grabbed the gear ready for a possible hook up. While Leah followed Captain Chad’s clear instructions, but this little marlin was too sneaky for us and swam away. Even though we didn’t get the hook up, we were all super excited to raise another Billfish. To even briefly catch a glimpse of one of these majestic fish is enough to get your heart racing!!!
Last minute Blue Marlin
We trolled around for the rest of the afternoon without much excitement. That was until it got to about 3.35pm, Leah was desperate to get her first ever Blue Marlin and thus made a very abnormal promise to the fishing gods!!! Needless to say this is all it took and within 5 minutes a Blue Marlin was stealing away with our line. Everyone was running around madly, that is besides Leah, she was in shock, she didn’t know if the guys were playing a trick on her or if this was the real thing. It took her a few extra seconds to clear her head, and to realise this was for real and there was a Marlin on the end of the line. In seconds she grabbed the rod and strapped herself into the chair. The rest of us rapidly got the teasers and lures into the boat, so Captain Chad could get back onto this fierce fish. Being right before lines out time of 4pm (again!!) Captain Chad radioed through to the tournament to allow us an extra hour to get the fish up. Leah was a gun on the reel and had her Blue Marlin raised and tagged in just 35 minutes! What a legend!!! Leah was ecstatic jumping around the deck. She had waited years to catch a Blue Marlin and was thrilled. We were all busy celebrating when Captain Chad kindly reminded us all off Leah’s earlier promises to the Marlin gods. She would have to fulfill that promise later. We made our way to Rat Island to catch up with Captain Chad’s friend Muzz (Murray). After a couple of celebratory drinks and a good feed, we decided to call it a night. Thanks Muzz for having us all over at your camp.
Tournament Day 5
We weren’t surprised when we woke in the morning to the winds gusting. Due to a wind warning for Geraldton later in the day the tournament was called off for the day. The wind and swell was still manageable so Captain Chad made the executive decision to head out and see if we could raise another Billfish. Justin was the only crew member left on the boat yet to catch and release a Billfish for this trip, after his Blue spat the hooks on our first day heading to the islands. We made our way south and we battled our way through the rolling seas all morning with no fish in sight. About 11:30am we started to turning toward home, when the ratchet on the big 80 tiagra started screaming. There was a Striped Marlin jumping through our spread. We rushed to get the gear in the boat, as Kiwi Boy got himself clipped into the chair. The Striped Marlin put on a marvelous aerobatic show. With the help of the big swell and Captain Chad maneuvering the boat to keep it as steady as possible in the less than perfect conditions, the Striped Marline was tagged and released all within approximately 20 minutes. Kiwi boy had caught his first ever Striped Marlin! As the weather was building to get worse as the afternoon wore on, we decided to troll our way back to the islands. Arriving back to the islands in time for a relaxing night before the last day of the tournament. With the final day’s weather already looking terrible we were pretty certain we were going to have another lay day.
Abrolhos Islands Fishing Tournament Final Day
We weren’t wrong about the weather when we awoke on the final day of the tournament. We made a quick breakfast and put everything away before heading out of the islands to a quiet bay where we could spend the day cleaning up and tidying the boat before the presentations that evening at Pigeon Island. We snuck in a very quick snorkel in the afternoon before we had to get ready to make our way to Pigeon Island.
It was awesome to catch up with everyone on the last night, and swap some stories of awesome fish caught and of course the ones that got away (a bit like Balek III’s dinghy!!) and some embarrassing stories of some of the antics from the week. It was an awesome week of fishing and a great last night. Our congratulations go to Pete Berryman and his crew on board Balek III who took out the heavy tackle award for this year’s tournament. Congratulations also to the crew on Allure taking the trophy for Champion Boat for light tackle.
A huge thank you to Captain Chad for putting this year’s team together, and to both Leah and Captain Chad for putting up with this bunch of crazies! Thanks also to Captain Chad for putting us on the fish. Also to my other fellow team mates Re-Pete, Batfish, and Kiwi Boy; thanks for the awesome week and I couldn’t have asked for a better crew to share my first ever Marlin with. The week was filled with so many laughs and fun times. Four of our marlin did not count in the tournament but to us this did not matter, we are here to have fun and hopefully to see Billfish. To have all our crew members catch a Billfish each within a week, is amazing. We also had a lot of firsts aboard Reely Black; Leon with his first ever Billfish, Justin with his first ever Stripped Marlin, Leah with her first ever Blue Marlin and myself with my first ever Marlin…. what a week!!!
Thanks to the Abrolhos Islands community
Thank you to the Abrolhos Islands community for your warm welcome every year to host the Halco Abrolhos Islands Game Fishing Tournament, and a special thanks to Macca for letting us use his jetty. Thanks to Deb and Steve for your hospitality at the local pub. Last but not least a big thank you to Geraldton and Districts Offshore Fishing Club for organizing such an enjoyable competition every year.
Until next year tight lines everyone
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