BlueWater reader Michael Umback’s joyful experience of his first marlin, off WA, has been soured by the knowledge of a massive new gas project to be constructed in the middle of this year’s billfish hotspot.
Our previous issue’s cover shows a black marlin going ballistic during the Broome Billfish Classic in July this year. Michael points out that the background of that shot, Point Price, is where Woodside wants to build the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) port. This is the very area, he notes, 20 to 30km north of Broome’s traditional billfish grounds, where the majority of the sailfish and juvenile black marlin were found during this year’s tournament.
Plans include the construction of a kilometres-long jetty and dredging a deep channel for tankers. Although the jetty would become a giant FAD for baitfish, Michael is rightly concerned that potential pollution might damage the area’s marine ecology. He also points out that gas hubs usually have a 500m exclusion zone, so the aggregation of baitfish – and the many gamefish that would be attracted by them – would be out of bounds for anglers.
Michael is in the process of travelling around Australia for a year with his wife and daughter. On his way through Exmouth he caught his first marlin, a juvenile black estimated at 45kg, while trying to catch a mackerel for dinner by trolling a minnow with spin tackle from a modest tinny off Ningaloo Reef.
Thirty minutes after hook-up, the fish was down deep and he was beginning to think he hooked a mackerel that got instantly sharked (as frequently happens in those prolific waters). Then it jumped only 50m from the boat. For the next two hours they tried driving ahead of it to bring it to the surface, but it was only at the three-hour mark that it suddenly came up.
It had been sharked, probably by the three-metre tiger shark they saw on the surface an hour earlier. It was a sad ending in a way, because they intended to release it, but it did solve the ‘fish for dinner’ issue and fed 30 people that night at the campsite.