Undoubtedly the 2002 season would go down as the most amazing year that I have experienced as a charter boat Captain.
The year started off with Viking II traveling to its southern destinations of Port Stephens and Ulladulla. Our first charter was with a guy specialising in fly fishing tackle chasing world records. Tom Evans, from America, was targeting striped marlin, blue marlin and black marlin with fly fishing tackle with the emphasis on trying to achieve world records on the individual tippet classes. At the end of Tom’s charter we had achieved 2 amazing feats; the first being the largest striped marlin ever caught on fly fishing tackle. The fish weighing 104.7 kg, 231lb, blew away the existing world record and created a new benchmark for the 16lb 8kg tippet class. But the fish that got the world talking happened on the last day of Tom’s charter. We were out wide in the canyons east of Port Stephens looking for blue marlin, when the fish appeared behind the long teaser lure. The blue marlin attacked the lure and managed to get teased close to the boat. Tom did his usual perfection cast and the blue marlin engulfed the fly. After 20 minutes of the most spectacular fight between boat, fish and angler that anyone could witness the fish was gaffed. The atmosphere on the boat was electrifying as all on board knew that we had achieved an amazing milestone not only in saltwater fly fishing history but in general sportfishing achievements.
Our results out of Port Stephens were not only constrained to saltwater fly fishing; many clients caught some magnificent fish on 16kg and 8kg conventional tackle. Captures of blue marlin upwards toward 200kg on 15kg were not uncommon and striped marlin exceeding 85 kg on 8 kg line class were also caught.
Viking II returned to Cairns in June and continued operating light tackle sportfishing charters out of Cairns.
The Heavy Tackle Marlin Season which Cairns is famous for finally came around in September and from all reports up and down the reef it was going to be a great season. The first tournament for the Heavy Tackle season was held in late September sponsored by the Mediterranean Shipping Company and after 4 days of hot competition Viking II came out winners and was champion boat for the tournament. Angler Patrick Helmy from New Caledonia took out the award for champion male angler and went back to New Caledonia $20,000 richer.
This was a great start to our heavy tackle season but it didn’t stop there! All clients fishing onboard the Viking II had some outstanding fishing with many catching their first 1000lb marlin. The Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic which is known as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world circuit was again won by the Viking II. We tagged 24 Black Marlin and weighed one fish in this 7-day tournament. Some very large fish were released, the largest of which I estimated at over 1200lbs, anglers Dave and Daniel Bedford and their friend Terry Kuzma, from Canada, could not believe the week they experienced. This was the second time in consecutive years that Viking II has won this tournament and we have now won it a total of 4 times. No other vessel can come close to these results.
A full commitment was made this season to the use of circle hooks. With more and more people keen to release even the big fish it is imperative that these fish be released in good condition. The use of circle hooks certainly assists this and we have refined our technique to achieve over 65% success rate with these hooks.
Gary Carter from America chartered the Viking II for 10 days with the emphasis on targeting black marlin on 16lb 8kg and also 4lb 2kg conventional tackle. Although the world record fish was not caught our results were staggering. Gary had 5 fish on over 800lb on 16lb 3 of these fish would have easily been over 1000lb. We also had numerous long battles on the 4lb tackle and came extremely close to capturing a 400lb fish on this tackle. With the fish only metres away and in trouble we had a control cable failure and we were not able to get the boat to the fish on time. It was Gary’s first experience of the Cairns Black Marlin fishery and to say that he was impressed would be a total understatement.
Towards the tail end of our season the number of our fish that we had released was getting into the 90’s and we were starting to think about the possibility of breaking the milestone of 100 fish for the season which has rarely been done before. When our last day finally arrived, the 5th of December, we were sitting on 97 fish for the season. An early bite and early fish put us on 98. Another fish at 3 o’clock in the afternoon put us on 99. We were thinking how long would we have to fish that day to catch the 100th fish. Obviously after an 80-day marlin season the boys and I were quite tired. So with light fading at the end of our last day of our 2002 season, the reluctant call was made to bring in the baits. Then the unbelievable happened. While the last bait was being retrieved only metres away from the boat, I thought I saw a shape under the bait. I yelled from the tower, to “free spool” and 15 minutes later a 350lb black marlin was released giving us our 100th fish for the season.
A remarkable ending to a remarkable year.
A day trip a week later resulted in a 400lb black marlin being tagged and released giving us 101 black marlin for the season.
Viking II’s Statistics
101 black marlin for the season
100 black marlin released
1 black marlin weighed
24 fish over 700lb
3 fish exceeded 1000lb
10 double headers
Champion Boat both tournaments