Last week’s annual NT Billfish Classic showed that experience and careful team strategies were the key to success.
Hosted by the Darwin Game Fishing Club, with 13 teams competing, this major billfish tournament had $9,000 cash plus prizes on offer.
The tides were quite big for the three days of the tournament, and were in fact similar to tides when large numbers of billfish have been congregating and caught off Dundee Beach.
According to Billfish Classic regular, Peter Dienhoff, one factor that had come into play in the last fortnight was all the rain that we have been receiving.
“It poured out from the Finniss River at Dundee Beach and made the waters off Dundee very dirty which was not good for billfish,” Pete said.
“Given the strong winds and storms forecast for Dundee, while the forecast off the Tiwis was 5-10 knots for the three days, and with no significant rainfall, our Team Free Jumpers headed for the west coast of Bathurst Island.
Peter’s team won the Classic last year fishing the same area.
On board with Pete were Kurt Williamson and his partner, Bridget Rootsey.
“I was confident I could find the fish as long as we could find blue water,” he told me.
“After fishing off the islands for 30 years, I knew the big spring tides can dirty the water, even in the Bathurst Trench at 180 metres deep.
“Thanks to GPS marks from captures in the Trench over the last few years, we found a beautiful 25kg sailfish at 10.30am for Bridget… noting the bite time coincided with low tide,” Pete explained.
“But the water started to go green in patches, so we followed the blue water down the coastline and tagged another Sailfish in the afternoon for Kurt.
“On day two we decided to fish directly out from Cape Fourcroy, at the bottom end of the Trench.
“The water was dark blue and it was about 10.30am when I reminded the crew of the previous day’s bite time – 30 minutes later, Kurt was hooked up to his second sailfish, a solid model about 30kg which swam away strongly once tagged.
“Signing off on the satellite phone to the Billfish Base, we knew we were in equal
first place with Team Kurri Tackle which was fishing off Dundee Beach,” Pete told me.
“Day three saw us back at the southern end of the Trench.
“Our bite-time window was approaching when Team Black Label, fishing in the same area, reported tagging a black marlin.
“There were four boats fishing this area and all were struggling to find and stay in blue water.
“As a team, we decided to head to The Forks, just west of North and South Gutter.
“Any blue water pushing along the Bathurst coastline should have reached this area with the incoming spring tide and was definitely worth a crack.
“Some previous winning teams have caught their fish from these grounds over the last 12-year history of the tournament.
“Fortunately for us, we had lady luck on our side and at 2.00pm Bridget hooked up to a black marlin which crashed a pink-skirted, skipping garfish in the prop wash.
It was only a small marlin, but on 10kg line it scored 1500 points,” Pete told me.
That great last catch was enough to get Team Free Jumpers over the line for Champion Team.
Runner-up Team in a boat up to 7 metres was Black Label (Terry Cloughessy, Damien Day and Brenton Smyth)
Runner-up Team in a boat over 7 metres was Kurri Tackle (Rod and Kim Mychas, and Clinton Briggs)
Bridget Rootsey was Champion Angler.
There were 12 sailfish and 5 black marlin tagged and released, which was 5 more billfish than last year.
Bridget Rootsey, NT Billfish Classic Champion Angler from Team Free Jumpers, with her black marlin caught late on the last day.