trolling for dolphinfish cape moreton
The author took this dolphinfish on a Bubble Gum skirted lure.

Trolling around Cape Moreton

CAPE Moreton was calm, with just a gentle breeze blowing in from the southeast, when suddenly one of the reels screamed into action with that beautiful noise only a Shimano Tiagra can make. As I leapt to my feet, I could see a flash of blue jump into the air just 20m behind me.

My Stessl was gliding along at just over 1500rpm and I knew that as long as the boat kept the tension on the line, I had a chance of landing the fish. My TMQ autopilot kept me on course while I started clearing the other lines as quickly as I could. As I lifted the last rod out of its holder, I could hear the Tiagra telling me the dolphinfish was still trying to free itself from the hooks.

It seemed to take ages, but finally I lifted the Witchdoctor teaser into the boat, grabbed the rod and silenced that screaming reel. I had pulled back on the throttle so the boat was now merely idling forward while I proceeded to gently wind in about 250m of line. This fish was by no means a record breaker but I had been waiting for this moment since last year.

Almost all my line had been wound back onto the reel and as I looked behind the boat, I could see the blue flashes of a 10kg dolphinfish in the waves. This is what my new Stessl was designed for.

A 200-litre Esky sat lengthwise on the port side of the boat with the lid open, my wind-on leader was back on the reel and the gaff was in my right hand. My 150hp motor kept the boat moving forwards, which kept the fish near the surface.

This wahoo was hooked by Max on a skipping gar.
This wahoo was hooked by Max on a skipping gar.
Max Proctor caught this dolphinfish on a skirted lure.
Max Proctor caught this dolphinfish on a skirted lure.
The blue flashes of a 10kg dolphinfish could be seen in the waves.
The blue flashes of a 10kg dolphinfish could be seen in the waves.
This dolphinfish tried in vain to shake the hooks.
This dolphinfish tried in vain to shake the hooks.
With the fish now in range, I placed the gaff under the fish, lifted it into the Esky and quickly closed the lid. Dolphinfish have a habit of going absolutely crazy when you lift them into the boat, and there is a real likelihood that a flying hook could penetrate a leg or arm, so placing the fish into the confined space of the Esky removes all danger.

It has taken me a long time to finally sort out all the little things on my boat, but having tested everything in a real life situation, I can now honestly say my Stessl is exactly what I wanted. I have also been out fishing with a number of friends and dolphinfish have been around in pretty good numbers every time.

At one stage, I trolled past an old fishing float and saw in excess of 20 dolphinfish feeding on tiny bait schools. I really enjoy being out on the water, so I have fun on every trip, but one recent trip left a lasting impression on me. Troy Proctor invited me out on his Cruise Craft 685 and suggested I meet him at the boat ramp.

I arrived at the ramp at 4.30am and headed over to Troy’s boat, which was already in the water. I could see the boat about 50m away and holding the boat was a very small figure just over a metre in height. When I realised that Troy must have been parking the car as I approached, I introduced myself to Max, Troy’s nine-year-old son.

Troy arrived soon after, and once I’d placed my gear into the boat we were off to Cape Moreton. The trip out was a bit ordinary, so I sat on the rear lounge. Max just sat in the passenger seat and didn’t say much at all.

We eventually reached Brennan Shoal where we set up a mixture of fresh gar and a couple of skirts and started trolling. Our target species was black marlin, so I asked Max if he had ever seen one, to which he replied he had not only seen marlin but had actually caught them by himself.

Here was a young boy who could barely see over the gunwales, so as much as I believed that he had caught one, I was sure he would have had some help along the way. We had only been trolling for a short while when one of the reels went off.

As I started to clear the other rods, I saw Max jump down off his chair, rip the rod out of the holder, slide the drag up to the strike position and commence reeling in an 8kg dolphinfish. With all the rods safely inside the boat, I could see that the sloppy conditions made it difficult for Max to keep his balance, so I tried to steady him while Troy positioned the boat.

Everything went like clockwork and Max soon had the fish beside the boat. After that bit of excitement, Max sat back on his chair nibbling a few potato chips. It seemed as though we had only just set the lures again when another rod went off. Max jumped off his chair and calmly picked up the rod, proceeding to catch another dolphinfish.

There was no yelling or screaming, just a very calm and capable young fisherman doing what many others would find a major exercise, and he was doing it on just 8kg line. The rest of the day dragged on without a touch until we reached Hutchisons Shoal.
Everything was quiet and the only sounds we could hear were the soft purring of the Yamaha 250hp four-stroke and the occasional swish of the waves.

I happened to be looking back towards the spread when I saw a large splash in the water followed by the noise of the ratchet as line left a reel. Instinctively I went to grab the rod, but I was already too late. It was Max’s job to reel in the fish and my job to clear the lines and teaser.

We hadn’t seen the fish but the line kept on disappearing into the distance. It was unlikely that it was a marlin because it was staying deep, so I thought it may have been a large tuna. Whatever it was, it was giving Max a bit of trouble.

Max had been working for quite a few minutes when Troy asked him if he was OK, but Max just smiled and said the fish was pretty heavy. About 10 minutes had passed and the fish was level with the boat but remained deep. I could see that although Max was doing it tough, he showed no signs of giving up.

A few people I know could learn a lot from this young fellow. The last couple of metres of line were finally wound back onto the reel and as we looked over the side we could see a large wahoo lying on the surface. After reaching for my camera, I looked back and could see Max struggling to hold the fish.

I asked him if that was the biggest wahoo he had ever caught, but to my surprise he told me he had set the Queensland and Australian record for the ‘Small Fry’ angler class with a wahoo weighing 20.2kg captured on 8kg line. I really enjoyed watching Max in action and I can’t wait to see him catch his first blue marlin because I don’t think it will be far away.

Until next time, may all your fish be hungry.

About Frank 'Franko' Oostenbroek

If there is one thing that Frank Oostenbroek (FrankO) is passionate about, it's fishing with soft plastics. Whether it is in fresh water, estuaries or out chasing marlin, FrankO has proven his ability to continually to catch the big fish. FrankO offers a variety of services including a fishing school, photography and electrical fit-outs on boats.

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