BLACK MAGIC - PART II — It’s not about marlin fishing ... it’s a lifestyle! — by Johan Zietsman

“IT’S a beauty — it’s a big fish!” exclaimed Captain Darren Hayden when the outrigger clip holding the big skipbait popped.

We were fishing on the 43ft Allure at number 10 ribbon reef off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during October 2003. Organised chaos erupted in the cockpit as I rushed to push up the Penn International 130’s strike drag. The line tightened and started to peel off slowly.

I moved to the chair, clipped on the bucket seat-harness and started to wind like crazy. It felt like a runaway train on the other end of the line as the fish sounded deep. Still, we had no idea of how big it really was. I pushed up the fighting drag to 70 pounds and hung on for dear life so as not to lose my balance and be pulled overboard.

This is what we call heavy tackle big game fishing — the ultimate fishing experience!

All of a sudden the black marlin broke the surface close to the transom, thrashing her enormous head in white, foaming water. We were all awestruck by its size. Four different accents — Irish, Australian, British and South African — shouted together: “It’s a grander, it’s a grander!”

I kept constant pressure on the line and after a short while the double line came over the roller tip. Wireman Bo Jenyns double-wrapped the leader with all his strength, moving from corner to corner at the transom to bring the frenzied monster, estimated at 1 000 lb- plus, under control.

Once the leader was grabbed, I wound up the slack line and backed down on the drag as a safety precaution for the wireman. The marlin was clearly hooked in the corner of its mouth.

The mesmerising sight of such a magnificent and beautiful animal made a permanent imprint on our minds. We decided to release the marlin because she was still in good health and — for the first time in history — take underwater photos of a “free swimming” black grander. As mate Ross Housby cut the leader, renowned photographer Brad Kidd jumped overboard next to the marlin to take photos.

Thanks to expert boat handling by Captain Hayden, good crew, 70 pound fighting drag and a cooperative marlin, the fighting time from hookup to release surprisingly lasted only six minutes! It is probably one of the shortest grander battles in history.

I’ve been trying to catch my first black grander for ten years and could not believe that it was all over in such a short space of time. Now, having succeeded with a black and three blue granders, my next goal is to catch a grander bluefin tuna, probably the most rare and difficult of the three species to catch.

Read the full story in the January/February 2004 issue of SKI-BOAT.
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