Travis Hogan dreams big in a small trailer boat, hunting for black marlin in a Haines Hunter V19
We may live in Far North Queensland, but that doesn’t mean the gamefishing is at our doorstep. In fact, it’s further away than you’d think – it’s about 40 nautical miles to the shelf and a further 20nm to get to the worldfamous Ribbon Reefs.
THE V19 THAT SLEEPS THREE
We’re not the kind of blokes who buy travel packages on fishing tourism websites. Nope, we like to do it ourselves. Good mate, Bryson custom-built a Haines Hunter V19R especially for extended trips. The side pockets were widened to accommodate all our gear, we fitted a toughas- fug wave-breaker, and it sleeps three comfortably with swags rolled out under the stars. We had a perfect opportunity to test the “sleepability” of Bryson’s V19 on a reecy to the Ribbon Reefs. We waterproofed our gear, donned the goggles and bashed 70nm into the nor-easterly to try our luck on the edge of the reef. Pelagics were hard to come by, but we held our breath, went deep and found Maori sea perch, buffalo emperor and jobfish. I’ve never felt more alive than when we cooked fresh fish up on a little gas stove, washed it down with some ice-chilled XXXX and rocked ourselves to sleep in the lee of the reef.
GOT THE TASTE FOR IT
The boys had the taste for extended touring a sea – and we loved it. But we wanted to raise the stakes – we dreamed of having a black marlin in our sights. The word got out and before long we had a crew of Aimrite-armoured snipers ready for bluewater battles. We needed some heavy-duty rigs, so we put a call out to Reel Crayzee Charters. They’re not just great blokes who love the sea life, they also get around in Debra Lee, a 60ft Riviera gamefishing weapon, along with a custom-built 30ft Kevlacat.
The armada assembled in Cairns. We sharpened our spears, cross-referenced waypoints and decided the Ribbon Reef would be our destination. After steaming for half a day, we got to our destination on the edge of the reef. Conditions weren’t ideal. The going was tough, the wind was blowing around 20 knots and there was a 2m swell to go with it. To make matters worse, almost everyone was hungover due to the fact that we’d had a “few” rums the previous night. Nevertheless we geared up and slipped into the windswept sapphire coloured sea. Bryson, Jaiden McLean and I went off the cat while the rest set their battleground around Debra Lee. Visibility was poor and the sharks were as big as Harley-Davidsons, but the crew was determined and egos were on the line.
I dived to 20 metres and speared a healthy rusty 6.2kg jobfish. Bryson and Jaiden returned fire, nailing one each in the sloppy sea. On day two, the stakes got higher when Luke Pattrick nailed a trio of Maori sea perch. Our target, the black marlin, was proving elusive. The bite had shut down and even all the big game boats reported slow days. It wasn’t all bad news though; we’d shot some respectable fish, spirits were high and egos were well-inflated. Best of all – we were well-fed. Our good friend Sule prepared the best seafood platters I’ve ever eaten!
THE LAST SHOT
It was our last day – our final chance for the Aimrite crew to boat a marlin in Bryson’s V19R. Mr Stickface couldn’t be found and hopes were fading, but like any bluewater stalking, persistence is our greatest battle tactic. Wide off Mission Beach, keen eyes spotted a heap of birds working a tuna school. To our surprise, they were little yellowfin around 5kg. We knew these to be like little jellybeans for marlin, so we jumped in. At worst, we’d have sushi for lunch. Bryson managed to shoot one only to lose it, while I just managed to lose my brand-new Penetrator fins off the back of the boat. Scoreboard: Ocean 2, Aimrite 0.
I returned to the water with my Aimrite CustomX, a homemade speargun I built for shooting marlin and large tuna. It has 4 x 16mm rubbers, a custom-made 9mm shaft and slip tip from Italy. It’s practically a bluewater bazooka. I knew there was a chance we’d see a marlin, but I didn’t realise it would be so quick. Within five minutes, the fish swam in and young Liam, who was in the water with me, started yelling. I knew he’d seen something good. I looked back to see a nice-sized marlin cruising into the flasher. Without hesitating, I dived and met him before placing a shot in the flanks. After a 25-minute tug of war, I had the fish in my hands – the pinnacle of my spearfishing life.
EATING LIKE KINGS
There’s a lot of people out there who don’t believe in shooting billfish. My view is that these fish are in very healthy numbers and are also one of the fastest-growing fish in the ocean. The black marlin we shot weighed 80kg-85kg based on the short-length measurement. We processed it at sea to ensure the fillets were preserved and not wasted. Since this capture, we’ve seen more marlin on subsequent trips, indicating the fishery off Cairns is thriving.
WHO IS AIMRITE?
Founded in Hawaii in 1998, Aimrite International originally made trigger mechanisms and muzzles for custom speargun builders. In 2011, the company moved to Australia where it was purchased by Travis and Cassie Hogan, who now run the business from Cairns. These days, Aimrite builds around 1200-1500 spearguns annually and has expanded its range to include wetsuits, carbon fibre fins and a number of spearfishing accessories.
10 TIPS FOR ADVENTURING OFFSHORE AND UNDER THE SEA:
1 Safety Equipment Check and recheck you have ALL of it. This will ensure you have peace of mind for the day and can enjoy yourself knowing you’re operating a safe vessel.
2 Fuel Carry more than you need and then take extra! We once ran dry 5nm from the ramp after a big trip to the seamount. Unfortunately, we had engine issues and had to run on one engine for around 100nm, which burnt the fuel up pretty quick. Haven’t made that mistake since…
3 Water You can never have enough, so pack plenty. If the boat breaks down, at least you will stay hydrated – and it could save your life.
4 First aid Having a good first aid kit is essential. A lot of injuries can happen at sea (above and below the surface) so be prepared – it could save your life.
5 Crew Make sure they are all briefed on what their role is for the day, where the safety gear is and what to do in an emergency situation. Also, make sure they enjoy themselves and have fun, after all, that’s why we go in the first place.
6 Shade If you’re venturing wide, a canopy is a must. If you don’t have a canopy then a beach umbrella can be stowed and used as an alternative to keep the sun off the crew. Summer is the best time of year for being on the water, but it’s also the hottest and it doesn’t take long for the sun to make you hot and uncomfortable in your wetsuit.
7 Food Don’t forget it or your day can get cut short, and if the fish are on then you better hope your stomach can wait!
8 Tools and spare equipment Take them regardless of how well your boat runs. Filters, pumps, spark plugs and a prop take up little room and should be carried on big trips.
9 Cameras Charge them up and take lots of pictures. A picture tells a thousand words and we may need proof of the one that got away!
10 Beerand/or rum Who am I kidding? This should probably be in the top three, but we captains need to be responsible for the safety of our vessel and
crew. Drink responsibly!
To the gang at Reel Crayzee for an epic month of spearfishing adventures! An even bigger thanks to my wife, Cassie, for putting up with my obsession. If you want to know more about spearfishing and the adventures we go on, check out www.aimrite.com.au and dive safe.