Australia's Untapped Big-Game Fishery

Fraser Island's variety makes it a new hot spot for a world-famous sport-fishing destination

marlin fishing off Australia, Fraser Island
The Mistress team celebrates its 104th billfish release since it first arrived to Fraser Island in August 2017. The crew released 10 more before the season's end.Courtesy Steve Bracken

Many parts of Australia are known worldwide for the large numbers of marlin roaming through the waters. Cairns became one of the most prestigious black marlin fisheries more than 50 years ago with the first grander, and many other spots have risen to prominence in recent years.

Fraser Island, in Queensland, is the new high-variety hot spot for the sport-fishing country. Brett Alty, the captain of 50-foot charter boat Mistress of Mistress Sportfishing Charters, and his crew have tagged and released 114 marlin — 87 blues, 20 blacks and seven striped marlin — in 44 days from August through the end of September. That disparity in species inspired Brett's father, Barry Alty, to report the action from the Australian island. Below is Barry's account from their trips off Fraser Island:

Fraser Island, located off the eastern coast of Australia near the Coral Sea, is the largest sand island in the world. Around 100 miles long, it has pristine rainforests and inland lakes of varying hues. It is a paradise accessible by barge from the nearby town of Hervey Bay, which has an airport, hotels and restaurants, and is a four-hour drive from Brisbane. It has long been known that there are large numbers of juvenile black marlin at it's northern end of the island and just outside the Breaksea Spit, which runs for 40 miles from the island's northern tip.

However, the juvenile black marlin grounds are 50 to 60 miles from Hervey Bay, and the continental shelf is another 15 or 20 miles. It's hard to fish unless you have a big sport-fishing yacht that you can live aboard for multi-day trips.

Capt. Brett Alty and his Mistress crew first fished the area for a couple of weeks to coincide with a local tournament in 2015. We again entered the tournament in 2016, placing a close second, but we had seen enough to realize the potential of an unexploited, little-known heavy tackle fishing area. So this year we came to the area earlier in the season and achieved the spectacular results. We also won the tournament with eight blue marlin from nine shots in two and a half days of fishing.

boat idles in the water off Fraser Island, Australia
Barry Alty, the brother of Mistress Captain Brett Alty, said the crew first started fishing in the untapped waters surrounding Fraser Island in 2015.Courtesy Mistress Sportfishing Charters

There is lot of bait and the fish are all fat. The blues have averaged around 400 pounds, with our biggest to date around 600. The striped marlin have ranged from 240 to 300 pounds and they aggressively attack the baits and lures just like the blues. None of this 'tap tap tap' nonsense! So far we have caught two slams of a blue, black and striped marlin and we could've caught more if we had tried.

Any fishery where you can catch an average of nearly three marlin a day is world-class. What makes it even more incredible is that there are four billfish species available. Pacific blues and blacks are the most predominant, followed by striped marlin and Pacific sailfish.

Capt. Brett says of the fishing off Fraser Island, "I have never seen anything like this. So many species are available and blues and blacks are in big numbers by any standard. There will definitely be a grander blue here somewhere."

Mistress sport-fishing charter boat
The biggest blue marlin the crew caught was around 600 pounds. Capt. Brett Alty said he expects a 1,000-pound blue marlin to emerge from the area soon.Courtesy Mistress Sportfishing Charters

Mistress will be available for charters to Fraser Island from August to November in 2018. — Barry Alty, as told to Marlin