Cairns, Australia – Giant Black Marlin Capital of the World!

From September through to December, the largest black marlin in the world – many of them “granders” of over a thousand pounds, migrate to the 150 mile stretch of the Great Barrier Reef between the North Eastern coastal city of Cairns and the exclusive five star resort of Lizard Island. This is unquestionably the best grander marlin location in the world, and if you are a serious big game angler, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

There are more black marlin caught or tagged on the GBR than in the rest of the world combined and in a hot fishing week you can encounter a bite a day from an 800lb PLUS fish.

The fishery here is predominantly a bait fishery with usually two to three rods at one time trolled from the outriggers and up to 4 rods trolled using lures. Favourite baits include scad (Cairns No.1 swimming bait), mack tuna, scaley mackerel, Spanish mackerel, yellowfin tuna, queenfish and rainbow runners.

These baits can be as large as 15kg (30lbs) though preferred size being 8 to 12 lb for the skip baits and 1 to 5lb for the swimming scads. The crew rig these baits on circle hooks which are trolled just under and on the surface at a speeds varying between 5 to 6 knots. They utilise short drop backs knowing that these always give the best percentage of mouth-hooked fish. Circle hooks have come into vogue over the last few years and we’ve found that they provide excellent results with fish released in great condition.

Over the years its been discovered that generally the best fishing comes in the afternoon from 2.00 pm onwards (not always a hard and fast rule) and most boats fish until as late as 6.30 pm, depending on the location and the degree of difficulty getting back into the anchorage.

Cooktown (small fishing village located 250kms north of Cairns) is a favoured port to depart from throughout the early to mid part of the marlin season as it positions the boats closest to the middle section of the Ribbon Reefs and is a convenient location to restore and refuel. It is a short, scenic charter flight from Cairns to Cooktown (approx 45 mins) and Ross and his crew will meet you at the airstrip on arrival and transfer you directly to the “Top Shot” for departure.

The marlin generally tend to move down the Ribbons Reefs throughout the marlin season and often we find ourselves fishing directly out of Cairns through much of November and December. The decision of where to disembark from (Cairns or Cooktown) is usually not decided until much nearer to each charter departure, depending on the fishing at the time.


Charter Options:

Minimum 3 to 4 day overnight charters throughout the peak giant black marlin season (mid Sept / Oct / Nov / mid Dec) with day charters from Cairns available in early to mid September and early to mid December.

“Liveaboard Charters” – ideal for up to 3 to 4 anglers fishing a multiple day charter, where you overnight on the Top Shot behind the reef (close to the fishing grounds) after the day’s fishing with comfortable airconditioned accommodation and all meals provided.

“Mothership Charters” – The Ultimate Fishing Experience!! Privately chartering a mothership and game boat together, will allow your fishing party an exceptionally high standard of comfort and luxury on their fishing adventure. Positioned only minutes away from the fishing grounds, the motherships enable the game boat to follow the fishing readily along the 150 mile stretch of productive water, with the comforts and services likened to that of a 4 or 5 star hotel. Cocktails on the back deck with sunset views after a days fishing action, chef prepared meals featuring local seafood along with the stability that the motherships provide in luxury stateroom accommodations is really what mothershipping is all about.

Minimum 4 day charters are recommended in order to maximise your fishing time and many anglers will charter 7-14 days in search of that fish of a lifetime!



Anglers need only bring their personal belongings on extended marlin charters in compact, soft travel bags. All fishing tackle & equipment, linen including towels, all meals and beverages (Australian beer, Aus/NZ wines, softdrinks, sodas & bottled water) is included on your liveaboard charter. You are welcome to bring preferred alcohol including spirits, or let Ross know and he will arrange to have on board.

Recommended to Bring: Shorts, Tees, Long Sleeve Fishing Shirts, Deck Shoes, Polarised Sunglasses, Brimmed Hat, Sunscreen, Light Spray Jacket, Swimwear, Books, Favourite Music, Camera, Video

Getting Here:

Cairns is the International gateway to Tropical North Queensland, Australia. With a growing local population of approximately 120,000 it is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with warm, sunny tropical days tempered by cooling onshore breezes.

There is a wide range of accommodation from budget through to 5 star and a host of restaurants, eateries and shopping options. Recommended hotels close to the Marlin Marina (inner city) include the Shangri-la Hotel, Hilton Hotel, Reef Hotel Casino and the Pacific International Hotel. Ross and Donna can assist you with further details and information on accommodation if required.

There are international flights that arrive directly into Cairns daily or via Brisbane or Sydney. Your travel agent will best advise.

It is recommended that you fly into Cairns at least 1 day prior to your fishing departure and fly out from Cairns at least 1 day after your final fishing day (or after midday the following day).

Ross and Donna can also assist with  Cooktown transfer flights should they be required and on most occasions an early morning flight from Cairns to Cooktown on the morning of your fishing works well and on your final fishing day return to Cooktown early evening (overnighting at the Sovereign or Seaview in Cooktown) returning to Cairns from Cooktown early the next morning on a scheduled or chartered flight.



The marlin seasons are always in high demand with many return clients booking 12 to 18 months in advance. Allow yourself plenty of time to make charter arrangements and note that a deposit will be required to secure your fishing time along with a signed “Charter Agreement”. Ross’s season is usually made up of a selection of anglers that come back to fish the Great Barrier Reef each year with him and of new charters that are here to fish that “once in a lifetime experience”.

> Please email for pricing & availability.