A bluewater fishing adventure on the Coral Sea

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There’s a major difference between freshwater and bluewater fishing, and that’s the size of the fish you catch!

So if it’s monsters you’re after, your best bet is to head out on the waters of the Coral Sea just like we did on this epic two-day adventure.

Day one: The Keppel Group of Islands

Great Keppel Island

Matt Smith works for Modern Fishing magazine and from his childhood days he’s had a list of ‘Dream Fish to Catch’. One of them is the giant trevally – one of the best pound-for-pound fighting fish in the world.

Another ridiculously early start at 4am onboard the Keppeluna from Keppel Bay Marina meant we witnessed the best part of the day – sunrise – from onboard our boat as we headed out to the eastern side of Great Keppel Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Keppeluna Sunrise on the Coral Sea

Our guide for the day is the infinitely knowledgeable Graham Scott. During the Best Job in the World, I spent two days with Graham fishing the waters of Shoalwater Bay and came up trumps almost every time.

This guy lives and breathes fishing – secret spots, tactics and techniques are second nature to him – so the fishing journos lapped up his every word. He likes to lay into me though… I confess I wasn’t the most successful fisherman back in 2009 so I had a point to prove – just don’t lose one Ben!

Are we going the right way? Keppel Islands beauty Matt gets his prize!

Casting a huge ‘popper’ towards the rocks, fast-reeling it back whilst splashing it through the water here are the tactics. One cast and BANG, immediately we’re ‘on’ with giant trevally (or GT if you want the proper fishing lingo) no. 1, furiously spooling out line as Graham wrestles for control. Matt takes the rod and for the next five minutes battles with the monster from the deep. His heart is racing, his sweat is dripping and his shoulders are aching… these are truly the most fantastic sport fish!

Everything we’re doing here is keeping to my philosophy though – all the fish go right back where they came from. Catch and release.

My turn comes around quickly enough, we’re into GT no. 4 when the rod is passed to me. It’s now or never to prove myself as a fisherman! I wind and fight, haul and reel, really put my back into it until finally I see a flash of silver and my opponent gives in. One huge fish is landed, photographed and released back to where it came from.

Giant GT!

Surely I qualify to be a real Aussie fishermen now? Graham puts me in my place, “One fish does not make a fisherman, Ben.”

I’m not put off!

Day two: reef fishing off Mackay 

It’s another pitch black night as we wander down the gangway of Mackay Marina to the last of our water-borne adventures for the week. We’ve visited the lakes and dams, we’ve tried the islands, and now we’re off to try bluewater reef fishing, the home of the big stuff.

Black Samurai

Black Samurai is one hell of a boat, usually reserved for marlin fishing and big-game fishing, but today she’s taking us to troll around one of the closest reefs to Mackay. Darryl, the skipper, has eons of experience and the gear to prove it – I’ve never seen reels as big as these bad boys!

Big boat, big kit, big hopes 6 fishermen and Terry

As we’re trolling five lines from the stern of the boat, one reel suddenly sings out, stripping line at a rate of knots. This is game on. I grab the rod, strap the gimble tighter, and lean back ready to fight.

The cries go out from the experts around me: “It’s fighting like a long-tail”, “Nah, I’m sure it’s a spotty”, “Go easy Ben, don’t lose it!”

Ben's Barracuda

The final few moments reveal a barracuda. This is a mean looking fish, with big eyes and bigger teeth! I grab an obligatory selfie and back into the drink he goes.

I’ve learnt SO much in the last few days about all manner of things fishing-shaped. How the dams are stocked, how to report back on a bad day’s fishing, how to decipher fishing talk and how to establish myself in a very exclusive club – that of the Australian Angler.

Personally, I’d much rather don some scuba gear and head underwater to blow bubbles and watch these fish up close for a real eye-to-eye encounter, but I can understand the thrill of fishing… especially for these Big Boys.

What are your favourite fishing spots on the Coral Sea?