by Michael Alexander
For those who have targeted dogtooth tuna before, I’m sure you’re aware of how frustrating they can be to catch. Snipping our 150lb mono like a pair of scissors, or shredding through 150kg kevlar like it was dental ribbon. We were losing more than we were catching, but in return they were giving Trent and me more determination to keep jigging. Strong winds and big swell kept us from exploring new grounds so we were forced to fish close to the shoreline between two islands. The water went from one metre to about 100 metres in the space of 150 metres.
With no sounder, our local guide, Cedric, was using his knowledge of the area as well as landmarks to keep us in the right zone at all times. Reef sharks were in abundance and we were catching them on poppers as well as jigs. We had two hit-and-misses from big GT on the first day but after that they were nowhere to be seen. Bluefin and red bass were the main culprits which were fun to catch on top-water from the shoreline with pe5 gear.
As the trip came to an end we only had three hours in the morning before we had to return to reality. Having only boated two small doggies the whole trip, I decided to change things up and get rid of the Kevlar assist hook and use a swivel, split ring and Jignesis 13/0 inline hook. Dropping our 180g jigs down 70-100m, on the third drift I hooked something which felt like a snag. I was flicking the bail arm over to try and release it from the bottom when a black marlin exploded out of the water. Our eyes lit up as the marlin was going crazy only 10 metres away from our 5m tinnie.
We thought it was chasing flying fish as there were plenty in the area. At this point my line went slack and I assumed it had freed itself from the bottom so I flicked the bail arm back over and started winding. Then it clicked! Before I could say ‘the marlin’s got my jig,’ my line started peeling off my 20k stella. Doing what marlins do best, it was trying its hardest to dislodge the hook whilst getting some serious air time. Drag was preset to 17kg, which is max fighting drag on the Synit Dogtooth A, but I cranked it up more while the fish ran, really pushing the rod to its limits. There was plenty of flex in the rod as well as pulling power when gaining line back. I really thought I was going to snap the rod, there was that much pressure on it, but it seemed to handle it with ease.
Locked into a 40 minute stand-up battle with such a powerful fish, my lower back was really starting to give in, and that’s when I knew it was now or never! As the fish tired I did short, fast pumps to get the fish to the surface before our guide, Cedric, was able to successfully gaff it in the back. Catch-and-release is what I favour more but having grown up in, Vanuatu, I knew a fish of this size would really benefit the village and help out with what little they have. The small black marlin came in at 55kg and is the first marlin in Vanuatu to be landed landed on a jig. I was pretty stoked with my first marlin, and what better way to catch it than on a jig.