Beach anglers snatch rare broadbill from sea by tail.

Excerpt from Rod and Gun

Two beach anglers fishing for salmon off Four Mile Creek on Tasmania's east coast unknowingly may have created an Australian record when they captured what is believed to be a small broadbill after "foul" hooking it with a wobbler attached to a 9 lb breaking strain line.

Though their catch did not conform to rules of the Game Fishing Association of Australia, the two anglers, Messrs. Alvin Flannagan and Des Hudson, both of Launceston, could become the first anglers in Australia to capture a broadbill on rod and line.
It all began when the two were walking away after having fished in the surf for salmon. They spotted a dark looking object not far off-shore and inside a sand bar. There was a dorsal fin protruding out of the water and they thought it must be a shark. The two men returned to the water's edge but felt rather helpless with nothing more than a light line and a small wobbler to offer the unknown fish that was swimming parallel with the shore. However, just for "kicks" they decided to aim their wobblers at it as it came close inshore. They soon got the range and landed a wobbler across the black looking dorsal fin, and to their amazement the tiny hook lodged at the base of the fin.The fish rolled over and in trying to rid itself of the hook made straight for a small outcrop of rocks in the water. There the two anglers were waiting for it, and Mr. Flannagan entered the water and grabbed it by the tail.
Feeling the weight of the fish he thought it was a shark and quickly released his hold and beat a hasty retreat from the water.Then as the fish quietened down he re-entered the water with his colleague, Mr. Hudson, and they both seized the fish by the tail. They heaved together and somehow managed to jerk it out of the water and on to the rocks.The fish struggled for a time and then was subdued. The whole operation was over in a few minutes.

A crowd of Easter holiday makers quickly gathered and it was thought the two men had miraculously captured a marlin. They estimated that it weighed about 80 lbs and measured about 8ft. (Note: They measured the fish by placing a 7ft rod alongside it but calculated from the tip of the 'sword" to the tail. This would mean that under G.F.A.A. measurements the fish would be about 5ft from snout to tail).

They hung up their prize in a tree and a bystander took a picture which, unfortunately, was found unsuitable for publication. However, the film has been processed and we are seeking positive identification of the fish. If it is positively identified as a broadbill it could start a rush by game fishermen seeking more of this specie.

Writing in his fine book "Fish and Fisheries of Australia', author Mr. T. C. Roughley, B.Sc., says of the broadbill swordfish: "No Broadbill swordfish has yet been landed by an angler in Australian waters, and fame awaits the angler who first succeeds in catching this elusive fish. It is known to occur here, for it has been washed ashore in several Australian States, including New South Wales,'Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

On July 17, 1947, a Broadbill swordfish weighing 200 lbs was stranded on Stradbroke Is., off the Queensland coast. On January 19, 1949 a Broadbill was harpooned at Kingston, S.A., and landed by commercial fishermen. It was reported to weigh 454 lbs. Later that year another broadbill was harpooned at Port Pirie, S.A., by fishermen who stated that it "put up a thrilling fight" Jack Koerbin, gamefishing editor says "Broadbill capture is an angler's dream.

Capture of a broadbill is the cherished dream of game fishermen throughout Australia, because so far none has been captured under game fishing rules and only a few, very few, have ever been caught in the world. Though I did not see the fish I believe the capture made by Messrs. Alvin Flannagan and Hudson off Four Mile Creek was, in fact, a Broadbill and not, as many people thought, just a marlin. I examined a photograph of the fish and although it was not as clear as I had hoped, it convinced me that it was a broadbill for the following reasons :

  • Its long sword - far longer than any marlin.
  • The first dorsal was high and facate, balancing with slope of head. Marlin dorsal is totally different and total absence of ventrals.
  • Shape and position of single anal fin.
  • Slope and position of pectorals.
  • Size and position of the eye (Broadbill is larger than marlin) and Strong lateral heels. These were prominent under magnification.
  • The Broadbill should not have any scales. Its first dorsal should contain 16 spines. Color does not matter. They are excellent for eating as they live on small school fish and squid. They are mostly a solitary fish.

The Broadbill is known as the "Gladiator of the Seas" and regarded as the highest prize an angler can hope to capture.

If the fish taken off the East Coast proves to be a Broadbill it will confirm my theory that our "Marlin" are, in fact, broadbill. I have often expressed this view in these columns. I understand this fish was in very shallow water when captured and suggest it may have contained a high content of fresh water which had flowed into the sea following recent heavy rains. Fresh water has a fatal effect on fish of the marlin specie as their skin presents no barrier to it and I am told the fresh water causes internal bleeding.

This fish was reported to have had a bloody tongue when captured and here again I wonder if what was thought to be its tongue was in actual fact its stomach. Marlin have the power to eject their stomach when hooked and most of them do this.

Indications are that the fish was sick in some way when taken. The fact that it was caught so easily indicated this. It may have moved down the mainland coast with a mass of warm water which we believe at times break away from the Eastern Australian current and as the water cooled, the fish was trapped too far south.

I can well imagine the stir its capture will cause in game fishing circles throughout Australia. It is most unlikely that the fish will turn out to be blue marlin as these fish rarely get as far south as Sydney. They prefer the warmer tropical waters of the Pacific.

Some time ago a C.S.I.R.O. vessel reported having boated several blue marlin off Schouten Is., using a long line. However, a personal interview with several crew members indicated that identification of the specie was not positive and so the theory of blue marlin must therefore be discounted.

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