Black Magic Master Class – Looking inshore to target black marlin

There isn’t a better sight than a marlin in full flight.

by Paul Lennon •

For many anglers, catching a marlin is the pinnacle of fishing and often thought of as an unrealistic target species that’s best left for hardcore anglers with all the gear and big boats. While this could be said when it comes to chasing a blue marlin in 600 fathoms of water 40nm+ off the coast, there are certainly much easier ways to tick a marlin off your bucket list.

This is especially true if you live on the east coast anywhere between central QLD to the south coast of NSW. Every year around spring, black marlin start making their way down the coast, providing amazing fishing opportunities to inshore anglers often within a few miles of land. In some areas, they can even be caught land-based.

If you know what to look for, what to use and when to do it, these fish are not that hard to catch.


Knowing when black marlin are going to show up is the first thing you need to understand, as you won’t catch them if they’re not there. Early in the season, it’s important to keep an eye on reports up the coast. I live at Port Stephens, so I know that if they haven’t shown up at South West Rocks I’m probably wasting my time.

When they do show up, it tends to be in waves over couple of months with water temperatures and bait dictating their movements. Warm bluewater between 21-25°C is ideal for inshore black marlin and sea surface charts will give you a good understanding for where the best water in your area is currently holding. While you will have to pay for access to the most current sea surface temperature sites, it’s worth it to take out much of the guesswork for which direction you should head.

Once you’ve found the water you’re looking for, bait schools are the next thing to further hone in on. Slimy mackerel, yellowtail scad and pilchard schools are the primary food source for inshore black marlin and usually hold around structure, current lines and temperature breaks. A good sounder will not only mark the bait but can also mark up actively feeding marlin.

Black Magic’s KLT Hooks are the best in the game and their tough fluorocarbon leader is perfect for inshore black marlin.

Gear AND Tackle

Having the right tools for the job is very important for any fishing and marlin fishing is no exception. Mono line is definitively the way to go, as the stretch in the line acts as a shock absorber, especially when the fish jumps. Something like Black Magic IGFA rated line in 10-15kg is spot on when it comes to fishing for black marlin and will subdue even fish approaching 100kg, which are not as uncommon as you might think when fishing inshore.

When that big stubborn fish does come along, even on light tackle it can put the hurt on you. This is where the Black Magic Equaliser Gimbal and Harness comes into play, taking much of the pain away from long fights with pigfish that don’t want to play the game nicely. The new equaliser also has a twin pin system that will accept bent butt rods without any adapters needed.

Leaver drag overheads are traditionally favoured for marlin fishing. The main advantage of these reels is the free-spool function, which allows you to disengage a pre-set drag, allowing the marlin to eat the bait with no resistance on the strike. This is very important when trolling live or skip baits on circle hooks, which is the most effective way to catch black marlin.

Once the fish bites, the line pops out of the outrigger clip in free-spool with the ratchet on and then it’s just a matter of pointing the rod at the fish while it’s taking line and gradually applying drag as you lift up on the rod. When done correctly, this gives the best possible hook-up rate for marlin fishing by far. Larger spinning reels with the baitrunner function will also act the same way and are becoming popular alternative options, particularly when fishing with 10kg line.

It’s thrilling to fight marlin only a few kilometres from the shoreline.

The best circle hooks to use for inshore live bait trolling are the Black Magic KLT range, as they are the perfect shape and size as well as being super sharp. For inshore black marlin, the 6/0-7/0 size is right on the money. Bridle rigging the baits will keep them alive longest and also limit the chance of the hook getting caught in the bait when the fish strikes. This is done by attaching a short loop of either Dacron or 50lb mono to the hook and using a bait needle to poke it through the clear cartridge in front of the eyes of your slimy mackerel or yellowtail. Once the loop is through the fish, you put the hook through the loop a number of times and secure it about an inch from the fish’s nose. It’s important to not go too heavy on your leader so 60-80lb Black Magic Fluorocarbon Leader fits the bill.

While slow trolling live baits is probably the most effective way to catch inshore marlin, lures also have their place. They are particularly useful when you want to travel to another area but could potentially catch fish between locations. They allow you to cover more ground, as you can troll them much faster than live baits. For inshore fish, skirted lures like the Black Magic Maggot, Flea and Saury ranges are all the perfect size.