Australia's Marlin Central

While Port Stephens, a jog north of Sydney, isn’t as well known among big-game anglers internationally as is Cairns, Aussies consider it one of the most reliable billfish spots.

Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens
One hundred miles to the north of Sydney in New South Wales is one of the most prominent fishing destinations in Australia and, arguably, the world, particularly for billfish and big sharks: Port Stephens.Courtesy Google Earth

From the port’s deep protected bays and sand flats to the offshore islands and reefs, there’s fish galore to be targeted. But Port Stephens has gained international notoriety among big-game anglers for its consistent multi-species marlin fishing — for blues, blacks and stripes — and at times sailfish as well.

A glance at the IGFA World Record Game Fishes book for billfish records will show quickly enough how productive are these waters, and you’ll find many records as well for massive whaler and tiger sharks.

Not all the billfish are always massive, however, explaining in part why so many saltwater fly-fishing records come from Port Stephens, for marlin in the 100- to 300-pound range.

So good is the game fishing here, the NSW Game Fishing Association has held its Annual Interclub Tournament in Port Stephens for an incredible 53 years. This event attracts around 200 vessels and more than a thousand anglers attend. It’s the largest game fishing tournament in the Southern Hemisphere.

If interested in booking a charter to fish Port Stephens, try Capt. Tim Dean at Calypso Fishing Charters or Capt. Scott Thorrington at Haven Sport Fishing Charters. For general information about visiting the area, check with the Port Stephens Visitors Information Centre.

Enjoy these 16 photos that offer some idea what Port Stephens fishing is all about.

Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - Aerial view
A sweeping view of magnificent Shoal Bay on the southern side of Port Stephens. This is where the Interclub Tournament started a half-century ago (the old jetty was used as a weigh station in the early days).John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - tournament start
The race is on in Port Stephens when the big Interclub Tournament sounds the starting gun.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - hooked up on fly
Fly-fishing guru Fouad Sahiaoui in action off Port Stephens. Sahiaoui has captured many saltwater fly-rod world records on these grounds.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - fly fishing for blue marlin
Sahiaoui puts it to a 300-pound blue marlin in exciting fly-rod action off Port Stephens.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - blue marlin on fly
Teasing up a Port Stephens blue marlin — a fish the right size to attempt to tackle on fly.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - blue marlin jumps
A Port Stephens blue tries to shake off the fly in its jaw. The men's 20-pound-tippet fly-rod record for blue marlin was caught here in 2002 by Tom Evans; it weighed 288 pounds, 12 ounces.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - leaping black marlin
Smokin' hot and headed away — black marlin hooked at Port Stephens.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - striped marlin
We lost this pretty striped marlin after a two-hear battle on fly gear ... a tough fish!John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - backing down on marlin
The Port Stephens charter boat Flying Fisher, skippered by Capt. Scotty Thorrington, backs down on a potential women's fly-rod record striped marlin.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - backing down a black marlina
Here, a black marlin is the target as the mate on the Flying Fisher begins to wire the fish.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - a leaping, twisting sailfish
Pacific sailfish are hooked around the inshore islands and reefs of Port Stephens throughout the summer months (winter in the northern hemisphere).John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - a brace of red snapper
Of course, it doesn't have to be only about billfish: bottom fishing off Port Stephens offers great sport — and eating — year round.This brace of big red snapper (a large, very popular species of porgy popular off southern Australia and New Zealand) on floating baits over a shallow Port Stephens reef.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - a squid in the hand
Fishing's not even all about fish: When squid are available in Port Stephens, great sport and great calamari are in the offing. This handsome cephalopod came from the weed beds in Shoal Bay.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - a sand whiting
Light-tackle, shallow-water action holds promise as well, here. Sand whiting like this one are plentiful in the port where shallow channels transect sand banks. The one hit a small Shimano popper.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - huge tiger shark
These waters are a good bet to get an up-close/personal look at massive tiger sharks that frequent offshore grounds during the summer.John Ashley
Australia marlin fishing at Port Stephens - photographer john ashley
About the photographer: Photojournalist John Ashley, based in Sydney, has fished the east coast of Australia all his life. Port Stephens and Cairns are two of his favorite fishing areas.John Ashley