Having just gotten back from two awesome weeks in Coral Bay, I figured now would be a good time to write a post on the Coral Bay Fishing Charters. If you haven’t ever been to Coral Bay, it’s a very unique place. The town has only a few shops, 2 caravan parks, a few houses, a backpackers and a pub. In fact, the whole town ran off generators up until 2007! You wouldn’t expect then, for the town to be packed with tourists throughout the year, would you? Coral Bay is that popular that if you want to get a good camp site or house, you have book at least 6 months in advance, if not a full year. If you are looking to go in School Holidays, you can expect every single form of accommodation to be booked out; the town is packed with visitors.
The reason Coral Bay is so popular is simple; the snorkelling, fishing and beaches are second to none. It’s a good 1100km drive from Perth, but well worth it when you get there! There are plenty of charters that go out, ranging from fishing right through to coral viewing in glass bottom boats, scuba diving charters, snorkelling charters and you can also swim with the Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. If you are into fishing at all, then you will have a lot of fun at Coral Bay. The charters in Coral Bay are a lot of fun, and well worth the money.
Currently two Coral Bay Fishing Charters are in operation. The first is known as the Mahi Mahi II and the other is the Sea Force. I have been on the Mahi Mahi II twice now, and both times had a lot of fun. The first time I went out with 9 other friends, and we caught 64 fish together. When I say fish too, these aren’t tiny little fish that you get in Perth; most of them were over the 500mm mark. The second time that we went out the weather was perfect, but the water was too clear, and the currents were playing havoc. I didn’t catch a single thing in the whole day, but this is extremely unusual for Coral Bay. However, to make up for the lack of fish we did manage to bring in a 100kg Marlin and then a 70kg Marlin, which I took a few photos and videos of. These are absolutely amazing fish, as you can see below.
About the Mahi Mahi II
The Mahi Mahi II is a 55 foot boat that is set up for game fishing and bottom fishing. It has provision for overnight accommodation and you can even book the whole boat out for 6 nights with your mates. They do Monte Bellos Islands trips for 6 days and 5 nights, with everything provided for 6 people. Of course, this comes at a price (about $18,000) but all you need to do is get there! The Mahi Mahi II goes out on just about every day from Coral Bay that the weather is good, for full day fishing charters. There are usually two deck hands and a skipper, meaning that you have enough people to give you a helping hand. The computer has hundreds of spots marked for fishing that Bernie has built up over the last 20 years whilst fishing on the Ningaloo Reef.
What do you need to take on the Mahi Mahi II?
One of the best things about Coral Bay Fishing Charters is that you don’t have to worry about much at all. You are asked to bring lunch and snacks (and alcohol if you want to) but they provide water, tea, coffee, bait, fishing gear, an Ice Chest to put the fish in and basically everything that you need for the day. The idea of being able to jump on a boat, catch some fish and then leave without having to clean it or do anything more is very appealing to most people, including those who own boats! If you get sea sick, then it’s a good idea to take some sea sickness tablets, or use the sea bands that you can purchase. This and ginger beer seems to work well.
How much does the Mahi Mahi II cost?
Costs for going on the Mahi Mahi for a full day (8:00am – 4:30pm) are as follows:
• Single Line $240
• Share Line for 1 adult and 1 child (6 -15years) $290
• Share Line for 1 adult and 2 children (6 – 12 years) $340
• Share Line for two adults $330
• Observer $115
TIP: If you are staying in one of the Coral Bay houses you can get a $15 discount off each ticket by booking through Ningaloo Adventures and mentioning your accommodation. Be aware that if the weather is no good then you will get a phone call stating that the Charter has been cancelled, and it will be moved to the next day with good weather.
Both times that I have been out I went with a shared line, as it works out quite a bit cheaper and its handy to have another person to help you bring the fish in. Bag limits are not limited to one per shared line, which is good. Of course, if you are fishing mad then I would highly recommend going for the Single Line!
Bookings are taken from both Ningaloo Adventures and the dive shop.
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What’s an average day on the Mahi Mahi II?
First off, you meet in Coral Bay near the shops at 7:10am. From there, the bus driver takes your tickets and drives you to the boat ramp (about 5 minutes away). Most days the bus driver will do 2 trips (depending on how many people have booked). When you are all at the boat ramp, you board the boat and meet the crew. They will tell you a little bit about the boat, explain what you are going to do and then you head off. Some days the boat will go out the South Passage, whilst other days it will go out the North Passage. This is dependent on the weather and tides. Before you leave, you are given a card. Whoever gets the ace, 1 and 2 are most likely to get a turn at pulling a fish in if you hook on whilst trawling.
The bottom fishing is usually done in about 100 metres of water, which means there is a reasonable drive to get out there. For most of the drive, the crew will trawl with lures that are aimed at catching large Pelagics, like Wahoo, Marlin and Sail fish. Both times that I have been out we caught something trawling, and it’s sure worth seeing. When you get to a spot, the anchor is thrown down and you drop your lines. If people aren’t catching anything then you move to another spot, and this is done all day. Some days they trawl back in, but it depends on the day’s performance.
Be prepared for a few tangles with other people, but they are generally quite quick and easy to remove, which means you get more time fishing! If the weather looks a bit average then you might spend more time trawling than bottom fishing, but the skipper will decide this on the day. At the end of the day you cruise back to the boat ramp, unpack and the bus drives you back into town. From there, you walk to the fish cleaning station, and wait for your fish!
What fishing gear do you use?
For trawling, some very impressive rods are used, but for bottom fishing it is done with Alvey Winches. These are not as fun as fighting a fish on a rod, but it’s still rewarding enough and you have a lot less tangles. You are able to bring your own rods, but you find that with a lot of people on the boat you are better off using the winches. The set up is simple; two large hooks and a big sinker. Bait is mullies and a bit of squid, which seems to work well.
Can you keep the fish?
If the fish are sized, and good eating then absolutely! To top it off, the Mahi Mahi II crew will even fillet them for you. If you ask nicely, they can freeze them for you whilst you enjoy the rest of your holiday, and then you can pick them up on the day that you leave. This is great for those with tiny freezers! Filleting of the fish is done when the boat gets back, at the Coral Bay Fish Cleaning Station. This usually takes around 40 minutes, depending on how many fish that you have caught. On a side note, Marlin are brought near the boat and tagged, and then released. This is due to the low number of them, and the fact that they aren’t the best eating!
Mahi Mahi II or Sea Force?
I am not really in a position to answer this, so I won’t. However, from what I have seen the Mahi Mahi tends to be more popular, but this isn’t necessarily a good indication that it is better. The Sea Force heads out south of Coral Bay, and the Mahi Mahi II heads north. Both come back with decent fish every day, and they catch similar amounts of fish. What I will say though is that I have been happy with the Mahi Mahi II service, and had a lot of fun on the boat too. On the other side of the coin, the Sea Force wouldn’t still be running if they didn’t offer a good service too!
If you go to Coral Bay, I would seriously recommend you save a bit more money to go on one of the Charter Boats. It truly is well worth it, and you will see and catch some great fish. Coral Bay is nothing if you aren’t able to catch some nice fish whilst you are there! If you really can’t afford it, then go on the glass bottom boats for $35 dollars for an hour.