Whilst fishing the SHIMANO Port Hacking 100 Tournament in April 2017, angler Michael Leontsinis caught the fish of a lifetime - a 219.5kg Blue Marlin! Unfortunately things didn't go to plan... We interviewed Chris Anagnostou on Team Moonshine's journey to a stellar fish, and the heart-breaking decision to self-disqualify from a $50,000 cash prize!
Can you introduce us to 'Team Moonshine'?
Team Moonshine consists of four mates - Harry Leontsinis, Anthony Touma, Michael Leontsinis and myself, Chris Anagnostou. Moonshine is a fully restored and custom modified 7m Pongrass. It has a very comfortable 2.5m beam and is economically powered by twin 150 Yamaha four strokes. Harry has singlehandedly carried out this ground up restoration from a bare hull including the glassing, alloy and stainless fabrication, engine installs, wiring and fit out.
How many times have you fished the Port Hacking Tournament?
This was Moonshine's second ever tournament, having fished the Sydney tournament two weeks prior. Moonshine had still not tagged or captured a marlin at this point since its launch this season. Moonshine was unhappily sitting on zero fish from eight bites in it's previous six trips!
What was the plan of attack for the 2017 Port Hacking 100 Tournament?
The objective was always to fish for heaviest blue marlin. We watched the charts pretty meticulously in the lead up to the event and had a pretty good idea as to where we would fish. We needed to get Moonshine it's first fish and a blue would fit the bill nicely!
How did you go on Day One?
Day one was substantially bumpier than expected. We decided to troll a spread of 15kg outfits from the back end of 70 fathoms till we crossed the shelf. This proved uneventful. Once we had found some decent water, the 15kg outfits were removed and the 37kg outfits were deployed. Harry loves his trolling lures, but he does have a soft spot for his Hawaiians. Harry deployed a spread of his finest tubes and slants and we were off. Lures were between 9-14 inches with twin hook shackle rigs set at 0 degrees. The whole day was rather uneventful with us spending a stack of time in 500-800 fathoms in some very respectable cobalt blue water, full little flying fish. On the way in crossing the shelf we had a micro striped marlin of about 40kg hit 3 lures in the spread, but no hook up.
Obviously things took a turn for the better on Day Two. What changed?
Day Two started with us running to an area Harry and I had isolated on the chart the previous night. We had spent some time there on day one, but the structure showed that it had some fresh water push over it during the night that looked rather fishy. Harry deployed a very similar spread of Hawaiian lures as he had on day one, but downsized our short lure to something more edible in case we crossed paths with another striped marlin.
It was about lunch time where our concentration was waning, and being so quiet on the radio we really something to keep our motivation up. Harry is well aware I'm not he biggest fan of Hawaiian lures. My spread has consisted of Zacataks from around 2001 to this day - the same five colours, in the same head shapes in three different sizes. Harry also had a few fish under his belt on Zacatak Lures ...but no one can argue on how pretty some of those Hawaiian lures are!
After a few cheeky comments, Harry (with everyone's blessing) made the decision to bring in all the tubes and slants, and out went our standard blue marlin spread for tide change...
- Medium 10" Sprocket in Blue Green on the Long Rigger
- Large 12.5" Sprocket in Delta Blue on the Long Corner
- Medium 10" Roach in Stripy on the Short Rigger
- Large 12.5" Roach in Frigate on the Short Corner
These all carried 60 degree shackle rigs and were rigged with 300 and 400lb leader. It took all of about two minutes for Harry to fall in love with the Zacataks again, but particularly with the Roach in the short corner. Funnily enough he predicted "Chris, look at this thing smoke and wiggle, it's going to get eaten for sure!"
How long until the strike?
50 minutes.... The bite came right as we crossed into 650 fathoms. I was at the wheel and both Harry and Michael saw the bite clear as day. The fish just charged in, shoulders out of the water, and engulfed the Large 12.5" Roach in Frigate. It swam straight across the transom, swimming beneath the long corner lure into open water. It peeled 150-180m of line and then settled.
We had him well clear of the remaining rods which were cleared quickly. Michael was harnessed up and found a rhythm after the nerves settled. Michael hadn't fought many big fish like this, but he took it in his stride. He applied smooth and even pressure, and it wasn't long before the fish was boat side.
The fish was green as... lit up blue with its stripes and just powering on!
At this point I took the wheel and Harry became traceman. We must have had over a dozen shots at getting this fish. Harry would take the leader, apply some pressure and the fish would just corkscrew under the boat. This happened time and time again - we would get the boat in position to take the leader and once we had it - it would again cork screw under the starboard engine. With some pretty vocal communication between Harry myself we averted disaster so many times before we finally ran out of luck...
This is where things go pear-shaped?
We are now approaching the 3 hour mark of this fight. We knew this fish would come close to making weight and we were fighting the clock - something none of us have ever had to do before.
The pressure was on in every aspect and the only one who didn't know it was the fish - hooked perfectly in the corner of the jaw, happily powering on less that 20 meters from the boat.
Once again we came around into position to take hold of the leader which Harry did perfectly. He applied some more pressure this time around and the fish almost cooperated. It started it's cork screw and as I got on the gas Harry dumped the leader and it's gone around the starboard engine.
Michael instantly free-spooled the reel and surprisingly, we were still attached. We attempted to trim up the engines but didn't have enough clearance to get the rod around it. At this point it was over, we knew we were disqualifying the fish.
After a brief pep talk with Michael it was decided he wanted to continue the fight (this was, after all, Michael's largest fish, and possibly Moonshine's first fish since being launched) so he handed the rod to Harry, took his harness off, jumped in and cleared the line from the engine leg. Michael climbed back on board, harnessed back up, grabbed the rod and upped the drag ....and it was on again!
How did you end up landing the fish?
It took two more attempts at getting the fish secured. With the pressure off (a little!), Harry put some real horsepower into his leadering and managed to pop the fish up. Anthony secured the first gaff and Harry the second. Moonshine had its first fish!
We managed to get it onboard. Harry dropped the throttles and headed to Port! We managed to make it back before the 6pm curfew (with only two minutes to spare!) and the fish was weighed. The fish made weight pulling the scales down to 219.5kg.
I can only imagine the conversation on board at the time. How soon was the decision made and who made the call?
The decision to self-disqualify was made instantly, and unanimously. Karma is one of those things none of us wish to mess with. We have no doubt that our time will come again, and when it does - we'll be ready for it!
What has been the general reaction?
We've all heard some pretty nasty stories about tournaments involving cash in the past. The game fishing community is small and once you compromise your integrity you'll never get it back.
Everyone we have spoken to have commended us on making the call - it honestly wasn't a hard call to make - and we all slept easy that night. We're very proud of both the boat's first fish, in addition to the circumstances surrounding it! We are pretty confident that most people in this situation would have made the same call. Rules are rules at the end of the day, and we hope everyone is playing by them.
Will Team Moonshine return to the comp next year?
Without a doubt! Port Hacking Game Fishing Club run the perfect tournament, arguably one of the best on the east coast. We'd like to say a very big thank you to the club, and to all those that attended the PH100 presentation. Whilst we couldn't attend, we were honoured to be presented with an award for sportsmanship. It means a lot to be acknowledged by your club and fellow anglers for your integrity - a feeling no amount of money can buy!
We’re pretty certain these lads have good karma coming their way in spades! You can follow Team Moonshine's fishing adventures on Instagram here.