I was lucky enough to be able to accept an invitation from Greg to fish with him for reds in and around Double Island Point and offshore of Fraser Island. The crew for this trip was going to be Greg, his old man Terry, Rob (Macca) McNamara and myself.
I’ve been on fishing trips with Greg a couple of times now including trips to Fraser Island and Kurrimine Beach for two weeks at a time. On all of these trips I have come home at the end of each days fishing to witness the stark difference between the catch in my boat and the catch in Greg’s boat – and that is even on days where Greg has asked me to follow him and he has put me right onto the bommies. Yup sounds crazy but I’ve drifted in my boat not 20m from the boat Greg and Foxy are in only to watch them haul in huge reds while I sit there without a bite. Not only did he take me to the spots but he gave me the rig, the bait and the knowledge on what I had to do to catch a big red. Anyhow, as they say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. So, on top of these personal experiences and the years of awesome trip reports from Greg I was finally going on board with the master to see how it is done first hand. To say I was excited was an understatement.
Planning for the trip was very straight forward and was made especially easy for me. Greg and Terry took care of the boat, fuel, car, bait ice etc and Macca and I threw in some food and a bit of tackle. The trip up to Tin Can was uneventful with the 100 series turbo diesel Toyota Landcruiser towing the big “Rip Tide” platey with ease. The weather was kind and the trip over the bar and out to the first fishing spots uneventful.
Greg had put together a plan for the three days that was consistent with the forecast and involved us heading out over the bar and north along Fraser Island for Friday afternoon and evening while the weather held and then fishing closer to Double Island Point through Saturday. He did this in case we had to duck in behind Double Island Point for a sleep on Saturday night if the weather deteriorated. As it turned out we probably had the worst weather of the trip on Friday night but it never got to a point where it was uncomfortable. The plan had us returning mid morning on Sunday everything going well.
Fishing in someone else’s boat is always a learning exercise – especially if you ever want to get invited back again. Every skipper has a plan on how things work and understanding that plan is the key to being an effective crew member, making a contribution when possible and staying out of the way when needed. Given the build up to this trip I was pretty keen to get this right and with the mystery surrounding Greg’s red fishing success I was more than a little intimidated about what crewing on his boat was going to be like. I needn’t have worried at all. A quick rundown on procedures from Greg some helpful support from Terry and Macca and I was feeling pretty comfortable and keen to get a line in the water.
We all used rods and everyone was using 80lb braid topped with 80lb Schneider or surecatch high tensile monofilament as a leader. Each reel had about 10m of leader that was tied directly to the hook through either a running 10 ball or paternoster dropper style rig. The hooks we used were triple ganged 7/0 Mustad 7766 hooks with large baits either being whole mullet fillet, whole slimy mackerel or whole hussar fillets.
The fishing process involved Greg locating a show either by driving over a new show or going to one of his older marks. On seeing the show Greg would do a figure of 8 over the show just to locate it exactly and sound out the size of the show and see where the bigger fish were hanging in relation to the structure/bait. After this he would position the boat slightly up-current of the show stop it dead by putting the engine in reverse and call for us to drop our baits. With fairly large sinkers Greg was able to avoid overshooting the show by very much giving us a good chance of getting the baits to the fish but in order for this to work you had to be ready to drop your bait as soon as he made the call or your bait would likely fall down-current and away from the fish.
On arrival to Greg’s first mark the boat dropped off the plane and Greg sounded out the show. We had jigged a few live baits on the way out and everyone was keen to sink one of these into the depths. By now I was just about jumping out of my skin and Greg makes the call – righto drop…… First drop I tangled Terry, second drop I tangled Terry, third drop I tangled Terry – now I’m thinking I’m about to get thrown overboard…back to square one. Anyhow, nerves aside and a few minor adjustments here and there and the drops started coming much more easily and before long we had some reasonable fish coming on board.
The Friday afternoon and evening session saw some blue Maori cod, Maori cod, gold spot cod, hussar, moses perch, parrot and a few other assorted reef fish species. Greg got smashed on a spot that has been producing big reds of late but unfortunately he hooked up to the fish right in front of the structure and with the current ragging south it was all over in seconds as his leader rubbed through on the reef. I lost a solid fish soon after as well which was frustrating as they were almost certainly red emperor. Since no other reds were landed on Friday this was a little disappointing. Greg took us to many spots and areas trying to locate good fish but the they were simply not around in numbers and the ragging current made it very hard to fish the wider grounds effectively. We fished up until about 10:30pm on the Friday night before anchoring for the night offshore of Fraser Island out of the roaring current.
On Saturday morning I woke up at about 4:30 am and Greg and Terry were already fishing so we packed up the swag, pulled the anchor and got started for the day. The day started pretty well with Terry and I pulling in a massive blue Maori cod each and Macca landing a large Maori cod and some other quality reef fish. Greg and Terry also pulled a nice red each and with a few other fish the esky was starting to look pretty good despite the fish being hard to find.
The country we fished ranged from from about 50m depth out to about 90m depth on the edge of the shelf where we chased some pearl perch. Despite Macca pulling a good pearly we didn’t stick out there long as the strong southerly current east of about the 75m depth contour was running into the south easterly wind. This meant the ocean was jacking up out wide so we moved back inside of this current line which made travelling and fishing much more comfortable.
Throughout the day we gradually moved towards the south until we were about due east of Wide Bay Bar where we would fish some isolated pinnacles and pull a good mixture of reef fish. Greg then took us to a very large pinnacle out wide where we would use some knife blade jigs among the huge bait schools. We were no match for the big brutes we hooked on this spot and after losing several jigs Greg made the decision to head into some close in country near Double Island Point to try and chase some scarlet sea perch. The plan was to find a show in the right area, anchor up, jig some live bait and catch scarlet. Well that’s exactly what we did. Greg found a show, anchored spot on first time and jigged a live yakka, which he gave to me to put on my line. I flicked out the live bait and in no time it was picked up and I was on. It took some pulling and the line was caught in some bottom structure for a bit but eventually we boated a nice big scarlet sea perch. You have to love it when a plan comes together. Unfortunately that was the only scarlet we were to land. Despite the boys pulling some other quality fish off the mark we decided to head into the lagoon at Double Island Point before dark to get a good nights sleep.
Greg knew the lagoon well and in no time we were anchored up inside the lagoon, had the boat tidied up and had time to have a quick look at some of the pictures and video footage from the trip so far before hitting the hay for the evening.
Sunday was a lovely glassed out day and due to having used most of the fuel already we basically had some fun fishing the shallow water between Double Island Point and Wide Bay Bar before heading in, putting the boat on the trailer and heading back to Brisbane. We covered a massive 400km in the boat on this trip so just goes to show the searching that was involved to get among some quality fish.
What did I learn on this fishing trip?
As a Marine Biologist, Fisheries Manager and keen angler my real interest in this trip was to learn as much as possible about this style of deepwater reef fishing. I tried to temper my enthusiasm but I’m sure the other guys at times were just wishing I’d catch a fish and stop asking questions for just one minute. As a consequence I feel I did take home some key pointers that will make my future trips more successful.
The Magic! Unfortunately there was no magic, no black magic, no hoodoo and no ouji boards or crystal balls that Greg pulled out to point us to the fish. Instead there was a lot of preparation, patience and persistence. Greg had a plan that he adapted to the conditions and results on the day that meant we were always trying a new strategy or a new area. What we didn’t do, ever, was mull over a lost fish or a great show without a bite, and we certainly didn’t waste any time. No matter how good a show or how good the fish that came up in a previous drift, if a drop failed to yield fish it rarely got more than a couple of drops before moving on.
A consequence of using large rigs and baits on heavy tackle is that we rarely caught any small or undersize fish. This doesn’t mean they weren’t there, on plenty of drops we had our baits raided by “piranhas” or fish that are too small to become hooked on the large rigs. This gets a bit frustrating but these little fish are not the target species and by using gear that is too big for them we avoided hooking them and having to subsequently catch and release them. It does mean having to rebait regularly but it also means the environmental impact of fishing on unwanted fish or species is significantly reduced compared to if we were using smaller hooks capable of catching these smaller fish.
While I obtained an insight into some of the more mechanical aspects about offshore fishing for deepwater reef fish such as finding shows on the sounder, setting up drifts etc a lot of the other decisions being made in Greg’s head are a little harder to see. An example is we would travel over a sounder show that I thought was the same as some of the shows that Greg had stopped on previously only to keep on travelling. I would ask Greg why not that show and he would explain it to me and every time you could tell that the decision to stop and fish or keep travelling is a critical one and depends on a lot of other knowledge and experience. I suppose that is one of the purposes of WickedFishing.com.au that is to give the humble punter such as myself some insight into these more complex decisions that make an otherwise ordinary trip into the trip of a lifetime.