It was late afternoon and we were arrived at our first fishing spot NE of the wide bar bay with the sun going down over the horizon and a big bright moon quickly rising to the east. Generally I find the fishing pretty quiet during the day light hours on or around the full moon so with this in mind we were all keen to put a big night in and take advantage of the bright moon and clam seas that was present. The first spot produced a nice Blue Maori Cod but things were pretty quiet so I headed over to another rock not far away where the shows of fish and bait were looking very impressive. I was onto a good fish first drop and after a few powerful runs I had him coming to the surface. In the limited amount of light there was I could see my fish coming to the surface but it looked huge and in a few seconds realised it was a shark in hot pursuit of my fish. The shark turned away well below the boat and I was left with a nice red emperor head sitting on the surface. It must have been a big shark as the bite radius was on the large side and what blew me away the most was the fact I did not even feel the shark bite the fish in half. It was such a quick clean bite and shows just how sharp the teeth must be and how powerful their jaws are. Unfortunately it wasn’t the last fish to get sharked on this spot and we pulled a few red emperor and snapper heads with plenty taken whole as well. We still managed to raise a couple of reds, snapper, cod and hussar but were getting sick of being sharked so I moved on to find another spot.
We fished another spot and more sharks gave us grief so I kept moving around trying to locate some smaller isolated areas that would be less prone to having sharks on them. I ran over a small rise with a few specs (fish) showing on the sounder and normally you wouldn’t even bother stoping on such a little show but you need to remember that at night a lot of the small fish that inhabit the reefs go from being spread throughout the water column to hiding among the reef to rest and avoid larger predatory fish. When they do this you will not pick them up on the sounder and spots you thought had loads of fish life during the day can turn in to a baron dessert at night. This was something I noticed many years ago and confirmed when watching a documentary last year showing this exact thing on the barrier reef. Now there is a big difference between the loads of small fish that inhabit the reefs and bait fish that migrate to the reefs and move around. Bait fish such as yakkas and slimies will show up during the night the same as they do during the day. Its small resident fish/baitfish on the reefs that is responsible for what most people see on their sounder and automatically assume should be quality fish. Reality is that most of what you’re seeing on the sounder is fish no bigger than your finger and covers the entire reef systems. We have captured a lot of underwater footage to show this and I’m sure when people see this footage they will start to understand what I mean by this.
First drop on this small spot foxy got monstered and busted off by what we thought must have been a massive cod. The next two drifts resulted in a nice red emperor, black spot estuary cod, hussar and a coronation trout. I have never caught a coronation trout at night so this was a bit of a surprise and no doubt the bright full moon above us was the explanation for catching one. This spot was a perfect example of how you don’t need to find big shows of fish on the sounder to catch some quality fish.
I moved on in search of some more ground and by now we were close to 100km NE of wide bay bar up along Fraser Island. I went to an area that has produced good red throat emperor in the past and one particular spot had a great show of fish on it and some very large fish showing well up off the bottom. The next hour produced a steady stream of red throat, hussar, moses perch and a couple of reds but we lost more than we caught to sharks and I didn’t see the point wasting more good fish to sharks so I moved away.
I continued to sound around and at 2:30am I found a nice show of fish on a 4-5mtr rock. I could clearly see on the sounder that this rock had a cave/overhang if I approached it from the right angle so I was excited to see what we could pull of it. The first drop resulted in two nice snapper and a hussar which was nothing to complain about but considering the structure and show of fish I could see on the sounder I was expecting something different. The next drift resulted in some solid fish being hooked so I stopped my bait from hitting the bottom and grab the video camera to capture the action. Andy got busted off in the bottom from his fish and foxy pulled a cracking 10kg mangrove jack into the boat. Once the camera duties were done I quickly lowered my bait to the bottom and I was smashed straight away. It was a good fish and after plenty of powerful runs I also pulled a similar sized Jack over the side to show the camera. These were the fish I expected to catch off this spot as jacks love caves/overhangs and are more than often caught during the night time hours.
Everyone was now very excited to drop a line over the side and we went back for another drift. It wasn’t long before we all hooked up but between getting run back into the structure and a shark nailing one fish on the way up we still managed a couple nice reds. The next couple hours were crazy and the calibre of fish we were hooking was mind blowing to say the least with reds to 12.5kg, spangled emperor, red bass, cod, moses perch and massive hussar up to 53cm coming over the side.
That cave/overhang I could see on the sounder was responsible for lots of bust offs and also home to some monster cod. Some of those cod we hooked could not be moved but the ones we did were bloody huge and estimated well over 40kg and released straight away. We even pulled 8-10kg reds up with scales stripped off them from the big cod grabbing them but quickly letting go. Sharks were also an issue and overall we would have lost more fish then we caught during that session but we couldn’t complain as we had pulled lots of quality fish.
We caught some more quality reds as the glow of the sun began to rise over the horizon but we were all extremely tired from fishing the entire night and worn out from all the action. It was a big effort by everyone on board but I think it was a relief when the fish went off the bite soon as the sun appeared.
Foxy showing off a red while the oldman pulls up another one.
When the sun came up we were keen to put the underwater camera down and see what this spot looked like. Unfortunately there was minimal light on the bottom while the sun was so low in the sky but the camera clearly showed a nice rock with massive cave like overhangs which confirmed what I could see on the sounder. There wasn’t much life on this spot by the time we put the camera down but off in the distance you could see a massive school of fish swimming around.
I headed to another spot I had a few km’s away and thought it would be worth putting the camera down on it also. The camera came down right beside a stingray, cobia and off clearly in the distance was a massive school of more than 100 moses perch. Many other species could be seen on this reef and the camera passed close by a wicked piece of reef much like a mushroom sticking out of the seabed. I went back for another drift but this time the boys put some baits down and we were rewarded with a nice red emperor and red throat. I headed too many other spots that morning and put the underwater camera down on most and had a quick fish as well. I also took footage of the sounder readings while the underwater camera was on the bottom to show people the comparison between the two. Some of the underwater footage captured is just awesome to watch and the marine life on most spots just blows my mind. Interesting enough most spots have big schools of morwong and mangrove jacks on them yet we rarely catch them. A lot of fish seem attracted to the camera and will come close by to investigate or have a peck at it.
Below is a sounder shot of a big school of moses perch and below that is an actual picture of the underwater footage showing that exact school. Notice the cobia turning to the far left of the picture.
Some other pics of the trip