rough conditions, 25Jan09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 25Jan09
Date: Sunday, 25 January 2009 3:06 PM

Hey guys

You should have been there. As Jaro said afterward, it was a great opportunity to... find out how fit you are!

Jaro and I fronted at 0500-ish and found that Ian, a local yak fishing identity, had already left his calling card (a battered old biege and rust Subaru station wagon with roofrack) in the carpark. He was somewhere out there in the gloom! Just after Jaro and I arrived another car with a yak on the roof turned into the parking spot next to Jaro. I immediately recognized that this was Gary, a keen but novice (his description) kayak fisher whom I'd met on Wednesday.

We three strolled down to the beach to take a look. The northerly breeze was quite evident but we quickly decided that the launch was doable. Out in the bay, slightly north east of the groyne we could see in the diminishing darkness an all-round white light where normally there is none. This light, as I later found out, was fixed to Ian's yak -- he had at least 15 minutes start on us and had launched in darkness, as he often does.

Meanwhile, back in the carpark, Steve had arrived (well done on the successful alarm setting, mate). Introductions having been made all round, Gary opted to accompany us out to the shoal and one at a time we trolleyed our yaks to the chosen launch point, western side of the groyne.

0511hrs. Jaro is standing in the water, about to board -- he was VERY keen to get out today. Gary is finalising preparation next to his Viking Predator. Steve is... where's Steve?

It was still not quite light, despite the camera's view seen above. We all got out easily and I spent an annoying several minutes trying to tie a single knot in monofilament -- the light and the tossing chop conspiring to make things hard for me. Jaro was away fast, and I was away last because of that bloody knot. We all set out for Jew Shoal confident that the less than 10 knot northerly breeze wouldn't slow us much. The reality was, however, that the breeze had been working away all night and the fetch for a northerly in this area is significant. The swell curving from the north as a result of the shape of the bay, was quite small but on top of that was the northerly chop. So we were battling a northerly swell, northerly chop and a northerly breeze, and 500 metres out from shore the breeze increased to greater than 10 knots with white caps starting to appear out of the gloom.

We battled on. Checking my GPS I could tell that this was going to be a slow trip. The best I was managing was 4 kph when 6-7kph is normal in calm conditions. I calculated a 1 hour paddle to the shoal. Never mind, I was trolling a previously successful lure and whenever you're out there you're in with a chance. After a while I passed Steve who was living up to his callsign (turtle boy) but punching on steadily. One km from my destination mark, and about 45 minutes after leaving the beach my reel screamed for a second or two, stopped, then screamed again briefly. I turned and picked up the rod only to conclude that I'd had a hookup but that the fish was gone. This happens often when trolling -- possibly a hook embeds in soft tissue and rips out when pressure is applied. The lure was intact so out it went again.

Quite a few terns and shearwaters were visible around the shoal, but they weren't bunching up as they do when there's a dense mass of baitfish, but clearly there were some predators around as my strike indicated. I opted to troll toward the northern edge of the reef and, depending on what happened, either keep trolling or resort to drifting and casting soft plastics in the hope of nailing a snapper or sweetlip. My chosen northern mark, after an hour's paddling into the chop was still several hundred metres away, and, you guessed it, upwind, up-chop and up-swell.

The waves were quite steep and a couple of times I got a cockpit load of water as a rogue wavetop broke over the bow of the yak. To the uninitiated, this may seem dangerous, but in reality the kayaks we use are designed to handle such conditions -- any water taken in is quickly drained automatically through scuppers. You do get a wet arse however.

I reached my mark without further action so opted to change my technique and drift using soft plastics. The trolling lure brought in and drogue deployed, I tied a jig head onto my casting outfit and impaled a 4 inch plastic "fish" on its hook. Having cast the jig out I turned my attention to the GPS to find out speed and direction of drift. Sure enough, as expected, I was drifting south and I was drifting at just under 2kph. But the jig was getting down near the bottom OK as I found out when a few minutes later the line loaded up and I hoisted a grinner aboard. Not to put too fine a point on it, this fish is not sought by fishos as it doesn't fight, will eat anything and is so full of bones that it is not worth the effort of filleting. I continued and shortly afterward took a solid hit on the jig and knew immediately that this was either a reasonable sized sweetlip or a small snapper. The sweetlip that appeared was about 35cm long and I gladly opted to take him as these are excellent to eat.

0720hrs. Grass sweetlip, legal size 30cm, no limit on number taken (Editor: in 2011 take limited to 10). Common on Noosa's reefs. The largest our group has encountered was 62cm, caught by Jaro at Jew Shoal last year.

Shortly after this, I was joined by Steve and Ian, the latter of whom had appeared from over the the northern horizon saying "Pretty ordinary conditions, eh Kev?" an opinion with which I readily agreed.

0735hrs. Steve, closer, and Ian, in his usual big straw Queensland hat. Both yakkers fish from Perception Swing kayaks. Fuzzy pic caused by moisture on the lens part of the waterproof case.

We drifted in concert for a while but there was little or no extra action, other than some unknown little beasties which were eating the soft plastics without hooking up:

This soft plastic was reduced from its original 4 inch length to debris without my even feeling a nibble.

It was shortly after this, at around 0830, that I decided I didn't want to once more punch back into the swell, chop and breeze for the 800m necessary to re-establish a drift. By radio to Steve and Jaro I announced my intention to head back into Laguna Bay at the end of the present drift and they agreed to do the same, Jaro more reluctantly than Steve I think.

Once more I re-rigged the casting outfit so that it was ready for any pelagic feeding activity encountered, deployed the trolling lure and headed for the beach, some 3.7km distant, according to the GPS. My speed back was less than I'd expected, I think partly because of the steepness of the chop, although my average was improved a couple of times when I accidentally started surfing on a couple of particularly steep waves. On one of these waves I checked the speed on the GPS as it was happening and it momentarily showed 12kph!

The closer I got to the beach the more clearly I could see that it was taken over by a huge crowd and a bright red marquee -- on both sides of the groyne. It worried me all of the way in because we need a bit of "wiggle" space when coming ashore in the surf. I was imagining the three of us coming ashore through hordes of apprentice lifesavers ("Nippers") and breaking arms and legs of any we collided with as we charged in on the surf, only partly in control of our tiny, but reasonably heavy, boats. The gathering, as we found out later was of three clubs of Nippers, a special event for the Australia Day long weekend.

The crowd to the east (above) and the west (below) of the groyne at 0923hrs as we got ready to beach the yaks.

Fortunately there was a narrow unused gap available to the three of us, right next to the western side of the groyne, and even more fortunately for our reputations we all managed exemplary landings. I went in first, clsely followed by Steve. I then climbed up onto the rock groyne to video Jaro's passage through the surf zone. The resulting video is not worth posting on youtube because Jaro's transit was unspectacularly professional -- he made it look dead easy, having timed the sets perfectly. Anyone who wants a copy can have it, but it's nearly 52mb so needs to be moved on a thumb drive, camera card or similar.

Mine was the only fish brought home. I understand that Jaro had a bit of action -- perhaps he may tell us about it.

Thanks for organizing Jaro, and for coming along, Steve.

Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner

21Jan09 part 2, striped tuna plus

From: "Jim Thompson"
Subject: Re: Fishing Today 21Jan09 -Part 2
Date: Thursday, 22 January 2009 8:16 PM

G'day Yakkers

Further to Kevin's report (sent separately), I add the following (if you haven't already read Kev's report, I suggest you read it before mine).

As Kev mentioned, he and Jaro were about 400m ahead of me enroute to Jew Shoal (JS) when Kev's radio transmission alerted Jaro and me to the huge flock of birds on the north-eastern (far) side of JS, probably still 800m away from me. A few minutes later Kev had suddenly stopped paddling and was now playing a sizeable fish but I didn't realise just how big it was as there didn't seem to be too much bend in his rod. I now realise the lack of rod bend was probably due to Kev allowing his quarry to run on the drag. As I passed Kev he was certainly enjoying the tussle but I didn't wait around to see the coupe-de-grace as I was intent on getting to the huge flock of birds before the feeding frenzy of pelagics, that must have been going on underneath, stopped. I also noted that Jaro had stopped paddling and was, I thought, re-rigging his gear in preparation for attacking the feeding frenzy, as I was about to do. I now realise Jaro was untangling his two trolling lines which unfortunately delayed his arrival at the feeding frenzy, and probably cost him the same enjoyment I was about to have...

At about 50m from the epi-centre of the most dense swirl of birds I have ever seen, I could now make out a brown "shape" about 3m diameter just under the surface. As I paddled a little closer I realised the brown "shape" was actually at least half a dozen sharks feeding on what I guessed must have been a number of pelagics (which were in turn most likely feeding on a shoal of bait fish). The sight of 4-5 dorsal fins about 25cm high scything through the top of the feeding frenzy didn't concern me unduly, but I did wonder what I might hook into as I cast a silver slug across the other side of the melee and started to retrieve quickly. I was delighted when almost instantly the line went heavy and then the drag on my little Shimano Sedona started screaming as line was stripped off. I was also a little relieved as I realised this fish, although sizeable, was going to be just manageable on my light weight (6kg) line and rod. And so a ten minute tussle ensued which eventually resulted in me gaffing a nice 54cm striped tuna (see photo below). During this time Jaro paddled past, shouting encouragement, in hot pursuit of the feeding frenzy, which I was now separated from by some hundreds of metres.

About this time, Kev reported via radio (sounding very chuffed)... "I have just landed a REEEALLY nice spaniard"... and asked Jaro if he would paddle over with his new camera to take a photo of him with the fish. Jaro's reply... "Photo will have to wait!!! I'm chasing the birds!!!"... With a lumpy wind chop on top of a ~2m swell I had lost visual contact with Jaro and could no longer see the birds swirling, so decided to commence the standard fishing technique with soft plastics drifting across the shoal. Kev reported that he was now returning to Middle Groyne as he could not fit any more fish into his kayak, and Jaro, still desperate to land a fish, continued to chase the birds all over Laguna Bay. Ultimately, neither Jaro nor I landed any more fish, but there was certainly plenty of pelagics out there feeding. I got bitten off twice immediately after my cast soft plastic hit the water, and Jaro reported ..."having two of the biggest strikes” he had ever had in his life! One fish being... "so big it bit through my stainless steel wire trace!"

At around 0815 I had had enough of the lumpy conditions and started paddling back to MG at about the same time as three other yakkers (previously unknown to me, but one of whom, Paul, had also caught a striped tuna about the same size as mine). With the tide having dropped since our departure over three hours earlier, but the swell substantially unchanged, the return crossing of the surf zone on to Main Beach was an interesting affair. One of the other three yakkers, Paul, got rolled, but his young son, James, and I, and a little later Jaro, all managed to catch and/or avoid rogue waves and stay upright all the way into the beach. Kev has made a funky video of these amazing kayak/surfing feats and will put it up on to YouTube when he gets a bit of spare time.

Me and my 54cm striped tuna back on the beach. Notice Jaro animatedly telling Steve & Kerrie Crisp about... "the two monsters that got away!”

A great day to celebrate my return to yak fishing following an enforced three month lay-off due to a broken collarbone and ribs.


Big Spaniard, 21Jan09, part 1

From: "kevin long"
Subject: Fishing today, 21Jan09 -- part one
Date: Wednesday, 21 January 2009 12:27 PM

0420 this morning. I was at home in the kitchen having just eaten my weetbix -- breakfast of champions, don't you know. It was still dark outside, I was just putting on sunscreen to keep my youthful looks when I heard the rain start. Bugger, I thought will the others show up?

We expected four starters, Steve, Jaro, Jim and I, but only three of us fronted. Turned out later that Steve had actually put his alarm on for 4.00pm. They're tricky devices these electronic alarms! Anyway, there we three were at the car park with just enough light to see that the surf zone transit would be interesting. We demurred for a while then thought what the hell, doesn't look too bad once you get through. Jim, usually a regular with our little group, was going offshore for the first time in several months after recovering from a push bike prang which left him with a badly broken collarbone and seven broken ribs. he opted to go on the east side of the groyne and Jaro and I headed for the western side.

Middle Groyne, western side, 0515 hrs today. Pic fuzzy because of low light levels. My yak, left, and Jaro's, right.

All three of us got out without difficulty. Certainly Jaro and I were surprised at how easy our transit was. Jim joined us "out the back'" a few minutes later and Jaro welcomed him back to yak fishing with a welcome radio call - very apt, I thought.

By 0534, I was off, setting course for Jew Shoal, some 3.5km distant in the ocean haze to the north. Jaro followed a couple of minutes later and Jim a few minutes after him. The going was OK if a little up and down, as you'd expect, and the breeze was quite finicky, sometimes coming from the west and sometimes from the north. I'd opted to troll a single lure, one which had been on many journeys with me and had hooked an array of pelagics and was now on its third set of hooks. My casting rod was in the rod holder, rigged up with a slug ready to cast to schools of feeding pelagics we happened upon.

By 0600 I was about 500m south of one of my marks at Jew Shoal and heading toward it when I noticed a huge flock of birds on the horizon, perhaps 1 km away. They were bunched very tightly, low on the water and were wheeling around as if they were caught in a whirlwind. I brought this to Jaro's attention, by radio, then pushed on toward the feeding frenzy. By this time the breeze had increased and was coming from the north so we were punching right into it. Jaro was about 100-150m behind and to my left when suddenly my trolling reel, an ancient ABU10000C which I've owned since the 1970s, screamed as line was stripped from the spool in a powerful run. As soon as I picked up the rod I could tell that this fish had a bit of weight in it. This impression was confirmed with another powerful run, toward the west, as Jaro paddled past me about 50m away. At that time I didn't know that Jaro was trolling two outfits but I soon found out because my fish had taken my lure and attached line right across, and under, the path of Jaro's two lures -- he'd travelled past me a minute or so after I'd first hooked up. My heart sank as I put pressure on the fish and found first one, then the second of Jaro's lures running up my line, which was still taut and connected to the strong running fish. Fortunately Jaro slowed and then stopped which made it easier for me to disengage his lures, but he did end up with a bit of a tangle -- always a risk when trolling two lures, I reckon. Thanks for stopping mate, and sorry that my action may have contributed to your line tangle. Anyway back to my fish, which was still full of fight. After several more minutes I got a look at him as he swept under the yak in the clear blue water and powered off again on another strong run. Cripes -- a bloody great Spaniard!

Shortly the fish was tiring, as you would be if you'd been towing me around in my yak, which he had been. For some reason, the best fish always seem to come into gaffing position on my left side, which is not my best for decisively and accurately placing the gaff. This one was no different. He circled on the left side of the yak, thrusting along with that huge powerful tail but eventually I left-hand gaffed him and briefly held his head out of the water to an admiring gasp from Jaro, who was close enough to see the action. It was only when I held him on the gaff that I realised that this was a more substantial fish than any other I'd recently caught. And when I started to drag his body over the side of the yak and into the footwell I realised that this fish would not be an easy fit. My first action was to get his head, with lure firmly clamped between its fiercesome jaws, down to between my feet (glad I wear dive boottees) while I manoeuvred the tail to under my chin. This accomplished, I turned my attention to tail roping the monster, all the time coping with muscular flexing of that magnificent body (the fish's, not mine) as the fish objected to the strange environment in which it found itself. My tail rope secured, I opted to just hold my prize in position while it gradually faded from this life. This took some ten minutes, during which I also tidied up a bit -- you know, untangling things, getting the gaff back into its secure storage location, and getting the rod back into its holder on the back deck, taking a photo with one hand.

This is how it looked from my point of view -- the camera couldn't fit it all in. The gaff can still be seen in the head, and the lure can be seen protruding from the jaws whose teeth would easily take off a finger if you carelessly put it in there.

After ten minutes or so I judged that the mackerel I'd caught was no longer with us and thus safe to handle a little less carefully. With some difficulty in the choppy, rolling, conditions I manoeuvred the fish through 180 degrees into a head to stern direction and, opening the fish box door on my left side, started pushing him in, head first. I'm gonna need a bigger yak, I thought, when he was half way in. Eventually the pointy nose of the fish came up hard against the stern end of the fish box. Shit, there was still 30cm of fish or so to go! I'd earlier decided that, even though there were probably heaps of more fish around, there was no point in continuing to fish and therefore I jury-rigged a new, bigger tie-down for the fish box lid (to secure the fish better in the event of a roll-over coming through the surf) and packed up my gear for the return to the beach.

My journey back was uneventful and in quite pleasant conditions with a following sea and northerly breeze and overcast. And before long I was doing battle with the surf monster on the western side of the groyne, to come up trumps with a nice wave which took me right in to the beach. Yee Ha!

I took great pleasure in dragging the spaniard from the fish box while several early beach goers stood around with lower jaws dragging on the sand. A nice bikini-clad lady on the beach agreed to take my pic with my camera just after landing.

0728hrs, Immediately after landing. Note that the tail rope is still on the fish and is attached to the yak which is out of the pic

On the measure mat. He went just under 1.3m -- probably 12-13kg.

How did Jim and Jaro fare? Part 2 to come later. And I got some video of my pals conquering the surf.

What a wonderful day!

Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner

spotty mac, 16jan09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 16jan09
Date: Friday, 16 January 2009 5:26 PM

Only Jaro and I this morning. Oh, and Paul, the guy from Palmwoods who launched with us last week was coincidentally there also. Launch was easy, although timing to miss the larger breakers was easy. Jaro and I both launched on the eastern side.

0505hrs. Main Beach, east of Middle Groyne.

We paddled out to the shoal without attracting any action but there were growing signs of activity with flocks of terns gradually accumulating as the light improved. I fired off my first cast, hoping for a snapper or sweetlip, just before 0600.

While I was getting no action on the soft plastics it was clear a change of plan was worth considering as the numbers of birds wheeling around the eastern edge of the shoal showed that there were plenty of baitfish around and probable predator activity. The baitfish schools were also very obvious on the fishfinder. At about 0630 I paddled over to Jaro and we agreed to switch to trolling with an option to cast slugs should the predators show. By this time he'd managed to boat a small sweetlip (a keeper).

Together we headed off to the SW trolling, with our casting rods ready just in case. There were hundreds of terns wheeling around, occassionally dipping down to the waves to pick up hapless baitfish which were also being harried from below, by what? we didn't yet know.

A few minutes later I looked back and saw that Jaro's trolling rod was in his hands and it had a substantial bend in it -- clearly he was fighting a fish. I was still trolling at this stage but paddled closer to him to witness the action and perhaps record it by photograph. Within a couple of minutes Jaro had a nice spotty mackerel next to the yak. He gaffed it very professionally and lifted it aboard. I was ready with the camera and just as I pressed the shutter release I thought I heard my trolling reel give a growl but as there was no further sign of action I turned back to take a second pic.

0645hrs. Jaro with the Noosa Yakkers' first spotty mackerel of the year.

I paddled away to continue with the plan and when checking my trolled lure, a 180mm long Berkely Killer minnow, discovered that it was missing in action. That growl I thought I'd heard must have been a strike from a sharp-toothed critter which had managed to sever the line. I hadn't used wire on the lure because, I reasoned, that it was too large to need it. Clearly I was wrong or possibly the fish that took it had struck the front of the lure and managed to luckily chop the line in the process. I immediately put on my spare trolling minnow.

Very soon after this, the intensity of the bird activity dropped off and gradually the sky cleared of the whirling white terns which had attracted us and led to Jaro's capture and my loss. So we went back to Plan A. For me the action in Plan A was very quiet, but Jaro reported some good strikes, around one particular part of the shoal. All I could catch was several specimens of black-tipped cod.

Black-tipped cod. Common at this and smaller sizes at Jew Shoal. The legal limit is 38cm -- I've never seen one that size.

By 10am we were feeling weary and decided to head home. We both rigged for Plan B as it was clear that there may be a chance of a fish encounter on the 4km journey back. Half way back we saw terns feeding in Teatree Bay and at Dolphin Point so altered course to port to intersect with them. As often happens in situations such as this, the fish which were attracting the terns kept moving away from our position. We tried to chase them down for a while but soon agreed that we were wasting our energy reserves, which were dwindling naturally by this time anyway, and we still had more than 2km to go back to the beach, so turned once more for home. A few minutes after turning I was roused from my reverie by the screaming of the ratchet on my trolling rod. I radioed Jaro who started to paddle toward me. I'd been hoping it was a mackerel but after a short fight one of our common pelagic predators, a mackerel tuna, showed up. Jaro took a pic or two.

Me and my little mac tuna, off Teatree Bay.

Our return to the beach was a bit problematic, as there were now lots of kids enjoying themselves in the water at our planned landing point, not to mention the size of the waves, which were breaking half way along the rock wall on the western side of the groyne. After a look at the options we decided to chance an entry at the less-crowded eastern side, and both picked the waves nicely, gliding up to the beach without breaking any legs or noses of the holidaymakers. Once on the beach we took a few pics and, as usual, were swamped by admirers, particularly female.

Mac Tuna. No legal limit, take as many as you want.

Jaro's spotty mac and sweetlip.

Thanks for reading

Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner

big sea, no fish 08Jan09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: Yakking today -- 08Jan09
Date: Thursday, 8 January 2009 3:46 PM

First trip for 2009.

The weather has been pretty hairy for the first week of 2009 and today was the first of this year which showed the potential for an offshore trip. With a swell of just over 2m, straight from the east, I was a little dubious last night about our ability to safely get out and back but agreed to at least go and take a look.

I found myself looking at a sullen sea at 0445 today at MG. Jaro, champing at the bit as usual, joined me on the beach just after I'd examined and personally dismissed any usage of the beach to the east. The 0530 high tide of 1.92m had dampened the wave effect a little but even so the crashing dumpers which seemed to rear up out of nowhere were arriving far too often and were far too unpredictable for my liking -- they promised to gobble up any kayaker who mistimed a departure from that area. We hadn't unloaded our yaks yet so the option to go back to bed was still there, but we turned our joint attention to the western (rivermouth) side. Here the larger waves on arrival sent spray way higher than the end of the rock groyne, accompanied by a deep "cruuump" which I, for one, felt in the pit of my stomach. We watched for three or four minutes and noticed that there were windows from time to time which would allow a suitably-motivated (and perhaps lucky) kayaker an opportunity to get through. Jaro broke the ice with a "Well, I'm game!". What could I say. within a minute or so we were back at the cars unloading our gear.

The adrenalin was building ten minutes later as we faced the waves, standing on the beach with our yaks at our sides. We must have stood there fully five minutes just watching and waiting. Meanwhile, another kayak fisher, Paul, whom we'd just met in the car park, joined us and immediately punched out in his Prowler Elite, making the launch look like a piece of cake. I wondered to myself whether perhaps he was new to the game or whether he was just showing these old farts how it should be done. So there we were, Jaro and I, still standing there while Paul nonchalantly and gradually worked his yak through the sets. Just getting aboard the yak was looking difficult to me as the spent waves had sufficient energy to get right through to the steep slope on the beach, finishing their long ocean transit with a spirited flourish right at our launch point. Eventually I could bear the adrenalin load no longer, and judging that the time had come, boarded cleanly and headed for the pool of deeper water just north of the end of the groyne, about 50m away. My plan was to hold in this deeper section and then make a transit of the wavebreak zone, another 20 or so metres away, as soon as I saw my way clear. Phase one of the plan went fine and I very quickly found myself in the safe deep water, paddling and back paddling a little to arrest my drift out of the deeper section. Soon an apparent lull in wave activity appeared so I dug deep with the paddle and went straight for the centre of the break zone. Just as I got to the critical point my attention was focussed by a large wave which had come from nowhere and was heading straight for me, steepening as it arrived, as they do, and seeming to tower over me. SHIT! SHIT! To slow down in such a situation is to invite a big swim so I reached for my reserves of energy, switched to Panic gear and went straight for the oncoming face to take it at right angles as fast as I could. It seems to take a long time to close the distance, but in fact it's all over very quickly, either the collision occurs (1) after or when the wave breaks, in which case you'll find yourself going backwards or taking an impromptu swim, or (2) you hit the wave in a 45 degree climb up the face just before it breaks, drop off the top at the back and find yourself in a 45 degree descent, but still the right way up and looking anxiously for the following wave to do it again should that be necessary. I understand that Steve (Turtle Boy) is aware of a third option.

It was all over very quickly (I drew option 2) -- I was out the back and preparing to set up my gear. Meanwhile, Jaro had watched my launch from his beach standpoint, held his breath as he saw the contest between ancient yakker and youthful wave, and decided to get some of this for himself. As he has done on many occasions, he picked the sets beautifully and shortly joined me out the back where he mopped the early morning sweat from his brow and called me on the radio to check whether I still had enough breath to speak. No worries, mate.

The closer we got to Jew Shoal, the stronger the breeze (easterly, exactly as forecast) and the larger the swell. The trip out there was easy but boy was it sloppy, with occasional whitecaps as the breeze whipped the tops off the larger swells. I'd opted to head for the SE corner of JS on the basis that the drift was likely to be from east to west and was about 500m from my target location when the ratchet of my ABU 10000C growled briefly. I was trolling a 180mm Berkely Killer on this outfit and immediately picked up the rod and confirmed that there was indeed something on the end of the line. I knew it wasn't huge and shortly afterward a striped tuna about 70cm long was boated after a short but lively fight. The last time I'd caught one of these was in Tasmanian waters a couple of years ago, from a 40-foot sloop and I was quite surprised to see one so far north. In preparation for a photo I decided to wash some of the blood off the fish which was still quite lively and held it over the side by the tail to do just that. You guessed it -- I accidentally released it. I hadn't intended keeping it but would have liked a photo for my records.

Once I started my drift the GPS very soon showed that the drift direction was toward the SW and quite quick -- not surprising, really. Jaro had headed for his favourite spot, at the western edge of the reef and so we were initially some 600m apart and invisible to each other because of the low light levels and intervening swells. However, we could still talk to each other by radio. I fished with only one outfit and was trying for a snapper but very quickly concluded that fishing today would be difficult, to say the least, with the drift speed and disorientation due to sloppy conditions, and the rain -- did I mention the rain? which came on the heels of a NE squall about 20 minutes after arrival. Anyway it was pissing down, but nice warm tropical rain. After some time, Jaro called me up. I had difficulty hearing what he was saying as the radio was transmitting "pop" noises along with his voice. It took me only a few seconds to realise that Jaro's microphone was being splattered with raindrops, thus masking his voice so I took care to speak right into the mike (bottom left corner of the speaker) with the whole radio sheltered under the brim of my hat to explain this. With clear voice communication reestablished we agreed to rendezvous (RV) at Jaro's favourite spot, which is known to me and is very close to one of my marks, and then head home. Our GPS devices showed their value here as Jaro and I could not see each other until we got close to the RV, and we could only vaguely see the land, so establishing position without such an aid would have been practically impossible. Here are a couple of pics taken shortly after we made the RV.

0732hrs. Near the agreed RV, just before heading for home. The white dots are rain specs highlighted by the camera's flash. The wind dropped a little while it was raining.

The trip back to MG was easy and uneventful and we just loped along, a few metres apart, travelling on a GPS arrow pointer set for Middle Groyne, which became visible, right on the nose, when we were about 2km out. There being no fishy action evident we opted to recover our yaks and so prepared to run the surf gauntlet once more.

The wave situation hadn't improved in the time we'd been out at sea, not that I thought it would have. The bigger waves were still belting the groyne and now there were about seven or eight boardriders competing for the space we wanted to use. I was tidied up and ready to run first. Time spent on reconnaissance is NEVER wasted (an Army adage) and so I paddled over to a safe vantage point to take a look. Breaking surf looks quite different from "out the back" as the height of the breaking waves can't be judged easily. Nevertheless I quickly concluded that the beach to the east of the groyne was still hairy (even I, partly deaf, could here the crump of the dumping waves as they suddenly encountered shallow water). So I went back to the other side and took a long hard look at that, trying to deduce a pattern in the arrival of the sets, the larger of which were heralded by growing excitement and preparation among the board riders not 30m inshore from me. I could see that Jaro was now ready to run also so thought I'd better set an example and reach a decision soon. I counted off the large waves as they came through, allowed for a set of four biggies to roll under me, and then went for it, with Jaro yelling what I hoped was encouragement, as it was too late to turn back. It seems I picked it pretty well for half way in I'm still upright and then a mid-size wave caught up with me and turned my yak into a temporary surf machine. In situations like this, all is well as long as you can keep the yak straight (paddle whichever side is necessary) and keep the nose from being buried (lean back as much as possible). As soon as the wave breaks, different techniques are required, as I've learned from previous surf transits, many of which finished ignominiously. We covered 30 metres at exhilarating speed, then the wave broke, forcing the bow to the right despite my attempts to keep it straight. As the yak yawed, I leaned out as far as I could on the right side and pushed down hard on the blade, which is face down in the water. While this technique doesn't always work, depending on the power of the wave you're dealing with, if you don't do this, as the yak encounters the sloped face of the broken wave, your CofG is altered to the side nearest the beach and you tip in that direction. When the spray cleared I was relieved to find that I was riding the wave sideways with paddle extended, exactly what I was hoping for; and soon the wave started to run out of energy and I was able to once more straighten the yak and cruise into the beach with dignity intact. Jaro also had a clean and successful ride to the beach. Once on the beach together we acknowledged our adrenalin rush with a high five and dragged the yaks up the beach where we were subjected to a great pile of questions from some young beachgoers intrigued by our wonderful little boats.

So, no fish this trip. If the weather doesn't improve soon I'll be forced to fish in the river -- come to think of it a feed of whiting would just hit the spot.

Thanks for organizing and coming along, Jaro.

Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner