big snap, whales, SR, vid 30Sep09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 30sep09
Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2009 4:22 PM

Jaro this morning, at launch time: "It doesn't get any better than this". It was 0515 -- we were enthralled by the grandeur of the scene -- a totally flat and mirror-like sea faintly illuminated by the not-quite-risen sun, and backdropped by a cloudless sky with a hint of smoke or mist over the land. Jaro, Brian, Andy and I were all in the carpark by 0500 and launching shortly afterward. Jim, Mark and Harry were to turn up individually, later. What sort of day would we have today?

See what I mean? 0514hrs. Brian launching.

The four of us were soon headed for Sunshine Reef -- Andy, in his Viking Nemo, on his first trip out there, the rest of us old Sunshine Reef hands.

The swell was tiny, so tiny in fact that I could safely cut the shallow corners very tightly on the way out and thus save a bit of distance. It's easy to become blasé as one paddles north east past the Noosa National Park but it was today, and often is, truly magnificent. At Hells Gates I came across a pod of dolphins travelling at about my speed and directly ahead, in the same direction, the rising sun reflecting off their dorsal fins as they surfaced to take a breath making it easy for me to follow their steady progress.

Jaro was well ahead because his setup time, now that he has the Profish, is tiny compared with mine and Brian's. While I was admiring the dolphins, it turns out that Jaro was admiring whales, out in the open ocean. The radio blared and he announced to all that there was a great whale show occurring just a little further out. That proved to be just the starter for the day -- whales in the midst of their migration south.

Brian headed for the more distant part of the reef while I decided to stick with the closer in section which we'd been working last time we were out here. As I approached the mark, accompanied by Andy, I could see Jaro already in position in the same area. So Andy and I picked a spot, any spot really, to start a drift and hopefully catch a snapper.

I remember checking my watch when I first started to fish -- around 0630. There was a tiny breeze from the SE, and, judging by the angle of "hang" of my trailing outfit and the drift speed, little or no current -- certainly no sign of the toward-SE current which we have recently encountered at this same place. So I was drifting north, a fact soon confirmed by the GPS display. Also of note was the water condition. Although clear, as expected, it was crammed with tiny transparent organisms so that it resembled a watery soup, temp around 23°C.

There was no action at all for any of us for the first 15 minutes. Then I picked up a nice snapper (on a cast SP) -- taking great pleasure in announcing to the two of my companions who had radios and who were already fishing that I was "on the board".

0650hrs. The first catch for the day. 52cm snapper.

Around this time I heard Jim call up on the radio that he was approaching our position and asking for site info. Very soon he joined us and commenced a similar drift, deploying a trailing pilchard bait on one outfit and casting an SP on a jighead on the other. Again all was quiet for around 20 minutes, during which time we became aware by radio that both Mark and Harry were also approaching our position. It was starting to get crowded out there. Around 0720hrs Jim announced by radio that he was hooked up. I could see that the fish was on his light casting outfit and before long he announced that he also was on the board. Just after this announcement came another from Jim that his trailing outfit had now gone off. My distant view of Jim and his kayak confirmed this, as his heavy rod, now in his hands, was responding appropriately to the obviously heavy fish on the other end. We all waited expectantly and after a short time JIm announced that he had hooked the biggest snapper he'd seen for quite a while. As he gaffed it and dragged it into the yak I could see that his words were probably accurate -- the fish was very large, even from my distant position. With the fish under control, Jim suggested that a photo might be in order so I invited him to paddle the 200m or so over to me and I'd oblige.

Jim, of course, had two keeper snapper in the boat, each with at least one hook in its jaw and both still lively. There was fishing line festooned across the yak but Jim soon restored order sufficient for us to get a posed pic without danger of losing a fish overboard.

0738hrs. Jim holds up his two, now tethered, snapper. Alexandria Bay and Hells Gates in the background.

Just as I pushed Jim's yak away after taking the pic above, my light SP, which I'd recast was picked up by a nice sweetlip which joined my snapper on the tether.

0747hrs. Grass sweetlip -- great tucker! Note the SP bait with its hook impaled in the upper lip. This was the same Squidgy SP which had caught several fish last trip and possibly the trip before and was by now looking a bit ragged (but it still went back into the packet for re-use after today's fishing).

Just before all of this I'd encouraged Andy to swap to a 1/2 ounce jighead as it seemed to me that he wasn't getting to the bottom with the 1/4 ounce jighead he was using. After the change I noted that he now seemed to be getting down OK, possibly as a result of the increase in his casting distance. So it was with great pleasure that I soon heard that Andy was hooked up to what was probably a snapper. As this was his first from the kayak I offered to take his photo so he paddled over with his catch.

0749hrs. Undersized, but a snapper, on an SP, from a kayak, out in the open ocean. An occasion for any keen fisher. (Fish returned to water alive.)

Although the fish was undersized I felt sure that Andy had acquired the SP technique and was likely to get a keeper very soon. So off he went, back into the drift.

It was possibly about now that my phone (contained in a waterproof case) buzzed loudly. It was my wife telling me that she'd heard on the radio that a tsunami warning had been issued for eastern Australia following an overnight earthquake near Samoa (an island nation in the Pacific Ocean). I agreed with her that the matter warranted some consideration for us kayakers, particularly as we were an hour's paddling time from our launch spot, although back up beach landings were possible at the much closer, but more exposed, Sunshine Beach and Alexandria Bay (in the background in the above pic). I promised to give some consideration to immediately returning home. With this event, the huge safety value of our VHF radios, which with all except one of our little flotilla were equipped, became apparent. Firstly, I broadcast the info about the tsunami warning to all of my radio-equipped companions, scattered over a couple of km, informing them that I intended to contact Noosa Coastguard by the same VHF radio to find out if this information was known to them. I then switched to Channel 22, and radioed the Coastguard, which is over 5km in a direct line from where we drifting, receiving an immediate clear responding transmission. It transpired that the Coastguard had no knowledge of the tsunami warning but the operator promised to check and then, if necessary to broadcast the warning on channels which we monitor. I passed this on to my colleagues and we kept fishing. Having received no further information from the Coastguard after some 15 minutes, I phoned my wife who then informed me that the tsunami warning for our area had been cancelled. Again I relayed this info by radio to my colleagues, news which was greeted with cheers by some. So back to the fishing...

0821hrs. Andy scores his first keeper snapper from a kayak. Well done, mate. May there be many more...

And then the whales turned up. For some time I'd been drifting and hearing the snorts that whales make when they surface to breathe. Andy, nearby, and Harry, a little further away, could also hear them. But now we could see them -- several whales heading straight for us, and opposite to the normal migration direction. Perhaps as Jim suggested, they were after Harry's "smoko" sandwiches, which were now being digested and so were difficult for the whales to access. We watched them come closer and eventually I decided to pull in my lines in case of an encounter I could do without. Having pulled them in I decided that I might start heading for home, which intention I quickly found was Jim's also, as he announced by radio. This was just before 10am so Andy and I turned our kayaks for home, just as the whales started to head in the same direction.

We found that for the next 1.5km we were constantly shepherded by the whales, with another pod arriving from the north as we closed on Hells Gates, pod #1 now having opted to hang around the headland and Alexandria Bay, to the delight of many holidaymakers clustered on the headland in the brilliant sunshine. I recorded some video of this encounter and have made a short movie, available on youtube:

Andy and I were the first through the whale gauntlet and our colleagues following had similar experiences. Brian had his camera ready and took several still shots, providing this one to me today by email.

Brian's very close encounter.

And so we returned to the beach to be greeted, as usual, by bikini-clad maidens.

What can I say? It must be a natural attractant.

Andy's and my fish. Andy's on the right.

Of course, once I told the crowd that the guy in the blue and green yak had a bigger specimen they all turned their attention to Jim, still not quite on the beach, but rapidly approaching. On arrival, they mobbed him.

OK, size does matter.

Jim's whopper on the measure mat.

Contributed comment from Jim by email (slightly edited by me):

My snapper today does set a new yak fishing record for snapper... just (in terms of length), but I think today's snapper is definitely bigger in terms of weight. My previous big snapper caught on 21 Jan 08 was measured at 70cm, but unfortunately I don't seem to have recorded the weight. My snapper today was 71-72cm and weighed 2.7 kg. The thickness and knob on the heads of the two fish certainly ranks today's snapper as a more adult fish and therefore would weigh more.

So, it's a new record for Noosa Yakkers. Well done Jim. The best snapper I've been able to do from a kayak, so far, was 69cm.

Thanks for organizing, Jaro. Let's go again soon, but I'd like a cold beer first.

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

SR, 16 snapper, vid, 25Sep09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 25sep09 -- more snapper
Date: Friday, 25 September 2009 3:26 PM

Today was the only offshore yakfishing weather on offer in the last week or so. We'd been watching the forecast for several days -- the wind was to drop away starting Thursday afternoon and stay below 10 knots until about noon Friday (today) when a strong northerly would kick in. The swell was also forecast to be well under 2m, so all looked great as our plans gradually came together. Thursday night the emails started to fly around. Initially it looked like we'd have six starters but Brian announced that he had to look after some visitors (accompanying them on an offshore fishing trip in a power boat). So we were down to five. I had hopes that we might be able to launch from Sunshine Beach, but a 0515 recce of the beach by Harry put the kybosh on that -- swell too big!

So it was that Harry and I arrived at the MG carpark around 0530. Jaro's car was there and Jaro was on the beach ready to launch so off he went, destination Sunshine Reef. Very soon Mark arrived (callsign: Doctor Dog) and shortly afterward Jim. Conditions couldn't have been better...

0544hrs. Launch time for Harry (pictured) and me.

I was having trouble keeping my wetsuit (short) pants up while dragging the yak down to the launch point and it wasn't until I was sitting in the yak and paddling out through the break that I noticed I had them on back to front. They were hanging so low that I was uncomfortable and certainly not ready for several hours in the saddle. There was nothing for it but to turn around and return to the beach where a puzzled early morning rambler watched as I hurriedly took them off and put them on the right way, without removing my dive booties, then jumped back into the kayak and once more braved the perilous swell.

But what a glorious morning. The sea was flat, a squadron of surf kayaks had just passed heading west and a snub-finned (editor: actually a humpback dolphin) dolphin was searching for breakfast just off the end of the rock wall. Jaro was already out of sight, Harry was just starting his journey and Jim and Mark had just launched. Before long an east bound string of Noosa Yakkers could be seen by anyone taking an early morning ramble along the National Park cliff walk: Jaro, Harry, me, Jim and Mark, varying distances separating us.

Jaro headed straight out to the spot he'd favoured last trip and which had delivered several good snapper for him, and the rest of us. Harry opted for that spot also and I could hear them on the radio coordinating their movements. Jim caught up with me just after I stopped at Hells Gates to set up my sonar in its mount and after discussing intended destinations, he decided to stick with me to fish my newest favourite spot, the location of which he had previously been unaware. This spot has an advantage over Jaro and Harry's spot in that it was a good 500m closer to us than theirs.

On arrival, I gave the signal to Jim to mark the spot on his GPS, noting several fish echoes displaying on my sonar. As was soon revealed by GPS, our drift was toward the SE, a combination of the N-S current and westerly wind. Depth was around 26-29m and the drift was perfect. We were fishing by around 0700hrs and as I recall, the action started pretty well immediately. Harry announced by radio that he had a snapper aboard. Shortly afterward Jim scored a point for our location by letting all know that he'd just caught a snapper also. Then I got one, a small-ish 40cm model, but very good eating so it was kept (Who knows, it may be the only one I catch!). Then Mark called in asking for rendezvous directions, which were quickly given to him. Very soon Jim and I spotted Mark headed our way. So there were three of us at my spot, and two at Jaro's spot, some 500m further east.

0736hrs. Mark shortly after he joined us. Note the residue of the recent dust storm fading out the Sunshine Beach background.

Incidentally, I feel obliged to mention that my spot had been revealed by sonar as a likely fish location a few weeks back, when I did a random transit of the western edge of the reef. It looked good then, and I marked it for possible future attention. Since then it has produced my best ever sweetlip and a couple of excellent snapper. So the location of this choice piece of reef is known to a privileged few, and was a gift of modern technology (sonar and GPS), and old-fashioned reconnaissance.

Jim announced the capture of another snapper. Then another, his third. That did it, Jaro and Harry could soon be seen paddling toward us. At around 0750 I had a solid take on my cast soft plastic and I turned on chest cam for some video and sound recording. Before long I had my second snapper in the yak.

0755hrs. My snapper #2. By now, Jim had 3, Harry 1.

From this time for the next hour or so, it seemed that the fish went on a feeding frenzy. Jim hooked and dropped his snapper #4. Mark scored one, then another. Just a few minutes after my fish #2, I hooked up again and had a spirited fight with what turned out to be the best fish of the day.

0806hrs. My snapper #3. 62cm.

By now radio reports were flying through the ether: "I'm hooked up again!", "Got another in the boat!", and "Bloody Hell, why can't I catch one?", this last from Jaro.

Having stowed snapper #3 in the fishbox, I turned my attention to the trailing outfit (also armed with a jighead and soft plastic) which had so far got no action at all. I picked it up out of the rod holder and immediately it was hit. After a short tussle on the relatively heavy gear, my snapper #4 was in the boat.

0814hrs. My snapper #4, taken on heavy jighead baited with white Snapback SP.

At this stage, I was in front on the snapper scoreboard. Jim had 3, I had 4. Very soon, however, Jim announced that his fourth was in the boat. Now that I had secured four snapper I reverted to using only one rod as the snapper bag limit is five and there seemed every likelihood of a double hook up, which would leave me with six snapper -- an embarrassing situation. Then, sometime later Jim announced that he'd reached his bag limit and was thus ceasing fishing. Shortly after this, Mark announced that his three snapper were enough for him and that he was ceasing fishing also.

I fished on for a while but I was satisfied with my bag and was anxious to take some pics back on the beach so I decided to pull the pin about 0915 and accompany Jim and Mark back to the launch point. On the way we passed Harry just as he caught his fourth snapper...

0926hrs. How good are those conditions? Harry with snapper #4.

So off Jim, Mark and I paddled, leaving Harry and Jaro to continue. It was an easy paddle back but the increased swell size became obvious when we passed the 6m deep water just north of Hell's Gates. The swells were building like mountains behind us as we travelled in windless conditions but of course they soon dissipated once they encountered the deeper water at the entrance to Granite Bay. Jim and I travelled back non-stop (except for the compulsory stop to stow gear before transiting the surf zone), hitting the beach around 1030hrs. A young beachgoing bloke with his male child sauntered up and asked "Catch any fish?". What could I do? I unlatched the fishbox lid and dragged out my tethered catch, all together. The gasp he uttered was worth the long 15km paddle. So, it was time for the measure mat and individual photos.

Mark's take-home catch, cleaned whilst on the water. Largest ~54cm.

Jim's bag limit catch. Largest ~54cm.

My take home catch. Largest ~62cm.

A bikini clad young lady then agreed to photograph this trio. How she restrained herself from getting our phone numbers I'll never know. The young beach-going females aren't as forward as the older ones for some reason. Anyway here's the best of the several pics she took.

From left, Jim, Mark, Kev -- sitting on Mark's yak on Main Beach, Noosa. Yes, I need a haircut.

Jim and I hung around until Harry and Jaro came in, about an hour after we did. Here's Harry with his four snapper.

Harry and his four snapper.

Lastly, Jaro -- here's a pic of him in his new Skins and Malibu Classic sun top.

VIDEO: For anyone interested... includes some commentary delivered by radio from Jaro, "Hollywood" Harry (could be a good call sign, mate), Mark as well as grunts etc from me. Hollywood stick indeed!

Another great trip, yakkers. Looks like an opportunity coming up on Wednesday. Look out snapper! Oh, and did you notice in the fishing report in today's Noosa News that mention was made of spotty macs at the river mouth? Make sure you're ready for these speedsters when we encounter them, as we surely will in the next few months.

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

SR, 10 snapper, surf vid, 16Sep09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 16sep09
Date: Wednesday, 16 September 2009 5:37 PM

This great weather continues... and the fishing just gets better.

Jaro, Brian and I fronted this morning with the promise from Harry that he'd be along after his outrigger paddling training!

We launched at 0545. Here's Jaro, first away again...

It was high tide so there was plenty of water at the exit from the channel. Very few nasty breakers early this morning, but you still had to be wary.

Our destination was Sunshine Reef, about an hour's paddling time away. Although this was only Jaro's third launch in his Profish he has clearly almost got his procedures settled down as he was off toward Sunshine Reef after only about five minutes of setup. Brian and I followed about five minutes later when Jaro was already a paddling speck on the rapidly lightening horizon.

Rounding Hell's Gates after 35 minutes, Brian and I took separate paths, he toward a mark he fished successfully last time out and I toward my close-in mark off Alexandria Bay. On arrival (around 7am) I found Jaro already there, drifting and fishing. So we tagged along together. There was a 5 knot breeze from the SE, but as usual, our drift path was straight into this breeze, an indication of a current running toward the SE. All was quiet until 0730 when my cast soft plastic was grabbed at the bottom of its path. This fish hung doggedly below the kayak, typical of a sweetlip...

0730. Hooked up, Alexandria Bay in the distance. (Still from video)

To my surprise, it was a snapper...

Here it is. If you examine the image carefully you can see, between the eye and the upper jaw, the bend of the jig hook exposed, with all of the rest of the hook inside the mouth. This fish was well hooked. The metal object protruding from the mouth is a securing clip, threaded onto a rope loop.

With this capture, I radioed Brian, several hundred metres away, to let him know (Jaro watched on during the fight, so knew already). I used my normal procedure, ie "offered" the call first (without telling him what it was about) and waited for him to respond -- an indication that he was ready to listen to me. Almost immediately he came back with the information that he'd just boated a 45cm snapper. I then had the great pleasure of trumping him by announcing my capture of a 55cm model (subsequently I discovered that my estimate was slightly out -- it was only 53cm). Brian came back with alacrity: "Touché!", which was a pretty good response, I thought.

Once I catch my first fish on a trip, I can relax -- the pressure's off. After about another 30 minutes, there having been no further action at the spot where Jaro and I were fishing, Brian announced by radio the capture of a 60cm (later measured at 57cm) snapper. Now the pressure was really on Jaro, and Harry, who had just joined us after calling up from Granite Bay on the way out. Jaro decided to move to where Brian was fishing and Harry, who hadn't yet wet a line but was approaching us from the north, elected to do the same. I was left alone. But the sonar was still indicating that fish were around so I was pretty happy that I'd get another fish.

Hardly had Jaro left when I picked up another snapper, a smaller one of just over 40cm, but a nice eating fish just the same. The score was now Brian: 2; Kev: 2; Jaro and Harry: 0. But soon this was redressed when Jaro called up to say, with relief evident in his voice, that he'd caught a snapper. By 0930 I'd had no further action in my position but soon afterward the radio calls began to announce success from the three at the spot further out. Jaro got another, then Harry, then Brian. This flurry of activity occurred around 10am. I therefore opted to join them, about 700m east, and got there soon after 1030.

Here I was in a reasonable position to witness Jaro's capture of his snapper #3. An almighty "YYEESS" from Jaro, drifting just behind me, announced that he was hooked up. I grabbed the camera and started to shoot video after first turning my kayak around to face Jaro's. Consequently I recorded only the last part of the brief tussle. Here's what it looked like:

Jaro battling the elements and his snapper #3. Sunshine Beach in the background. (still from video)

And a better pic of the aftermath...

1108hrs. Jaro and his snapper, which jumped back out of the boat after he removed it from the gaff, seconds after this photo was taken. Fortunately for Jaro the jig hook was still embedded and attached to the line and the fish was quickly recovered after some swearing and general alarm.

We'd earlier agreed that we'd start the long paddle homeward at 1130. As I had two nice snapper in the fishbox and had paddled 14km yesterday I opted to leave about ten minutes before this, reckoning that I'd be caught up by the others, but hoping that I'd be first onto the beach because I thought there'd be a bit of a wave running at Middle Groyne, it being low tide and all and so an opportunity to record on video the surf skills of my fishing mates. Brian called up soon after I left that he also was heading in, then Harry also. Harry, however, managed to bag a second snapper with his last cast. So that made 10 snapper among the four of us.

It's a ~6km paddle back to our landing point, but with a following breeze and following sea for about half of this, it's quite pleasant and the time flies, although the landscape of Noosa Head just crawls past on your left. Harry and Jaro left about 10 minutes after me and very quickly encountered two whale calves, accompanied by their mothers who made sure that the humans knew that they were present. While I paddled along I could hear by radio Harry and Jaro discussing the encounter and warning each other of the proximity of these wonderful, gentle animals.

By 1215 I was drifting at the shark nets, 500m off Main Beach, getting my gear stowed for the run through the surf zone, which was looking pretty hairy as there was now very little depth at the outer end of the rock wall and consequently some very steep waves being generated as the larger sets came through. Once set for my run, I turned on chest cam, picked my set and went for it -- yes, I would be first on the beach, hopefully the right way up. See what I mean...

Decision time. The idea is to not arrive at the right hand outer corner of the rock wall at the same time as a wave like this does. (Still from video).

Yes, my surf zone transit went OK. I was picked up by a fairly large wave which obviously, to me, was going to steepen and break very quickly. I opted to drop off the back of the wave before it broke and achieved this by digging the paddle in deep on the starboard side and holding it there as the wave tried to push me forward. (Much as Jaro achieved at Sunshine Beach recently, although his was a much larger and more dangerous wave.) Having dropped off the back I continued the transit only to be overtaken by a second (broken) wave which threatened to roll me so I opted to dig the paddle in again to broach the kayak and ride the wave in sideways. It worked. I quickly dragged the yak up the beach and selected a position to video Brian, who, I knew, was about to come through.

He picked his run quite well but a tricky little wave caught up with him...

Did Brian get dunked? You'll have to ask him... (still from video)

It's Harry's turn and I'm still standing in the surf with the camera. He picked a small set very well, but, as I said it was tricky...

Harry looks like he's got it all under control... Note the second small wave building on the lower one. (Still from video)

Jaro was taking his time (and he's entitled to -- no one should ever rush a break like this, especially when your yakking mates, with a video cam, plus holidaymakers, are looking on). But soon he was ready. You could see that he'd recognized that it was quite nasty and as a result he was being extra cautious -- justifiably so. Then off he went -- like a rocket. I couldn't believe the speed he generated (perhaps helped by a little wave) but in a flash he was through the worst of the break zone and in the clear...

Jaro digs deep to escape the following wave, and did so. The video proves it... (Still from video)

So now it was time to examine and compare the catch. here are the individual take-home bags...

My fish...

Harry's fish...

Jaro's fish...

Brian's fish (including the best of the day -- 57cm).

And here we are lined up on Jaro's Profish, after a 15km ocean paddle. From left: Brian (madcowes); Harry (dirty harry); Jaro (jaro); Kev (sunshiner). For information, most, possibly all, fish were caught on soft plastics.

Ahhh, spring in Noosa.

Thanks for a great day, guys. Looks like the weather's going to shut us down for a few days but we'll be out there again soon.

Look out for the surf zone video, coming up soon. When I get time... (Now added, below)

VIDEO: Find out whether madcowes got wet. Stare in disbelief at Jaro's speed. Be awed by Harry's grace. Learn from the masters of Middle Groyne!
Video: 2:59 Shot 16Sep09. Some varying techniques of dealing with a small surf break in different fishing kayaks.

late addition:
Observation from Brian:
All ten fish were taken on soft plastics.
My fish were all on 5" white snapbacks on a 5/8 jighead
All fish were hooked directly under the yak, I'm casting about 25m and let out a little more line,
So I'm presuming all my fish were taken very close to the bottom.

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

JS, snapper, 2 vids, 15Sep09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 15sep09
Date: Tuesday, 15 September 2009 3:12 PM

The weather was just TOO good to resist. But in recognition that I'd probably be going again on Wednesday I opted to head for the shorter journey to Jew Shoal and also for an early return -- back on the beach by 1100. Jim decided to join me.

Also at the carpark and beach this morning was Roger Hunt, of Tewantin, who'd got out of a warm bed at 0515 to see for himself how Noosa Yakkers do a Middle Groyne launch. His motive was that he wants to join us soon and he'd brought his camera as an aide memoire. Jim and I both spent some time with Roger explaining the arcane art of yak surf launching and rigging and then demonstrated with a live launch into a very forgiving beach break. It's not always so easy, Roger.

0549hrs. Two Espris line up for launch in a very easy break. Jim adjusts his leggings.

30 sec Video:

Before long we were on our 3.5km paddle to Jew Shoal...

About 2km into the paddle it became apparent that we had a land breeze less than 5 knots, pretty typical for this sort of weather, and as usual it was coming from the south west. So I headed for a mark on the SW corner of Jew Shoal, intent on drifting right across to the NE corner, propelled by the breeze.

The plan was fine, and the sonar was showing lots of small fish schooled up in the ~20m water. Unfortunately, after 45 minutes during which I'd drifted some 800m exactly as I'd hoped I would, I hadn't had a touch. I'd seen several turtles bobbing around in the small swell and an eagle ray which cleared the water nearby twice in quick succession, as they do, but no takers for my offerings.

That drift done, I opted to drift again, parallel to the first drift and further to the SE this time. As I turned to head for my new start point I noticed Jim was fairly close to my planned track so I decided to deviate slightly from my line to go over and have a morning chat. Just as I was getting close to him he hooked a fish large enough to put a reasonable bend in his SP outfit. At this stage, with the sun still low and partly obscured by cloud, I'd opted for helmet cam (still in the experimental phase), so as I approached Jim I reached up and turned on the camera then pressed the shutter for some video.

30 sec Video:

0742hrs. Jim displays his very freshly caught snapper.

With this encouragement I figured that I was still in with a reasonable chance to get a take-home fish. I subsequently tried several places, all of which my sonar revealed had heaps of small fish but by 0930 I'd caught only a couple of the very beautiful but undersized black tipped cod. Jim had reported by radio that his pilchard bait, dressed in a frilly squid outfit, had gone off big time as he'd been relocating to a new drift line. This bait was on his heavy outfit so he was well set up to do significant battle but apparently the fight lasted only a minute or so as the creature on the other end had apparently managed to inhale the pilchard, three ganged hooks, the squid skirt, a heavy sinker, a couple of swivels and the wire trace as the line was bitten through above the wire trace. This was probably a shark. Anyway, that's fishing...

I announced to Jim that I'd be leaving at 10am unless the action suddenly picked up. Jim opted to do the same and so when the appointed time arrived I let Jim know and departed for Middle Groyne on a glassy sea for the land breeze had dropped away some thirty minutes earlier, killing our drift.

So that's all there is to report today. The surf break was up a little compared with earlier but both Jim and I came through without fuss. I must admit though that I stood with camera running while Jim came in, hoping that he'd misjudge the break and pick the wave of the hour, which he didn't.

OK, who's up for tomorrow? I suggest Sunshine Reef, but a launch at MG as the surf is pretty big at Sunshine Beach this afternoon and will possibly get slightly bigger overnight. Might be some good camera opportunities tomorrow when we come back through the surf ;-) ...

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

SR snapper, 13Sep09

From: "kevin long"
Subject: fishing today -- 13Sep09
Date: Sunday, 13 September 2009 4:37 PM

How good is that kayak fishing weather? By next Saturday I plan to be knackered...

We knew about this yesterday so Brian, Jaro and I were at Middle Groyne at oh dark thirty this morning, intent on hunting for our favourite prey, fish.

Brian negotiating the tricky little break at the mouth of the channel, 0545 this morning.

In order to successfully get through without getting VERY wet it was necessary this morning (low tide), to hold in the deeper water just behind and to the right of Brian in the pic above. This tactic allows the paddler to dart out and through the opening as soon as a lull is judged to have arrived. We all transited safely and pretty dryly and soon were out the back, setting up. The agreed target was Sunshine Reef (yes, again). I took my time this morning as I rationalised that I'd fish the closest bit of Sunshine Reef I knew of -- the place where I'd nailed the sweetlip a couple of days ago.

So we travelled independently but in touch by VHF radio. I noted, on arrival at my chosen spot at around 0655, that I was all alone. Jaro and Brian were out of sight to the east somewhere. Shortly after I arrived a very fine aluminium fishing boat carrying three punters inside and the painted word "SHIMANO" on the stern roared up and hove to nearby. The skipper asked for directions to Sunshine Reef. I briefly explained that they were on it and that they could go many kilometres north, east and south and still be on it. I also asked them if they were watching their sonar. "Flat bottom!" the skipper yelled and slammed the throttle lever forward, roaring off to the east. At the speed he was travelling the bottom could scarcely display on his sonar as anything but flat, especially given the unradical depth variations typical of Sunshine Reef. At paddling speed, the depth variations are readily seen on sonar. In fact, I'd just deliberately moved, in 100m horizontally, from water 30m deep to water 27m deep -- the shallower water being a sure sign out here of reef.

I cast my first soft plastic just before 7am. By 9.30am I, alone of the three kayak fishers, was still fishless. Brian called in first and reported a nice snapper, then sometime later Jaro announced that he also had a snapper. But I was reluctant to move on, mainly because there were signs of bait fish on the sonar and also because I wanted to get to know this bit of reef which had last week yielded to me my best ever sweetlip.

Sometime just after 9.30am I had a hookup which felt like a sweetlip and in fact, it was, about 45cm long -- a very nice keeper. It floated languidly after a tiring battle, not 2m from the yak. I reached for the gaff as I started to draw him toward me to deliver the coup de grace. It was not to be, however, as suddenly the hook pulled free, just out of gaff range. For a couple of seconds the sweetie lolled on the surface then he collected his minimal wits, flexed his body and slowly swam away back to his home. Fair enough!! But I HAD been fishing for over two and a half hours without a touch!

But there was nothing for it but to continue fishing, after all, perhaps they were coming on the bite. I cast again, retrieved gently over a period of a couple of minutes, then cast again. While my lure sinks gently, I usually keep an eye on the slack line leading from my rod tip into the water. I was doing so when the line suddenly started to become non-slack, in fact quite tight. This was some 20 seconds after my offering had commenced its descent in the 27m deep water. This was a typical snapper "take". I imagine that the fish is cruising around, probably near the bottom, and has a great view above and a good, not quite so great, view below. Anything silhouetted against the bright surface, especially if moving gently, must attract their attention. The instinct to attack the falling object has allowed the species to survive and thrive for millenia but every now and again, these days, the object is a deliberate ploy by a human hunter to catch food, namely snapper. And so it proved in this instance. In seconds the line was pouring off my reel against the lightly set drag as my offering had successfully found a pointhold in the fish's mouth. After a couple of minutes I was 90% sure this was a snapper.

Above, still from chest-cam video taken during the later part of the snapper tussle. Noosa Head in the background.

And the longer the fight went on the more I concluded that the fish was better than the average snapper we usually capture around these parts and the more concerned I became that the fish might escape. So I backed off the drag a little. Good move. This had the effect of wearing the fish out so that before much longer my snapper was under control and clearly visible several metres below the yak as, all fight now gone from him, I gently brought him to the gaff. With a successful gaffing I was on the board at last and soon announced to my companions that I had a 55cm (an underestimate as it later turned out) snapper in the yak.

0955hrs. Vanquished and tethered snapper.

The hunter's lure which led to the snapper's demise

Above: Great white hunter, Jaro, offshore from Sunshine Beach in his Profish

By 11am I'd had no more action and, other than a small finny scad capture by Brian, neither had my companions. So we agreed that at 1130 we'd head for home. By 11am the breeze had dropped off and the air temperature was beginning to rise to the uncomfortable level. So noon found us half way home, paddling along in perfect conditions. Brian arrived and ran the surf zone first. I managed to pick a lull in the procession of waves and had a smooth ride up to the beach, as did Jaro, a few minutes later in his Profish. The Sunday beach crowd was quite large and curious so we all spent some time answering the usual questions, signing autographs and being photographed by people visiting from far away and strange places, such as Tasmania ;-).

On the beach. Crowds had not yet arrived.

My snapper on the mat. 60cm.

Brian's take home catch. The skinny fish is a finny scad, a comparatively rare catch

Jaro caught and kept a snapper which measured 40cm but he'd prepared it for the table before I could photograph it.

For those interested, here's the tether system. I carry five of the S/S clips. Once secured in the fish's jaw, they are threaded on to the keeper rope (the blue cord). Presuming the keeper rope is secured to the yak and the clip doesn’t release, captured fish cannot escape or be lost overboard.

Now to get the yak ready for tomorrow. Anyone coming?

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