Subject: Fishing today -- 27Nov09 -- good snapper
Date: Friday, 27 November 2009 2:58 PM
. baitfish galore . big, big snapper . scott joins us . huge toado . impromptu dip .
The last time we could get offshore was a week ago and the results were then very ordinary (I wasn't able to go and no report was written, I believe). So several of us had been watching a window of opportunity which Seabreeze had provided for us today. It was identifiable several days ago as a 4-hour spell of light winds early on Friday, with strong northerlies forecast to return by noon. Jaro had to go to Melbourne for his son's wedding this morning so couldn't go today, and Hollywood is in the Cook Islands, paddling his heart out for Noosa. With Whalebait on school delivery and pickup duties every Friday, our usual crew was depleted.
Even so, by Thursday evening Jimbo, turtleboy and I had declared our intentions to get amongst them, especially as the time draws nigh when the pelagics hit the bay -- any day now it could be mayhem out there. Mainly because of the brief window of light winds and because the wind that was forecast for later was from the north, I opted to head for Jew Shoal, which, if the forecast held, would give me a tail wind the whole 3.7km back home. I set my launch time for 0430-ish while Jimbo and turtleboy opted to lie in for another 45mins or so.
So at 0400hrs, still in my pyjamas, I checked Seabreeze. Perfect. Brekky was over in a few minutes and I was dressed in my yakking best and out the door, arriving at the MG carpark at 0430. The waves breaking against the end of the groyne weren't especially worrying and after examining the wave patterns while completing my final preparations on the beach, I launched without pause, getting soaked by the steep shorebreak but easily avoiding the occasional large wave breaking at the end of the gutter we use as an exit to the ocean.
My set up time 'out the back' is not getting any shorter, what with a new, bulky camera to tote and take care of. Nevertheless, I was soon paddling north through a small swell and light offshore breeze toward Jew Shoal, now some 3.2km away on the horizon, according to my GPS.
It was about 1.5km out from my target when I first spotted them. Terns and shearwaters were wheeling and fluttering in a concentrated area right on my track. It takes me about 15 minutes to travel 1.5km and they were still active when I arrived. The reason for their excited behaviour was immediately obvious -- terrified balls of baitfish were being harried by predators and pushed up to the surface. Below the surface would be a dense pack of tiny fish, but above, the part that I could see, consisted of a 50cm width low "mound" as silvery as mercury and in constant churning movement as the baitfish on the ball's outside and top strived to get to the comparative safety of the inside and centre of the ball.
On retrieving my trolled hardbody lure I discovered which predators were likely most numerous. A tiny bonito about 20cm long had attacked the lure which was not much shorter than itself. It had been hooked for a while and was dead. Into the footwell it went for possible use as bait, later.
A few casts of a slug into the various melees surrounding me attracted nothing but some half-hearted bumps and so I became convinced that any large predators (eg spotted mackerel or longtail tuna) were not feeding on the surface, but could be down deep. I changed to a soft plastic, reasoning that snapper and sweetlip might be picking up the odd injured fish drifting toward the bottom. I also paddled upwind, watching the sounder as I went, intent on selecting a suitable drift on which to focus my attention. Plenty of opportunities were revealed by the sonar's digital display. Masses of baitfish were packed into clumps, filling most of the water column from 5m down to the bottom, between 10m and 17m depth. Occasionally the arch of a larger fish or two could be seen around the edge of the displayed masses.
By now, Jimbo had called me up by radio and, based on the info that I'd given him, had also opted to try Jew Shoal first. I'd started my drift and was about 100m or so into it, fishing with only one line, a cast SP outfit, when Jimbo called me again. I told him what I was doing and what I was seeing on the sonar, while occasionally, with my rod hand, imparting some movement into the jighead and soft plastic drifting about 10m down and slightly behind me. While I was speaking to Jimbo, the rod in my hand suddenly came to life and bent heavily toward the reef bottom and line started pouring off the spool against the drag. I hurriedly begged off more radio transmissions and devoted my whole attention to this strike.
A tuna, for sure, I thought, as the 6kg monofilament line continued to pour from the spool, the yak's bow was pulled round into the westerly breeze and towing commenced. The run continued, in a straight line but after a few minutes, it slowed and I felt a couple of headshakes more typical of a snapper than a tuna. "Can this be a big snapper?" I thought. After five minutes I was gradually gaining the upper hand and I decided that this was no tuna as there had been only one long strong run. I was also fishing with monofilament straight to the hook so the prospect of the fish's being a (very toothy) mackerel seemed unlikely. After around 8 minutes I first saw the fish, down several metres in the early morning light. Not a tuna or mackerel, possibly a snapper, possibly a sweetlip.
Very soon the question was answered for me, a very solid snapper lay, thoroughly beaten, next to the yak. The day before, partly as a result of Jaro's influence, but mainly because I needed a means of handling larger fish for photography purposes, I'd bought a lip gripper. This was now brought into action for the very first time as I didn't want to punch holes in this fish and ruin its photogenicity. The lower jaw held securely by the lip gripper, the snapper was dragged into the footwell where I let out a loud "Whoopee" and started to get the new camera out. This fish was clearly at least 70cm and was thoroughly deserving of the attention of my new Canon G11 (in waterproof case).
I spent some time taking a lot of photos before securing and stowing the fish and returning to the fishing. Shortly afterward jimbo, fishing nearby on the same drift, reported a hookup. I paddled over to get a pic or two.
Turtleboy, who'd arrived about 30 minutes after jimbo, had picked up another yakker in the carpark and invited him to tag along with him. This, as it turned out, was Scott, from Brisbane, mounted in a red Prowler Elite. I spent a couple of minutes getting acquainted (we're a friendly lot, we noosa yakkers) and was pleased to hear he'd already caught a small keeper snapper.
Shortly after this, I had a most unusual hookup down deep. Clearly the fish had some weight and was able to swim faster than say red rock cod which would never qualify for the fish olympics. But it was no snapper nor sweetlip. Soon up popped a huge toado, the sparse remains of my soft plastic clamped between its fiercesome beak-like teeth.
I'd decided that I'd be home early for a change, so soon after this headed for home, the just freshening northerly breeze giving me a couple of hundred metres free ride by the time I'd arrived off the launch point at around 0920. Timing the beach return through the waves was important to retaining dignity, especially, as I found out half way through, while surfing in on a nice little wave, because whalebait was frolicking in the waves thereabouts no doubt hoping to see something embarrassing.
I glided up to the beach, dignity intact, and whalebait splashed his way over to me. Holding up the tiny bonito, I allowed him to ask "Is that all?" before directing his attention to the fish box in the tank well of my Espri.
We weighed the fish and it went 5kg, on the dot. Then there was a fight among the ladies on the beach about who'd be photographed with the fish. Eventually I calmed them down and settled for this young matron who won me over by saying that her husband would have liked to be photographed with such a fish. I know, I'm an old softie, but at my age I can get away with it.
By the time all this had been sorted out, jimbo and turtleboy had arrived off the beach. I hung around just long enough to watch turtleboy perform a lazy aquabatic half-roll in the small shore break. Nice way to cool off on a hot day.
Thanks for going, jimbo, turtleboy and scott. Thanks for taking the pic, whalebait.
Tuesday and Wednesday are looking good for next week. Watch this space.
Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner