Wind: Calm to 5 knot NE later
Swell: 1.5 m ESE
Current: at Jew Shoal, north to south
Launch point: Middle Groyne
Participants: kahuna, lazybugger, jaro, stormin, soren, sunshiner
Here it was, 24 Feb and, other than eyetag's brilliant pair of spanglies in tough conditions last weekend at Stradbroke Island, outside our catchment area, Noosa Yakkers were possibly about to score an offshore donut for an entire month, an unprecedented situation. This offshore donut was about to come about because the weather had been so extreme that only two viable offshore opportunities were presented. On the first of these, 10Feb, several desperate Noosa Yakkers hit Laguna Bay but had to scurry home wet, embarrassed and fishless. What is more, a quick look at the weather forecast for the rest of February indicated slim chances of getting out. Could we throw the monkey off today?
Thankfully, the forecast for calm conditions was accurate and a reasonable swell completed the picture. It was go at 4:00 am, for a 5:00 am launch. Today I managed to reclaim my second favourite parking spot and was down at the beach with yak in a jiffy where jaro was about to launch. Soren and lazybugger were completing their preparations in the carpark and at least one more Noosa Yakker, stormin, had indicated he'd turn up later.
Even though we were in the flood phase of the tide, with about another hour to go before full, there were still waves closing out our narrow exit. But the lulls were readable and these were the best conditions offered for a month so how could we turn back now. Jaro paddled straight out cleanly without a pause, just at the end of a lull. Fifteen seconds or so behind jaro I was next. The Middle Groyne express pushed me out along the channel and, as I expected, a big set arrived causing me to back paddle at the end of the wall, as I've often had to do. Five waves went through before the lull invited me to go, which allowed me to dry bum it today. It felt good to get out in the bay again in windless conditions, even if the usually clear water was murky. This was another difficulty we faced today and much of this month, the seasonal rainfall in the Noosa River catchment was forcing the river to give up its store of tea coloured, tannin stained fresh water reserves which were now pouring into our bay and turning that area into a no-go zone for pelagic predators. So today our goal was to find the clean water boundary, hopefully within range of our craft.
Jew Shoal offered the best prospect, I thought. With Soren and lazybugger now safely launched also, the four of us turned for Jew Shoal as soon as we were individually ready. Paddling out was dead easy as the sea was unruffled and only slightly lumpy from the swell rolling into the bay. My trolled hardbody lure went all the way to the shoal without attracting any attention. Nor was there any surface action visible, and only one tern on the way out. But one good tern deserves another and there were plenty visible once out at Jew Shoal, where the water was still murky at The Pinnacles. The terns, however were flocking further out to the north and north east and I pushed on toward them, eventually finding the clean water boundary about 800m further out.
By now we were aware that stormin and kahuna had launched and were heading for Jew Shoal also as they were briefed by radio as to our situation.
Here I decided to drift fish a while in 23m depth, hoping that some fishy predators would arrive to feed on the smaller critters the terns were obviously having for breakfast. The silence was remarkable and such that before long I heard the unmistakeable shoaling and splashing noises which emanate from surface-feeding fish activity unseen but somewhere in my vicinity. When I commented on this and the clean water to the rest of the gang by radio, they started to head toward where I indicated. Soren soon found the activity first, and got a few casts away into a shoal of what I took for bonito, or maybe tiny mac tuna, rippling and causing a mini commotion as they joined the breakfast bar feasting.
No serious fish were evident, however, although lazybugger reported a huge strike on a trolled SP (I think, correct me if I'm wrong, Scott). This strike had damaging consequences as the carbon rod, in the rod holder, was snapped off, leaving the butt section behind. Scott's rod leash did its job however, and being attached higher up the butt, near the reel, saved the rod and reel from a watery grave. The fish busted the lure off but at least lazybugger got his gear back.
Shortly after this, with no activity for me on the SPs I was using while drift fishing, I decided to open up my horizons a little by trolling the area where the terns were still wheeling and dipping. Barely had I begun this when a huge splash occurred about 30m in front of me and then a longtail tuna over a metre in length cleared the water two rod lengths away on my port side. This info was passed by radio to my companions. Now we knew what we were up against.
Jaro at this time was bottom fishing with bait around Jew Shoal and had been pretty quiet on the radio so I knew the action was slow in that department. Then up he came on the radio saying that he'd caught and released a 60cm mac tuna (cast a slug into a bustup which happened to pop up next to him).
By around 7:55 I had paddled along, following tern activity, all the way down to A-Bay. Here I found kahuna, doing the same as I was, following the edge of the giant plume of fresh water which was spilling out of Laguna Bay and being carried out around Hell's Gates to the south. Terns were picking up a feed here with only rare glimpses by us of fishy predators, including my second sighting for the day of a leaping longtail tuna, this one blasting out vertically close by. I'd just decided to head back toward Jew Shoal when jaro, who was still there, came up on the radio saying he was hooked up to something huge. No other detail was offered and as I was heading in that direction anyway I let him know how far away I was and that I was heading toward him. Knowing that jaro was fishing with bait, I presumed his monster fish was a shark, especially with the murky water around.
Every now and then jaro came up on the radio to give us a progress report. My interest level increased when he told us he'd seen the fish briefly and reckoned it was a tuna. On the way to his location I marked a couple of spots to the east of Jew Shoal where heavy concentrations of baitfish were evident. The water here was clearer than before so perhaps these bait schools were concentrating along the edge of the murky water.
I reached jaro about 8:35am, some 700m east of The Pinnacles, in relatively clean water. He'd been battling this fish for about 40 minutes by now and now I first learned that it had taken a large prawn bait, intended for snapper or sweetlip. The throbbing on the end of his rod tip indicated that he had a tuna on alright so I hung around to see the end of the encounter.
Having been through many such captures, jaro was in no hurry to finish off this fish. He just maintained pressure and gained line whenever he could. The fish hung under the yak most of the time and eventually the pressure did the job and he came peacefully to the side of the yak where jaro inserted the gaff into the operculum and lifted its head out of the water.
Once he'd secured the fish and brought it on board we set up the standard Noosa Yakkers big fish pic and here it is.
This was a good time for jaro and me to call a halt to our fishing for the day so we headed for the beach. All of our companions decided to also head in, but not all together.
The water level being lower than at launch time meant that the same swell as earlier was now causing the sand monster to become active. Waves were breaking 20-30 metres out from the groyne and prudence dictated that care be taken in timing. Lazybugger, soren and I all returned to the beach without drama. This left jaro out there getting ready for his run and, knowing that jaro usually has impeccable timing in this process I was not paying attention and did not have the camera running. I looked up briefly only to see him sideways in the break zone about to be engulfed by a breaking wave. Next instant he was upside down. He had failed to notice that the break zone started further out now than earlier. Soren and lazybugger were worried about the fish, which had been too long to be stored completely inside his fish box. I assured them that jaro would have the tuna secured to the kayak with at least two leashes and this proved to be the case when he eventually made it to the beach, a bit damp and a bit embarrassed, but with his fish. There's a lesson there for newbies. Always make sure that your valuable catch is very secure before running the surf zone.
A few beach pics