Wind: gentle SW early, dropping to calm by 0900
Swell: 1m ESE
Water temp: 23°C
Current: at Jew Shoal, none
Launch point: Middle Groyne
Participants: jaro, jimbo, tunny, diesel, sunshiner
Keen Angler Program: Frame donated
All five of us turned up and launched over a period of about 30 minutes, with the last to launch, jaro, being on the water by 0500, just as the sun could be seen peeping over the horizon. Although the swell was dropping, the tide state and the sand bank right at the end of the groyne made for some pretty big breaking waves, certainly big enough to stop a kayak dead if caught. Good timing was needed and everyone got through OK.
All went to Jew Shoal except jimbo, who headed for A-Bay Reef. In front was diesel, who called me up for a fish ID as soon as he arrived. It turned out that an Australian bonito (55cm) had grabbed his trolled hardbody on arrival. This was the first bonito he'd seen, so another new species was added to his quite lengthy list. As usual on arrival I searched for patches of baitfish on the sounder but could find none, except the usual butter bream and similar which hang in the shallowest section, just SW of The Pinnacles. There were no signs of surface activity; understandable, really, given the lack of baitfish.
So we at Jew Shoal spread out, each doing his own thing. Jaro was baitfishing in the deeps to the north while diesel had a bet each way and mainly hung around The Pinnacles. Tunny and I fished solely with soft plastics, mostly drifting initially to the north and east of The Pinnacles, using the light SW breeze to push us across that part of the shoal.
My first casts with the SP were just before 0600 and I was hopeful that I'd nab a snapper as it was about time they showed up. But as time went on without even a touch I started to wonder…
Jimbo first got our spirits up, I think, probably around 0645. He'd boated a "nice sweetie" out at A-Bay reef, a fair way from Jew Shoal, but at least he was on the board. Then jaro by radio asked the minimum size limit for grassies (30cm). He'd boated a 31cm model and as Carolyn, his better half, loves fish and hadn't had a fresh fish meal in ages, he decided to keep it for the table.
As for me, I'd had a couple of half-hearted hookups from little tackers but nothing else. It looked like being a quiet day, and we've had a lot of these in the last few months.
To maximise my chances, I was both casting a lightly weighted SP, letting it sink gradually before jigging it back to the yak, and also running a second rod, held in the stern rod holder, carrying a SP on a heavier jighead which trailed behind me, 10m down. I can tell it's at that depth because I run a dark coloured 10m mono leader at the end of the light coloured braid on that outfit. All I have to do is settle the highly visible leader knot at or near the surface and I'm assured that the rig won't snag, as long as the depth is greater than 10m, which it mostly is, at Jew Shoal.
Time: 0715. My turn for some action. I'm in 19 metres depth. Just as diesel was paddling over to me to say hello we both heard the ratchet of my trailing outfit scream. What a lovely sound. The sight of the severely bent rod is pretty good too. For very good reasons I set the drag on the trailing outfit very light: (1) Too tight, and the yak might be rolled as the rod is pointing out at 45° from the yak horizontal axis (2) Too tight and I can't get the rod out of the rod holder, at arm's length behind me.
Thump, thump, on the rod. It's in my hand now and I call it for a snapper. Bewdy! Crank up the drag. Yep, it's almost certainly a snapper, SP taken 9 metres above the bottom. Thump, thump! Then I spot my fish. A nice grass sweetlip. Surprise, surprise! Welcome surprise, though! Several times I have heard of grassies taking shallow running trolled HB lures in relatively deep water (both tarzan and eyetag have told me this), but all grassies I have hooked before this one have been very close to the bottom.
It's always a relief to get on the board and this capture perked me up considerably. Besides, my wife Mary prefers grassies to snapper when it comes to eating them. It's a while since I've been able to bring a grassie home.
Things go quiet for an hour or so. Jaro gets another small grassy (kept) and I remark on the radio that I'm surprised that no snapper have turned up, it's all grassies. It must have been around 0845 when jaro announced that he'd just caught and released an undersized snapper. Shortly afterward diesel reports that he's boated a 40cm or so snapper and shortly after him jaro reports a small but keeper snapper too. "Suddenly they're biting!" says jaro.
By now, 0900, I've moved into the southern part of the shoal, an area I rarely fish, for no particular reason. Here, to the east, there's a shallow patch of 12m or so, gradually dropping to 18-20m further west. It's dead calm, so no drift. My cast SP is hanging vertically below near the bottom at 20m impaled on a skinny hook with a 1/8 ounce weighted head. My usual procedure in this situation is to "bounce" the jig around near the bottom. I'm hoping for a snapper, but jetlag (I was in London this time last week) and boredom are taking their toll and I even contemplated heading home around 0900 after three hours of fishing for only one fish.
One second I'm a dozy automaton mechanically lifting the rod occasionally, the next I'm fully alive. This was a typical snapper strike. A whack from nowhere and a high speed straight run. There's no need to try to turn snapper; just let them run; don't be tempted to crank up the drag; just apply gentle pressure and stay cool. The fish will slow eventually, and you'll be in control as long as you have sufficient line in reserve. After what seems an age, the fish has stopped taking line and I can feel the thumps which indicate a pretty decent fish. The spool is filling again as line is won back. Then I see the leader, but the fish is directly below the yak and out of my view until the last couple of seconds when it comes to the surface, exhausted. Beautiful fish, big and handsome and pink and silver. The gaff does its job and it's in the hatch. Yee-hah!
Once the photo session was over I chucked the rig out again after tidying it up a little and almost immediately had another similar strike but the hook pulled as I think it may have been over stressed from the first fight. I wasn't too disappointed as I was very satisfied with my catch anyway. The remarkable thing was that the snapper had come on the bite all over the shoal at around the same time. We'd had no snapper action at all before 0845 then four or five snapper hits in the next 30 minutes over a wide area.
Around 10:30 we returned to the beach fairly close together, including jimbo from A-Bay Reef and as usual attracted some attention from the few beach goers present.
Some beach pics
Author Kayak Fishing Manual for iPad and Mac (click linked text to view)
Stealth Supalite X, yellow/orange