Day 6 - 11th April 1999
Another great fishing session was to eventuate on our 6th day in the Northern Territory. As depicted by the green route, the mornings fishing took us to Watson Island again, with Mark driving the boat and the gang trolling, waiting with expectation of a hookup. Given the surroundings, magnificent weather, and perfect water conditions, it was never long before the action was upon us.
There were basically three methods of fishing we were employing while out and about on the water. The first, was trolling. As mentioned previously, one of the key issues to successful trolling is the speed at which you are travelling. Any speed between 4 to 8 knots is fine, however we managed about 5 knots, at a brisk walking pace. We would occasionally vary the speed of the troll by either throttling the motor up or down, so as to not give any predictability to the lures that were being used.
We also kept the lures at about 3 to 8 boat lengths away from the boat. Any closer than 3 boat lengths, and your lures ends up in the props wake. Any further than 8 boat lengths, and it can be a struggle landing your fish, due to the amount of line that is out, especially if it is a large one.
The second method was fishing while anchored or drift fishing. We preferred fishing while anchored, using bait strips and hand lines. Drift fishing caused problems where your rigs would either snag on weed, or, as your rig was moving on the bottom with the drift of the boat, you would mistake a line jerk for an actual fish bite.
The third method was casting and retrieval of the lure. This method was generally preferred when working close inshore around rock outcrops and mangroves. It was also a good time for each of us to display our casting prowess.
While trolling, Coho hooked onto a huge Queenfish. The aerial acrobatics that this Queenfish offered to Coho was second to none. It jumped at least half a dozen times out of the water, trying to shake the lure off. This is definitely one fish Coho will not forget catching. It weighed in at 7.2 kg.
As Coho landed his prize, we could see that a school of brethren Queenfish had followed it in. Mark said to quickly slap your lures on the water to try for another hookup. I cast my lure out about 15 feet away from the boat, and the next thing I saw was a sight I will never forget. I actually witnessed a Queenfish take my lure, 2 feet below the surface of the water, and 6 feet away from the boat. Even when thinking about it now, I can still replay those events in slow motion in my mind. The unfortunate thing was, as I proceeded to haul the fish out of the water by grabbing the wire trace, the fish shook itself loose from the lure, denying me my well fought prize.
Trolling back towards home base for lunch however produced for yours truly a consolation prize - a nice Morgan's Cod, which was subsequently released.
However, trolling this area did cause a minor setback as we worked our way through this stretch of water between Watson and North Island. If you remember, on Day 2, I hit a small outcrop of reef. There was some damage to the prop, as a 1 inch piece of aluminium was ripped off from one of the blades. The damage thankfully did not appear to have any serious adverse effects on the performance of the prop. Well, personally, after we explained all this to Mark, I believed that Mark thought I had initially trolled too close to the reef. Well guess what - as we were trolling back to home base, we ended up hitting the same outcrop of reef, and Mark was driving the boat this time. His comment was Shit, I didn't know that was there ! and I said Don't worry, I did - 4 days ago !!. Luckily, there was no damage at all to the prop.
Prior to leaving Adelaide for this fishing trip, I promised my son, David, that I would try and look for various articles like sea shells, bones etc to bring back home for him. David shows an amazing fascination for the sea and its creatures. Consequently Coho, Chinook and I decided, as part of our afternoon's fishing session, to take the boat out to a bay called Paradice Bay. We were told by Jenny that we would find a nice assortment of shells on the bay's foreshore. The rocks around this bay had also been known to provide natural cache of oysters. A couple of screw drivers and hammers were also in order, for a potential feast of natural oysters.
During my trek of this area, I came across a huge, dried up creek. As the wet season sets in, creeks just like this one are overflowing with fresh rain water, that finds its way out to sea. It measured about 20 ft wide by about 5 ft deep. I was told that there were dozens of runoffs just like this one all over the island. Sites like these allow you to truly appreciate the environmental and weather conditions that occur and that people must endure in the Northern Territory.
For the afternoon's fishing (as shown by the Red Route on the map above), we decided to try and catch some Threadfin Salmon. There was a nice channel that ran along Johnson Island out towards the channel between North and Watson Island. We were to essentially anchor in this channel, and livebait fish our rigs. Trolling back from Paradice Bay to Johnson Island was extremely relaxing, as can be seen on the left photo. I wont show you the shot that was taken of me as I was driving the boat, as I look like a beached whale, though both Coho and Chinook talk about me as Captain Ahab and his harpoon !. I definitely wont go into that !
Once anchored in the channel off Johnson Island, Chinook and I had setup some long shanked No. 5 hook rigs, with Barracuda strips as bait. Coho was to use his float rig, similar to this one, which basically comprised of a float and a single No. 8/0 hook.
I caught the first decent sized bait fish, gave it to Coho who then cast it down current and down wind from the boat. The float was sitting just nicely in the water, when suddenly it started to move slightly erratically. This was a sign that there was a predatory fish about, and the bait fish was becoming agitated. Suddenly, there was a huge bite on the bait, then total slack on the rig. When Coho reeled the rig in, it showed that something had bitten his bait from the head down. The bite had just missed the hook by 2 millimetres. Judging by the type and size of bite, we suspected it was a black tipped reef shark.
Chinook caught a small Trevally, hooked him up on Coho's rig, and cast him out. Instead of the float travelling down wind and down current, the whole rig raced off in the opposite direction. Suddenly, about 50 metres from the boat, there were two huge hits and splashes on the rig, a hookup occurred, and just by looking at the acrobatics of the hooked fish, we could tell it was a Queenfish. As Coho reeled him in, Chinook was standing by with the gaff. and I was ready in taking the memorable snap shot. Truly a team effort, and the sashimi was great that night !
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