Let There Be Whiting
It was the end of May 1998, the weather was looking good, and a return to PHFC was in order. Seeing that the last trip to PHFC was a great success ( see Snappers Galore ), we decided to return and try our luck at KG Whiting. This trip had been planned literally straight after our first encounter fishing off of Pt Hughes, and we had 7 guys lined up to go.
Guess What !!!!! Murphy's Law struck ( If something can go wrong, then it will ) ! Of the original seven who had FIRMLY and IRREVOCABLY committed themselves to going on this trip, 5 guys pulled out at the last minute, leaving only my Brother-in-Law Santi ( who I've nicknamed Chuck ) and I in a huge lurch. Don't forget that the charter service requires a minimum of $400 (or 4 people @ $100 each) for hiring, and we desperately need another 2 guys, at extremely short notice.
The reasons given for the pullout were:
- Coho was doing the end of month billing run on his invoice system.
- Chinook ( who designed the invoice system ) had to hold Coho's hand during the billing run !
- Brenton Manning ( Shrimp ) had some birthday party to go to.
- Frank (a work colleague) had to move house - or he received an eviction notice (Joke) !
- Roger The Carpenter pulled out because Coho pulled out !
It's like a "Days of Our Lives" fiasco ! I was really urked off, as I desperately needed a fix of fishing. Luckily, Brenton's best mate Andrew Larner was available, and eagerly jumped at the chance to come along. I've been told that Andrew's nickname is for some reason "Captain Spurt", and I'll leave the reasoning for this to your imagination ! So we now have a Captain Spurt at fishSA.
The agenda for this trip was 1 days fishing and an overnight stay at Pt Hughes. We left home base at Gawler at 5.00am and after having a quick breakfast at Pt. Wakefield, we met up with PHFC at Pt. Hughes at exactly 8.00am. The skipper of the boat was a Gary Wahlstedt, Justin's Brother-in-Law. Justin is the owner/proprietor of PHFC. Justin coul'nt make it this time, as he had football commitments.
Being a local, Gary was extremely familiar with the fishing spots in and around Pt. Hughes, as well as the reefs in the Gulf and out past the "Steamer Channel". The trick with skippers is that you DON'T tell them where you want to go and what you want to catch. These guys are fully aware of what's biting, where they are biting, and in what quantity. If you want a good days catch, let them guide you, not the other way around !
Gary told us stories of a group they had, that demanded to go to the Steamer Channel for Snapper, even after they were told there was nothing out there at that time. After wasting nearly a full day catching seaweed, they finally listened to reason and were driven to a spot where KG Whiting were on. It pays to listen to your Skipper !
The whiting grounds around Pt. Hughes are easily reachable in a medium sized boat ie 16 ft half cabin, and it doesn't take long to traverse the waters to these grounds, about 15 minutes. Using cockles and tenderised squid for bait, the first several drop off points didn't produce many bites. The main reason for this, as Gary told us, was that the tide was running out of the Gulf. The incoming tide always produces better results.
The concept of boat fishing is that you are not restricted to one spot of fishing. If they are not biting at the spot you are in, MOVE ! The idea in having a boat is to move from point to point looking for the fish, till you hit pay dirt.
The waters around Pt. Hughes are well renowned for their Snapper and KG Whiting. As the season for Snapper finishes and they move out of the Gulf, the KG Whiting move in. Even though our rigs were setup for KG Whiting, Captain Spurt was fortunate enough to hook onto a Snapper. Snapper are a schooling fish. If one is hooked, then lost during the struggle, the rest will bolt like dumb sheep, so it was crucial that Captain Spurt land this sucker, his first ever Snapper !
Chuck, ( Santi - my Brother-in-Law ), was doing quite nicely having already landed half a dozen nice sized KG Whiting, but then unfortunately he lived up to his newly given name, he chucked, vomited, puked, barfed, big time ! The waters were relatively calm, hardly any wind, and Santi even took the precaution of taking seasick tablets 1 hr before the outing, but to no avail.
"Chuck the Chucker chucked like no man has chucked before !".
Santi says he was possessed ( as in the Exorcist ) with fishing. Luckily his head wasn't spinning around at the time ! Irrespective of all this, Chuck's haul of KG Whiting definitely made up for the inconvenience and discomfort of hurling his lunch into the ocean !
One of the highlights of the trip was sighting a pod of dolphins, which accompanied us as we were traversing the waters between various way points. These creatures were an amazing sight to see, so close to the boat, swimming and jumping just ahead of the bow. The only drawback was, that the fish kept well away from us while the dolphins kept us company, and after 10 minutes, the dolphins left us to our own devices.
Another common species of fish around Pt. Hughes is the Pt. Jackson Shark. These creatures are very docile, offer no fight what so ever, are not deemed as edible and are usually released when caught. Chuck was able to land this one using a whiting rig, and cockle as bait. The feeling on the line when one is hooked is that of a clump of weed, offering little or no resistance when reeled in. In some instances, they do produce a run, but this is but a rarity.
The afternoon's change in tide started to produce more bites and better results in KG Whiting. One thing I did notice though, is that as we fished at spots closer to the shore line, the whiting seemed to get slightly smaller, and the bites were not as aggressive on your bait as they had been further out to sea. The combination of using both cockle and squid seemed to help, and most of the whiting were caught on the bottom hook. We were using No. 3 hooks, with barbed shanks to hold the Cockles better. At the end of the day, we ended up with 47 KG Whiting, 4 Red Mullet, 1 Leatherjacket, 1 Snapper and 1 Rock Cod.
The service that PHFC offers is second to none. We were staying the night at Pt. Hughes, and we hadn't booked a reservation at the local pub for tea. We also wished for the "Filleting services", all of which was arranged with a simple mobile call from the boat by Gary. After reaching base camp, we were met by a lady named Judy, a dear lady who is Moonta Bay's quickest guru filleter. She was able to fillet our 54 fish in 55 minutes !
Years ago, Judy worked in a fish factory, processing fish with the speed and finesse that would make you green with envy, an art of which she hasn't lost. Had we filleted our fish, it would have taken 3 times as long, and half the meat would have been left on the bones.
All up, we ended up with approximately 30 kg of pure KG Whiting meat. Judy was telling us a story where as a fish processor, she butterfly filleted 500 garfish in 6 hrs. That's one fish every 83 seconds. Do you know how hard it is to butterfly fillet garfish ? - VERY HARD ! Well done Judy, we really appreciate your work in filleting our fish, and hope that you enjoy that pub meal !!
That night, we ventured to the Moonta Pub, where each of us had a great meal of a dozen oysters kilpatrick for entree, a peppered steak for main course, and a cup of great coffee. We hit the sack pretty early that night, at around 9.30pm, and the next morning, headed back home feeling refreshed, sober and content with the thoughts of a humble fisherman, coming home to feed his family with the filleted spoils of the previous day's catch !
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