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  Gone Fishing  Stories

Snappers Galore

There are two dreams in life that I have when it comes to fishing, and they are catching Snapper and Barramundi. One of those dreams was realized on the 17th of March, 1998.

The planning for this trip was relatively easy and painless. Coho suggested we look into a boat charter trip, and recommended a fishing charter service at Pt Hughes, on the Yorke Peninsula. Our objective was to catch as many Snapper and KG Whiting that we could within a 2 day time limit. With fishing, there are no guarantees of decent catches, but we all felt that this was the best way to go, plus we had never been on a boat charter before.

The group comprised of Coho, Chinook, Roger Pillins - Coho's mate, (whom we will call Roger the Carpenter) and a work colleague of mine, Brenton Manning (whom I have nicknamed Shrimp). The rules of the game were to bring food, drink, bedding, clothes and ourselves, where as all fishing tackle, bait, rigs and rods were to be provided by the charter service. We all opted to bring our own rods and reels, in the hope of christening them with a Snapper.

We arrived at the charter service around 5.00 pm, and moved into our rented accommodation, where the first order of business was to stock the fridge with food and drink. We met up with the charter service owner, Justin Zwar, and he basically gave us the run down as to what was involved for fishing the next few days. Being a local, Justin was extremely familiar with the fishing spots in and around Pt. Hughes, as well as the reefs in the Gulf past the "Steamer Channel". The Steamer Channel is a body or channel of water that runs in the middle of the Gulf waters that ships traverse on their way to Pt. Augusta and Whyalla. This area can be quite abundant in fish, especially Snapper.

By 8.00 pm, we had all imbibed in a few amber fluids and Stolochnay, and Justin joined us for a few drinks. He wetted our appetite for fishing with stories of catches from previous charters, and was well aware of our expectations of catching Snapper. Coho, being the entrepreneurial businessman, tried to convince Justin that he should lean towards performance based agreements and enterprise bargaining as a means of business practice. Coho's argument was, should Justin be able to provide catches of fish above a certain threshold, then the fishermen would be required to pay an additional "tariff" above the normal charter hire fee. Coho felt that most people would be prepared to pay this "tariff", due to their high level of satisfaction in catching a good haul of fish. This argument effectively alienated Coho from the rest of the group, as we totally disagreed with this concept. Our philosophy was that a set service should be provided for a set fee, irrespective of whether there was to be a bumper catch of fish. Justin diplomatically agreed with various points on both sides of the argument, but the argument turned out to be a strategy in convincing Coho how wrong he actually was ! This "debate" continued till 2.00 am, much to Chinook's pleas of "I wanna go to sleep" !

The next morning produced a heavy demand for the humble aspirin, and we were waiting by the Pt. Hughes boat ramp at 8.15 am. Our first waypoint for the day was about 21 nautical miles SW from Pt. Hughes, and after dropping anchor, we all caught a Snapper, of which, Roger landed a nice 7.5 kg Snapper. The strike frequency of fish in this area was reasonable, but after an hour, we decided to weigh anchor and travel another 10 nm NW to our second waypoint, beyond the Steamer Channel. This area holds a natural reef, in about 32 metres of water, and the fishing here produced the best results for the whole trip. Our rigs were simple, but effective, using a standard Snapper Rig. The bait that was provided was squid, which was tenderised then cut into squares, and small tommies cut into halves. Pilchards were available, and the Snapper seemed to take these well, but the pilchards were too soft to stay on the hook after a single strike. In this instance, tommies produced the most bites.

Fishing over the second waypoint was furious, and we ended up staying here for about 4 hours. The Snapper did not even give our bait a chance to settle on the bottom, for within 3 seconds of reaching the bottom, you had a strike. Of all the times I've been fishing, this was the first time where I was physically tired of fishing, and was looking forward to hitting base camp for a rest. Justin also provides the services of a deck hand, who takes care of the anchor, prepares the bait, and even unhooks your fish off the line - talk about being spoilt ! Within 4 hours, we had caught close to 90 Snapper, ranging from 2 kg to 8 kg in size. The advantage of this trip is that Justin holds a commercial fishing license, which allows his boat unrestricted catch limits, though fish size restrictions do apply. On several occasions, Justin stated he should have taken Coho's offer of a performance based agreement, as we produced a haul of fish, big time ! Roger caught a huge Trevally roughly weighing in at 4.5 kg, and that definitely was a fight, harder than a large Snapper.

There were three things I was conscious of while hauling in the Snapper. Firstly, irrespective of the catch, you definitely need your drag set right, as well as continuously pulling on the line on the up stroke of your rod, then reeling the line in on the down stroke of the rod. This ensures constant pressure on your line and pull on the fish. Secondly, and Justin made us aware of this, DO NOT lose that fish, as the Snapper can be like sheep, where one bolts when free and the rest will follow ! Lastly, every time I had a Snapper on the line, I could frequently feel his head shake, after which I knew there would be a fresh energetic burst of power from the fish and the drag would go spastic. The thought of expecting that Snapper run just after a head shake brought a smile to my face !

We headed back to Pt. Hughes at around 3.00 pm, a trip which took us about 90 minutes at 22 knots. During that time, we gutted and gilled all the Snapper, a chore we were all glad to see the end of. We packed the Snapper into our eskies, packing ice in between the layers of fish to keep them fresh, then placed the eskies into a large portable cooler provided by Justin, set at just above freezing point. This guarantees that the fish stay fresh, but not frozen.

That night, we barbecued the equivalent of half a cow in snags, steak and T-bone, as well as the Chinook's preferred prized Idaho spuds and onions. (Did you know that McDonalds makes their french fries from Idaho Potatoes ?) A little bit of dead horse (tomato sauce) and the meal was fit for a king ! Justin's family joined us as well, and we all discussed plans for the next day's fishing. The agenda was KG Whiting. One point however cropped up during the night's conversation, and that was Justin's son has already caught decent sized Snapper at the tender age of six. It took me 36 years to see my dream of catching Snapper as fact !

We had been most fortunate with the weather so far, achieving mild if not ideal water conditions for boating and 27°C + weather temperatures over open water, and the next day was looking even better. Our strategy was to go for the KG Whiting, and the grounds were geographically closer to Pt. Hughes, hence our travelling time was cut in half.

We tried several waypoints with not much luck. In fact, the second day produced more flatulence from Roger, than KG Whiting. I have never know anyone to posses more methane in their colon, than Roger. Those onions the night before were a bad move !

I could see that Justin was concerned about the inactivity of KG Whiting, as we frequently weighed anchor and traveled to at least a dozen waypoints, but to no avail. Mind you Brenton Manning (Shrimp) somehow was able to hook onto and land a 4 ft Pt. Jackson shark using a whiting rig - it took him about 35 minutes to land the sucker, but he did it !

The lull in fishing gave us an opportunity to wind down and relax, talk and drink while anchored. One point of discussion was raised where there is a potential for a major policy change at Port Hughes Fishing Charters. The item of deck hands being of the female gender was raised, a point vehemently discussed and ratified during our trip ! Good Luck Tolsoy on your career change !

The hive of "inactivity" also gave me an opportunity to go for a swim off the side of the boat. One comment was raised as I was in the water - "Hey, is that a pontoon floating out there" ? Rest assured I carry my own personal BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) !

In the end, we ended up with about 2 dozen KG Whiting and a couple of red mullet, and had a great time winding down and relaxing out on the water. As we weighed anchor to head back to base camp, a huge amount of dead, brown weed was grappled onto the anchor. Justin mentioned that this area had not seen rough seas for a while. Usually, 25+ knot winds from the SW and heavy sea conditions washes any dead weed onto the foreshore, clearing up the area for regeneration of fresh green weed. It is these conditions that KG Whiting go for as well. Also, the sign of red mullet signifies a whiting ground - red mullet go hand-in-hand with KG Whiting.

At the end of the trip, we ended up with approximately 90 Snapper, 2 dozen KG Whiting, 3 Blue Crabs, and a great feeling of satisfaction. Justin estimated we had caught close to 450 kg of fish, which equates to about $5000 dollars on the fish market. Not bad for 2 days fishing between the five of us !

Port Hughes Fishing Charters, owned and run by Justin Zwar and his wife Debbie, gives good, quality service in boat charters and accommodation, and offers experiences one is not likely to forget ! Both Justin and Debbie are very conscientious in addressing any needs or requirements you may have, both are very easy going, extremely approachable and very amicable with regards to your stay.

Justin's knowledge of the waters in and around Pt. Hughes and the Gulf waters is second to none, ensuring some degree of consistency of fish catches to those who use his services. There are no guarantees in a good haul of fish. However, his knowledge of the locale and skill in boating and fishing definitely tips the scales in your favour in producing a good days excitement and a reasonable haul of fish.

My perception of Justin is that of a man who enjoys and takes his charter service seriously. His social life is that of a true Aussie Ocker, he is one who enjoys and thrives on football, likes to crack the odd joke or two, enjoys his beer, and cherishes his family. He takes it as a personal challenge in trying to make your expectations in fishing, a reality. Effectively, Port Hughes Fishing Charters is a family business.

Should you be interested in Justin's services, he can be reached at

Port Hughes Fishing Charters

4 Learmond Crt
Moonta Bay, SA, 5558

Voice Phone: 08 8825 3388
Mobile Phone: 0418 859 431

The specifications of the Charter Service are:

     8.5 metre, diesel, turbo charged motor - boat capable of 35 knots
     GPS, radar and echo sounder
     Toilet facilities on board
     Maximum Capacity of 10 fisher-people
     Minimum Capacity required of 4 fisher-people
     $100 per day/per person for the boat charter
     $20 per day/per person for accommodation
     Unlimited Fish Catches - Normal fish size restrictions apply
     Barbecue/Weber area provided
     Bait, Rigs, Rods provided
     Filleting/Cleaning Service of catch provided @ $12/hour (recommended)
     Deckhands available (not female yet !) to meet your every need - to fishing !

The above details, however, can be subject to change, without notice.

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