Subject: fishing today -- 25Jan09
Date: Sunday, 25 January 2009 3:06 PM
You should have been there. As Jaro said afterward, it was a great opportunity to... find out how fit you are!
Jaro and I fronted at 0500-ish and found that Ian, a local yak fishing identity, had already left his calling card (a battered old biege and rust Subaru station wagon with roofrack) in the carpark. He was somewhere out there in the gloom! Just after Jaro and I arrived another car with a yak on the roof turned into the parking spot next to Jaro. I immediately recognized that this was Gary, a keen but novice (his description) kayak fisher whom I'd met on Wednesday.
We three strolled down to the beach to take a look. The northerly breeze was quite evident but we quickly decided that the launch was doable. Out in the bay, slightly north east of the groyne we could see in the diminishing darkness an all-round white light where normally there is none. This light, as I later found out, was fixed to Ian's yak -- he had at least 15 minutes start on us and had launched in darkness, as he often does.
Meanwhile, back in the carpark, Steve had arrived (well done on the successful alarm setting, mate). Introductions having been made all round, Gary opted to accompany us out to the shoal and one at a time we trolleyed our yaks to the chosen launch point, western side of the groyne.
It was still not quite light, despite the camera's view seen above. We all got out easily and I spent an annoying several minutes trying to tie a single knot in monofilament -- the light and the tossing chop conspiring to make things hard for me. Jaro was away fast, and I was away last because of that bloody knot. We all set out for Jew Shoal confident that the less than 10 knot northerly breeze wouldn't slow us much. The reality was, however, that the breeze had been working away all night and the fetch for a northerly in this area is significant. The swell curving from the north as a result of the shape of the bay, was quite small but on top of that was the northerly chop. So we were battling a northerly swell, northerly chop and a northerly breeze, and 500 metres out from shore the breeze increased to greater than 10 knots with white caps starting to appear out of the gloom.
We battled on. Checking my GPS I could tell that this was going to be a slow trip. The best I was managing was 4 kph when 6-7kph is normal in calm conditions. I calculated a 1 hour paddle to the shoal. Never mind, I was trolling a previously successful lure and whenever you're out there you're in with a chance. After a while I passed Steve who was living up to his callsign (turtle boy) but punching on steadily. One km from my destination mark, and about 45 minutes after leaving the beach my reel screamed for a second or two, stopped, then screamed again briefly. I turned and picked up the rod only to conclude that I'd had a hookup but that the fish was gone. This happens often when trolling -- possibly a hook embeds in soft tissue and rips out when pressure is applied. The lure was intact so out it went again.
Quite a few terns and shearwaters were visible around the shoal, but they weren't bunching up as they do when there's a dense mass of baitfish, but clearly there were some predators around as my strike indicated. I opted to troll toward the northern edge of the reef and, depending on what happened, either keep trolling or resort to drifting and casting soft plastics in the hope of nailing a snapper or sweetlip. My chosen northern mark, after an hour's paddling into the chop was still several hundred metres away, and, you guessed it, upwind, up-chop and up-swell.
The waves were quite steep and a couple of times I got a cockpit load of water as a rogue wavetop broke over the bow of the yak. To the uninitiated, this may seem dangerous, but in reality the kayaks we use are designed to handle such conditions -- any water taken in is quickly drained automatically through scuppers. You do get a wet arse however.
I reached my mark without further action so opted to change my technique and drift using soft plastics. The trolling lure brought in and drogue deployed, I tied a jig head onto my casting outfit and impaled a 4 inch plastic "fish" on its hook. Having cast the jig out I turned my attention to the GPS to find out speed and direction of drift. Sure enough, as expected, I was drifting south and I was drifting at just under 2kph. But the jig was getting down near the bottom OK as I found out when a few minutes later the line loaded up and I hoisted a grinner aboard. Not to put too fine a point on it, this fish is not sought by fishos as it doesn't fight, will eat anything and is so full of bones that it is not worth the effort of filleting. I continued and shortly afterward took a solid hit on the jig and knew immediately that this was either a reasonable sized sweetlip or a small snapper. The sweetlip that appeared was about 35cm long and I gladly opted to take him as these are excellent to eat.
Shortly after this, I was joined by Steve and Ian, the latter of whom had appeared from over the the northern horizon saying "Pretty ordinary conditions, eh Kev?" an opinion with which I readily agreed.
We drifted in concert for a while but there was little or no extra action, other than some unknown little beasties which were eating the soft plastics without hooking up:
This soft plastic was reduced from its original 4 inch length to debris without my even feeling a nibble.
It was shortly after this, at around 0830, that I decided I didn't want to once more punch back into the swell, chop and breeze for the 800m necessary to re-establish a drift. By radio to Steve and Jaro I announced my intention to head back into Laguna Bay at the end of the present drift and they agreed to do the same, Jaro more reluctantly than Steve I think.
Once more I re-rigged the casting outfit so that it was ready for any pelagic feeding activity encountered, deployed the trolling lure and headed for the beach, some 3.7km distant, according to the GPS. My speed back was less than I'd expected, I think partly because of the steepness of the chop, although my average was improved a couple of times when I accidentally started surfing on a couple of particularly steep waves. On one of these waves I checked the speed on the GPS as it was happening and it momentarily showed 12kph!
The closer I got to the beach the more clearly I could see that it was taken over by a huge crowd and a bright red marquee -- on both sides of the groyne. It worried me all of the way in because we need a bit of "wiggle" space when coming ashore in the surf. I was imagining the three of us coming ashore through hordes of apprentice lifesavers ("Nippers") and breaking arms and legs of any we collided with as we charged in on the surf, only partly in control of our tiny, but reasonably heavy, boats. The gathering, as we found out later was of three clubs of Nippers, a special event for the Australia Day long weekend.
Fortunately there was a narrow unused gap available to the three of us, right next to the western side of the groyne, and even more fortunately for our reputations we all managed exemplary landings. I went in first, clsely followed by Steve. I then climbed up onto the rock groyne to video Jaro's passage through the surf zone. The resulting video is not worth posting on youtube because Jaro's transit was unspectacularly professional -- he made it look dead easy, having timed the sets perfectly. Anyone who wants a copy can have it, but it's nearly 52mb so needs to be moved on a thumb drive, camera card or similar.
Mine was the only fish brought home. I understand that Jaro had a bit of action -- perhaps he may tell us about it.
Thanks for organizing Jaro, and for coming along, Steve.
Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner