Subject: fishing today -- 30sep09
Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2009 4:22 PM
Jaro this morning, at launch time: "It doesn't get any better than this". It was 0515 -- we were enthralled by the grandeur of the scene -- a totally flat and mirror-like sea faintly illuminated by the not-quite-risen sun, and backdropped by a cloudless sky with a hint of smoke or mist over the land. Jaro, Brian, Andy and I were all in the carpark by 0500 and launching shortly afterward. Jim, Mark and Harry were to turn up individually, later. What sort of day would we have today?
The four of us were soon headed for Sunshine Reef -- Andy, in his Viking Nemo, on his first trip out there, the rest of us old Sunshine Reef hands.
The swell was tiny, so tiny in fact that I could safely cut the shallow corners very tightly on the way out and thus save a bit of distance. It's easy to become blasé as one paddles north east past the Noosa National Park but it was today, and often is, truly magnificent. At Hells Gates I came across a pod of dolphins travelling at about my speed and directly ahead, in the same direction, the rising sun reflecting off their dorsal fins as they surfaced to take a breath making it easy for me to follow their steady progress.
Jaro was well ahead because his setup time, now that he has the Profish, is tiny compared with mine and Brian's. While I was admiring the dolphins, it turns out that Jaro was admiring whales, out in the open ocean. The radio blared and he announced to all that there was a great whale show occurring just a little further out. That proved to be just the starter for the day -- whales in the midst of their migration south.
Brian headed for the more distant part of the reef while I decided to stick with the closer in section which we'd been working last time we were out here. As I approached the mark, accompanied by Andy, I could see Jaro already in position in the same area. So Andy and I picked a spot, any spot really, to start a drift and hopefully catch a snapper.
I remember checking my watch when I first started to fish -- around 0630. There was a tiny breeze from the SE, and, judging by the angle of "hang" of my trailing outfit and the drift speed, little or no current -- certainly no sign of the toward-SE current which we have recently encountered at this same place. So I was drifting north, a fact soon confirmed by the GPS display. Also of note was the water condition. Although clear, as expected, it was crammed with tiny transparent organisms so that it resembled a watery soup, temp around 23°C.
There was no action at all for any of us for the first 15 minutes. Then I picked up a nice snapper (on a cast SP) -- taking great pleasure in announcing to the two of my companions who had radios and who were already fishing that I was "on the board".
Just as I pushed Jim's yak away after taking the pic above, my light SP, which I'd recast was picked up by a nice sweetlip which joined my snapper on the tether.
Just before all of this I'd encouraged Andy to swap to a 1/2 ounce jighead as it seemed to me that he wasn't getting to the bottom with the 1/4 ounce jighead he was using. After the change I noted that he now seemed to be getting down OK, possibly as a result of the increase in his casting distance. So it was with great pleasure that I soon heard that Andy was hooked up to what was probably a snapper. As this was his first from the kayak I offered to take his photo so he paddled over with his catch.
Although the fish was undersized I felt sure that Andy had acquired the SP technique and was likely to get a keeper very soon. So off he went, back into the drift.
It was possibly about now that my phone (contained in a waterproof case) buzzed loudly. It was my wife telling me that she'd heard on the radio that a tsunami warning had been issued for eastern Australia following an overnight earthquake near Samoa (an island nation in the Pacific Ocean). I agreed with her that the matter warranted some consideration for us kayakers, particularly as we were an hour's paddling time from our launch spot, although back up beach landings were possible at the much closer, but more exposed, Sunshine Beach and Alexandria Bay (in the background in the above pic). I promised to give some consideration to immediately returning home. With this event, the huge safety value of our VHF radios, which with all except one of our little flotilla were equipped, became apparent. Firstly, I broadcast the info about the tsunami warning to all of my radio-equipped companions, scattered over a couple of km, informing them that I intended to contact Noosa Coastguard by the same VHF radio to find out if this information was known to them. I then switched to Channel 22, and radioed the Coastguard, which is over 5km in a direct line from where we drifting, receiving an immediate clear responding transmission. It transpired that the Coastguard had no knowledge of the tsunami warning but the operator promised to check and then, if necessary to broadcast the warning on channels which we monitor. I passed this on to my colleagues and we kept fishing. Having received no further information from the Coastguard after some 15 minutes, I phoned my wife who then informed me that the tsunami warning for our area had been cancelled. Again I relayed this info by radio to my colleagues, news which was greeted with cheers by some. So back to the fishing...
And then the whales turned up. For some time I'd been drifting and hearing the snorts that whales make when they surface to breathe. Andy, nearby, and Harry, a little further away, could also hear them. But now we could see them -- several whales heading straight for us, and opposite to the normal migration direction. Perhaps as Jim suggested, they were after Harry's "smoko" sandwiches, which were now being digested and so were difficult for the whales to access. We watched them come closer and eventually I decided to pull in my lines in case of an encounter I could do without. Having pulled them in I decided that I might start heading for home, which intention I quickly found was Jim's also, as he announced by radio. This was just before 10am so Andy and I turned our kayaks for home, just as the whales started to head in the same direction.
We found that for the next 1.5km we were constantly shepherded by the whales, with another pod arriving from the north as we closed on Hells Gates, pod #1 now having opted to hang around the headland and Alexandria Bay, to the delight of many holidaymakers clustered on the headland in the brilliant sunshine. I recorded some video of this encounter and have made a short movie, available on youtube:
Andy and I were the first through the whale gauntlet and our colleagues following had similar experiences. Brian had his camera ready and took several still shots, providing this one to me today by email.
And so we returned to the beach to be greeted, as usual, by bikini-clad maidens.
Of course, once I told the crowd that the guy in the blue and green yak had a bigger specimen they all turned their attention to Jim, still not quite on the beach, but rapidly approaching. On arrival, they mobbed him.
Contributed comment from Jim by email (slightly edited by me):
My snapper today does set a new yak fishing record for snapper... just (in terms of length), but I think today's snapper is definitely bigger in terms of weight. My previous big snapper caught on 21 Jan 08 was measured at 70cm, but unfortunately I don't seem to have recorded the weight. My snapper today was 71-72cm and weighed 2.7 kg. The thickness and knob on the heads of the two fish certainly ranks today's snapper as a more adult fish and therefore would weigh more.
So, it's a new record for Noosa Yakkers. Well done Jim. The best snapper I've been able to do from a kayak, so far, was 69cm.
Thanks for organizing, Jaro. Let's go again soon, but I'd like a cold beer first.
Red & Yellow Espri, black paddle
VHF channel 09 or 22 (if alone), Call Sign: sunshiner