Swell: low NE
Current: Doggie Beach Reef, northerly, about 500m per hour
Launch point: Doggie Beach
Participants: sunshiner, alone
With various other commitments preventing a fishing trip in the last few days I checked the forecast every few hours over the weekend, hoping to get a crack at the fish on Monday. My luck held and the forecast I viewed early on Monday looked much like this slightly later one.
I figured that if the wind was light at reveille I’d go, launching from Doggie Beach as soon as I could get my act together with the proviso that with the first puff of the forecast southerly change I’d be heading for firm ground.
It takes me about 30 minutes to ready my yak and body and so when I awoke at 0515 (I know, pretty late, but cut me a little slack, guys) and found no wind at all I was out of bed like a startled sloth. The trip to Doggie Beach doesn’t even get the Zook’s temp guage off the stop and so by about 0550 I was ready to launch. Looking at the conditions it was hard to believe that, according to the forecast, this shore would be a mess of building waves and 20-30 knot winds in a few hours.
I rarely get a completely dry launch here at Doggie Beach and today, as usual, I took an invigorating bath on the way out through the tiny break. But after only about 50 metres I was through the surf zone and heading for the safe zone about 150m out. Man that’s a great feeling, leaving the surf break behind as you crest the smooth limpid waters and can look down and see every ripple of sand on the sea floor. Now for the real business of the day!
Rods and electronics extracted from the hatch and deployed, I was soon paddling eastward toward a mark that we call Doggie Beach Reef, invisible to the eye but easily found with the aid of my GPS which told me its direction and its distance, 1500m.
Although I rarely catch anything by trolling in this area, I nearly always put out a trolling rig and today had my favourite hard body lure out just in case. This went off a few minutes into the trip; not with the screaming run typical of a longtail or mackerel but with a gentle clicking which I guessed was most likely one of the small pelagics.
I decided to keep this fish as Richmond, one of the Noosa Yakkers and also an AKFF member, mentioned recently that they are very good eating. Anyway, they’re a lovely bait and it’s not as if they’re an endangered species.
Almost as soon as I’d resumed paddling I spotted a humpback whale to the SE of me about a kilometre distant. There are plenty of them here at the moment but soon they’ll all have departed south, heading for their waiting smorgasbord in the Southern Ocean. Ever since I had a very scary and very close encounter with a breaching humpback a year or so ago out here I’ve been super wary of accidentally or deliberately getting close to them so in this case I changed course slightly to put some safety space between this animal and me.
On my arrival at DB Reef the sea was as smooth as the skin of my yak and the air still. A small north easterly swell gently raised and lowered my boat rhythmically and the only sound was the subdued crashing of the small surf on the distant beach. The ocean was deep blue and clear, the depth here about 27m. To the west the village where I live was brightly illuminated by the climbing sun and its inhabitants gradually waking up and starting to go about their business, or walk on the beach. To be out here alone on such a tiny craft and on such a morning is a privilege available to very few. I never tire of the experience.
There’s so much to see and marvel at it’s a wonder I ever get any fishing done but I do, eventually. Drift fishing for snapper and sweetlip was my aim this morning and soon I’d deeply deployed a home made rig on my heavy trailing (also trolling) outfit and had made my first cast with my casting outfit which was rigged with a 1/4 ounce 3/0 jighead and a four inch soft plastic. As far as I could tell there was no drift but my GPS soon revealed that a current was carrying us south at about 500m per hour. The lack of wind made the deployment of my shopping bag drogue pointless so it stayed dry for the time being. Time: 0630-ish.
It took until nearly 7am but eventually my soft plastic offering was accepted. I’d been watching the sonar which had shown little but the undulating ocean floor, uninterrupted by suspended schools of fish. This I knew to be “normal” out here but I also knew that it didn’t necessarily mean there were no fish around. Anyway, to return to the chase, I’m in the habit of twitching my SP to give it greater visibility while it’s swimming around down there in the gloomy depths. One of these twitches was interrupted, quite gently. Having struck at the interruption I was pleased to find that I was apparently solidly connected, via my 6kg monofilament, to a fish which was not at all perturbed, yet! It initially put up a leisurely objection which didn’t even take line off against the drag, yet! Time to get him up off the bottom. Ah, now the spool is spinning, in favour of the fish. I quickly upgraded my initial assessment of a small keeper grass sweetlip or snapper to a bigger sweetlip, whose behaviour generally accords with what I was now experiencing. They get their heads down and go for the bottom, whereas snapper usually “run” along the bottom. I could also feel by the deep lunges that this was likely a decent fish but it took several minutes of ratchet singing and spool spinning in both directions before I could see, several metres down, the beautiful brown chequered flanks and blue lined face of the “grassy”.
Today’s objective now attained, I could relax a little, not that I was stressed, of course. Continuing the drift produced no further action so when I heard the unmistakeable snort of a whale, unseen nearby (probably in my blind spot behind me) I pulled up the trailing outfit to paddle back along my drift line.
One of the problems we have here at Sunshine Reef is the occasional presence of small toothy critters which are adept at eating your SP without detection (see above pic). Once I find, by retrieving the SP to find a mere stump remaining, that these plastic munchers are hanging around, I usually resort to fishing with only my casting outfit, which at least gets retrieved and checked frequently.
At around 8am my cast SP struck again, this time a 38cm snapper.
By now an ominous cloud bank had filled the eastern and southern skies, and the breeze had started to strengthen from the south. This was earlier than forecast, but I knew the time to head for the beach had come. Indeed, in the 20 minutes or so that I spent paddling to the beach the wind picked up to about 15 knots.
The waves on the beach were now somewhat larger but were still well within my comfort zone and I picked up a nice little breaker which took me right in to the sand where my wife and (visiting) daughter were waiting to watch how I’d go. This is a great way to spend your older years. I hope you get to try it.