Digging Deep – John Boon Sep 16

Do you ever sit there, look at the tides and think to yourself “bugger, should just stay home and mow the lawn or something”. Well maybe not mowing the lawn but sometimes the tides just don’t seem to line up with the good weather. Should you just stay home and give up? Absolutely not. Is there a bad time to be on the water?

Absolutely not, with the exception of serious weather events of course. We can learn just as much from a bad day on the water as a good day on the water.

I had been hanging out for another Capricorn Coast offshore fishing mission. The weather was doing its best to not let that happen over the last two months. Finally we had a small window that looked like it would be good enough for a wide run. I was out at work constantly updating the weather. For once the forecast didn’t change for the entire week leading up to the desired day. I had a quick look at tide and moon phase and I was somewhat deflated. It was right on the bottom of the neaps with very little water movement. I’m a big believer in “no run no fun” when fishing offshore but if the water was going to be flat then the throttle would be held flat also.

I was 2 days out from the trip. The day before the trip looked promising for a quick squirt over to the islands. With the lack of water movement some fresh bait could only help. I only made the decision at about 7pm that night so a solo affair it shall be.

I was greeted with less then ideal weather conditions once outside Rosslyn Bay harbour. Travelling was very slow and kind of ruled out sneaking past the Keppel Island group to target some yakkas. I settled for a session of squidding instead. Even when the wind is blowing there are always a few good locations to get ones squid on in relative comfort.

I was back at the harbour by midday with a dozen nice tiger squid. Some would be used whole and the bigger tigers would be de hooded for calamari and then the flaps/heads would be put into the bait bag. The first part of the plan had come together nicely.

The following morning I met up with my reliable deckies at the harbour. My old man Robin Boon and good mate and owner of the secret spot bait and tackle in Yeppoon, Greg Chapman. Dad hadn’t been out wide for almost 12 months so he was a little “over due”. His enthusiasm at the boat ramp reflected the anticipation. Chappie was also keen as mustard. I don’t think he could even remember the last time he got out for a decent reef fishing session. After a bit of organising we were locked, loaded and ready to drop the cruisey into the briny.

It was a slow trip out through Keppel Bay, not because of the wind but because of the mongrel sea fog that shows up at this time of year. We were only just plaining with everyone on high alert. Thank goodness it cleared once we got past North Keppel. It’s a very unsettling feeling when you can only just see past the front of the boat.

After about another hours travel we were sounding around our starting point. The Furuno 588 was showing the required structure however fish life was scarce. We had a few drifts without so much as getting a touch. A few more different drift lines and we were ready to move on, well that was until a few patches of bait turned up. We did another sweep over the area and the mark was now showing some promising signs of life. It was noticed by everyone on board and another drift was set. This time we started getting a bit of interest from the pickers. Right on the back of the bommie the old mans hooks up solid. He was keen on getting a look at the unknown. Calls of “slatey” weren’t welcomed by the old man. Obviously everyone else on board thought it was funny. We were made to eat those words with Dad yelling “snapper” at the top of his voice. Well didn’t that spark all hands on deck. The net was quickly slipped under his very first ever snapper and lifted aboard. For the past three years I had wanted to catch a Capricorn coast snapper and I was bloody excited and a tad jealous to see one finally hit the deck of our own boat. The old mans snap went 74cm on the mat and was a fantastic way to open the account.

I think the gods must have heard my prayer and on the next drift in the same spot I hooked up. A very jerky fish had me thinking maybe a big grassy but deep down there was only one fish I was hoping for. Relief came once the fish shimmered in the deck lights. My very first cap coast snapper. Congrats came from the crew and hand shakes all round. I had caught a few smaller snapper down off 1770 but there is nothing like catching them on your home ground. At 80cm I was over the moon and the now two snapper that lay in the box reflected once again a very memorable father son moment.

Just as fast as the bite had came on it shut down again which signalled time for a move was in order. We started making our way east stopping and fishing proven spots on the way. We thought it was going to be a tough bite and we were spot on the money. It’s hard seeing so much fish life on the sounder but nothing registering through the rod tip.

The Furuno picked up some interesting ground while on the fly so we spun around to investigate. After a good look around the area it looked to me like we had found a deep shoal. Not quite the ground I like to target red emperor on but it was worth a drift anyway. The new shoal gave us some reasonable red throat and a few tuskers for the ice box. Chappie done well to keep the tally clicking over.

We didn’t persevere long and we were back on the plane again. About 5km’s from our destination we clipped a bait school with no change in the bottom. I spent about ten minuets driving around looking to locate the structure that the bait was hanging on. Sure enough not far from them was a beaut little isolated rise of only a few meters covered in life. This is what gets the bloody pumping. Baits were deployed quick smart. We hit the bottom and hooked up straight away. It was a double for Dad and I. After hours of searching and dropping baits we had finally caught a break. Dad was up first with the first red emperor of the trip and I followed with a nice sized spangled emperor. They weren’t monsters by any means but after doing it tough the bite was welcomed with both arms. We had a few more drifts, Dad added another legal red and chappie chipped in with a few nice maori cod to the esky before the bite shut down.

Only a few kilometres from the mark we just found up sprang another one. A very similar spot to the first but this one had a lot more bait on it, in fact the structure was hard to see because of it. We all dropped down and Chappie loads up straight away. We were expecting to see some quality but unfortunately Chappie had hooked him self a rather large amberjack. No wonder it gave him some stick. The next few drifts had us hooked up to more of these deep reef brutes. I guess we shouldn’t have been complaining as we had a pretty hot bite going, just not the desired species. Chappie decided to give his new light jigging setup a run. The rod was actually his first attempt at building one and it felt pretty bloody awesome to me. He dropped down a slow pitch jig, gave it a couple of lifts and then got bent over into the preacher position. I don’t think any of us expected action that quick. A rather large tea leaf trevally was now boat side. Chappie removed the jig and let the trev head back to it’s home. This spot just looked to good not to produce some quality. I’m keen to give that slow pitch jigging a red hot go after talking to Chappie about some techniques.

We fished some different marks in this area and added some more quality reefies to the tally. The tide had now turned to run out so we made tracks to get back to the previous spot that the amberjacks had come from. This is something I have learned over the years of fishing the reef. Never write a spot off if it looks the goods. Sometimes all it takes is to come back and fish it during a different tide cycle, a different moon phase or in some cases a different season.

The first drift finally produced a red emperor for yours truly. I was relieved. Sometimes those pesky red fish can be everywhere and other times it will bake your noodle trying to outsmart them. Thats what we love though and that’s what makes fishing so additive. The thrill of the chase and the constant tests that we put ourselves through.

After that red the taxman showed up. After two epic battles the old man had pulled up for a rest which signalled it was time to head for home.

We found one other spot on the way home that looked fantastic. Another isolated patch of ground that had a bait ball seven meters high off the bottom. Chappie was into the action early with another maori cod. I hooked up solid on some serious weight and just when I was thinking all things red the bloody hooks pulled. I won’t lie, it hurt, it hurt real bad. To this day I still think about what could have been. One thing is for certain though, we will revisit that spot at another time.

After a few days it’s always good to talk to the crew and relive the trip. Talking about what worked well and what didn’t work is all relative to piecing the puzzle together. The fresh bait that I talked about earlier had made a huge difference. Along with the fresh squid we made the effort to capture a good supply of cut baits as well. 80-90 percent of the fish we kept came in on the freshness. Persistence and confidence will take you along way on any fishing journey. The ability to block out the negative while on the water is very important even when faced with undesired conditions.

Cheers from Boony