DIY Mothershipping – Lee Brake Aug 2016

We’ve just spent three days at the reef in a 4.85m side console – working deep water, trolling, casting reef flats, popping, jigging, exploring marks for miles around. But it gets better, because breakfast, lunch and dinner all came piping hot from the galley of a 40’ Riviera(Ramsgate). Which also meant comfy beds, icy cold drinks and lots of room for all the necessities – like spare combos and ridiculous amounts of tackle.

In all honestly, if you manage to snare glassy conditions, like we did, this is the ultimate way to experience the reef!

We left during the half time break of Origin 2, sneaking out of the Mackay Marina amongst inky waters and a shimmering moon, the Streaker 4.85 Tournament Console, TheStreak, bridled in tow. We had a crew of five: the old man, his wife Gigi, the Riv’s owner Keith, my wife Lani and myself. The old man took the first watch and organised to wake Keith and I for the second watch after midnight with the aim of a 3am arrival.

Why such a long trip? We decided to cruise out at 8-9 knots to see how much it would cut down the two 375hp Cummins’ fuel consumption (more on that later). By travelling at night, we missed no fishing time and pretty much had the sea to ourselves – except for a pair of bulk carriers which we watched cross our path on the radar, and as a dark shadow on the horizon. Their wake was the only two waves we felt all night.

After arriving at Parker Reef, we slept in and thendecided to go forth and explore a few marks I’d accrued from past trips and friends. The first two yielded no changes in bottom, but the third was actually a collection of three marks in one small area – something that usually denotes a large patch of ground.

As Lani and I drew near in TheStreak we began to spot a series of dots on the horizon. One, two… five! Five boats on one patch 50 miles offshore! Not what you’d call the most secret of spots. We gave it a few drifts and quickly discovered a series of bombies spread over about a kilometre squared. Nothing much was happening until the sounder suddenly blacked out. “They look like nannygai,” I announced with excitement.

Both of our rods loaded up solid and suddenly all hell was breaking loose! My poor wife has the first signs of a baby bump and was faced with the struggle of trying to find somewhere else that was comfortable to place the rod butt. She ended up using a soft rubber “Cush-it” on her hip and that got the job done nicely. Unfortunately the “job” wasn’t red, but instead had a tea leaf pattern and a forked tail. Two double hook-ups on trevally followed before we got a call on the VHF that breakie was cooking on the Ramsgate. Bacon and egg rolls followed and then it was back to the red hunt!

Keith came for the after-breakie run and we quickly found the red emperor. A bombie in 40m of water off the reef edge was lit up and three drifts equalled double and even trip hook-ups on reds! There was only one small issue… they were small. 50cm was the average size and none stretched to legal. Luckily a few grassy lipper and parrot fish were spread amongst them as a consolation prize. More of the same followed in the afternoon with nannygai and big reds conspicuous by their absence. It was time to head for Credlin Reef.

Lani and I volunteered to meet the Ramsgate at its new anchorage and I quickly mapped out a track that took us over a series of potential marks. All these were new and, while I had high hopes, there was a niggling worm of doubt in my head because the previous marks had been very much hit and miss.

After a twenty minute run we approached the first mark. Unfortunately, all it held was a flat bottom 50 metres down. I let out a groan and slowly pushed the throttle up as we began to head for the next question mark on my chart. However, just before I got the Streaker back onto the plane, the bottom line on the Humminbird sounder changed. A rock! Not a big rock, probably only about the size of a kombi van, but a rock none the less. And it had signs of life on it – little red speckles sitting a few metres up. I quickly lined up a drift and we were soon both feeling solid thumping bites through our braided lines. Double hook-up!Lani landed a big grassy and I a solid sweetlip. More of the same followed, but with just lipper and parrots – albeit good ones – coming aboard and with the sun falling fast we decided to push on.

The next mark showed even better bottom. It was another rock, but it hada much larger rubble patch surrounding it. What it didn’t have was reds. Big grassy lipper were there to save the day though, and we noticed a very interesting characteristic. These sizable fish – over 50cm in some cases – were coming up with one side all roughed up. Their scales were pealed up and raised. When I saw it on the first fish I thought a cod or something similar had sucked on it during its ascent, but when I noticed it again on two further lipper, I realised it was only on one side. My only guess is that the fish were rubbing themselves over the rock to dislodge parasites or other itch-causing critters. Whatever the case, the sun was nestled on the horizon so I regretfully made the “last drift call”.

At first it looked as if we might finish on a low note, but then I felt a solid thump and some weight. Something was mouthing the big strip of hussar that I had dangling off my 8/0 octopus hook. When I took up the slack, it let go. I dropped the bait back to the bottom and even fed out a metre of slack. I felt the thump again, but this time, instead of taking up the weight, I gave it even more line. That did the trick. The fish took the bait, turned away with it and the hook pulled into place. The initial run was hard, but mostly I just got a feeling of a solid weight. I was guessing a decent cod, especially when it stopped lunging about half way up. I was in for a very pleasant surprise when instead of brown, the water lit up orange. It was a trout, and a cracker at over 70cm!How’s that for a final drift!

Credlin proved to be not just a fantastic anchorage, but also a top spot for a Spanish assault… if only we could land one. The first problem was getting live baits to the boat once they were hooked on the bait jig. I got one almost the surface only to see over a metre of toothy silver torpedo engulf it and shred the rig. When we did finally get some live baits out on floating rigs, the Spanish showed an amazing ability for missing and throwing hooks. They also declined to take trolled minnows run around the reef edges, though the old man did have some fun sight-casting red throat emperor as he crept along the coral flats.

I was keen to get back amongst the deep water action, so once more took a crew of Lani and Keith and set off to explore some untested marks. I get a real kick out of finding new ground – it’s the ultimate piscatorial treasure hunt. It’s even better when you find new ground while on the plane, like we did while heading for the first question mark. A sudden spike appeared and I hastily pulled the hammer back and spun us around. It was a rise of about ten metres, but it was reasonably gradual – the kind of rise that is often just a sandy shoal or start of a shelf. However, there was some hard ground at the edge of the rise with what looked like coral growth and some fish life. It was worth a drift. Well, the first drift yielded another nice parrot, and the second yielded twenty minutes of pain. Three metres of bronze whaler almost spooled me and then forced me to recover over 200m of line one gut-bruising pump at a time. There was no third drop. We pushed on.

From there we went one from four. Three marks held nothing – one was lit up like a Mardigras float. We’d finally found the nannygai and they were solid fish. Lani and Keith hooked a pair of the biggest small mouth nannygai I have ever seen and Keith followed it with another soon after. They were 60cm-plus and while I’m not sure what their eating qualities will be like, they made for an impressive sight and fought like fiends.

Unfortunately though, we then rolled the dice and decided to head on to what we hoped would be more promising marks – they weren’t. Lucky there was a Riviera and cold beer to go back too!

From there the trip started to wind up. The wind was set to kick up that night to 25 knots and our itinerary had us anchoring/hiding in Refuge Bay in Scawfell Island for the day until it dropped. Of course, we fished our way in, but our proven marks in the channel were slow, yielding a few lipper and one really nice trout right on sunset.

Overall, it had been the perfect mix of hard fishing and comfortable relaxation. With The Streak as a fast fishing boat that was easy to drift fish with, manoeuvre and cheap to run, and the Ramsgate for a comfortable home-away-from-home, we had no complaints.

If you have access to a boat capable of using as a mothership, it really is the ideal way to undertake a piscatorial adventure, whether it’s to the reef or even an isolated area of coastline. While many of us don’t have access to both a run-about and a mothership, we all have mates – and hiring a live-aboard is cheaper than going on a full charter – so start thinking and planning about who you can team up with for that ultimate trip.

Just remember, planning and preparation is everything. Twice the boats, means twice the variables to consider. Oh, and in case you are wondering, by travelling at 8 knots, we chewed almost half the fuel we would normally burn on a trip of this magnitude (roughly 120Nm) at an 18 knot cruising speed – roughly 450 litres instead of 700 litres. Goes to show it’s worth the effort if you have travel time up your sleeve.Note: full figures below.

Fish hard and stay safe folks.

Fuel burn comparison (2x 375hp Cummins)

120Nm @ 18 Knots (towing Streaker)

100 Litres per hour

7 Hours


120Nm @ 8 Knots


15 Hours