Straying from the Plan – By Josh Behrendorff

Do you head out fishing with a clear plan? I know I used to. I would look at wind, wave direction and tides, choose my target species and devise a plan for my day on the water. The problem with such planning is that I wouldn’t allow much adaptation. As an example, if I plan to go out and get red fish for the day in deep water around the reefs, I would commit to the plan. If the fish are not sitting on my marks, or the sharks are fierce, or the reds won’t bite, traditionally I would stick to the plan for the long haul hoping that something might change. More often than not it, it would mean that we wouldn’t have much success.

Recently, I was fortunate to find a suitable weather window and have my entire family available for a day to head out on the water, we filled the boat fridge with food and drinks and threw in a selection of rods. We had a basic plan to fish the inshore islands and channels in search of demersal fish. The main purpose was to catch something for dinner other than a pelagic fish. 

Amelia is hooked up tight and tiring quicker than the fish on the other end.

Amelia is hooked up tight and tiring quicker than the fish on the other end.

Heading north along the coast on the run-out tide it become blatantly obvious that the run-out tide was pushing bait out of the creek mouths. This brought in a variety of bird species and pelagics. Traditionally I always considered the run-in tide the best fishing for pelagics and I would have driven right on by, sticking to my original plan to target demersals. This trip I decided to tie on a couple of small bibbed minnows and troll the area. It didn’t take long to catch our first fish, a juvenile Spanish mackerel. This fish prompted us to pull our lines and continue our journey north along the coastline. 10km further north we come across a similar scenario minus the birds, but with the addition of a dirty water line. This was a section of coastline that I have travelled multiple times in the past and never come across a feeding frenzy or tidal line that pushed almost 2km out to sea.We decided to drop our lines back out for a short troll, not really sure what type of pelagics were in the area. 

We didn’t have to wait too long before the port rod buckled over and line began peeling form the reel. 

We weren’t entirely sure of the species as the fight was somewhat unusual, my wife did a great job keeping the line tight right up until we got the large longtail boat side, the fish aggressively shook its head at the precise moment my wife dropped the rod for the next ‘lift and wind’ which gave the fish enough loose line to shake the hooks free. We looked over at each other with a shrug of the shoulders. It was a good fish, but not really what we came here for, meanwhile, Faith had begun sending the lures back out which meant that she wasn’t finished yet.

We continued our troll, the area of bait was about the size of a football field and the sounder was showing the bait tightly balled up at around 2-3meters below the surface. Once we ventured beyond the ‘bait zone’ the sounder was bare yet there was still evidence on the surface that there were fish in the area. It didn’t take long before the starboard side rod exploded into action. Right at that moment I re-checked the sounder to see it resembling a barren wasteland, 

… meanwhile my daughter Amelia had broken the land speed record from sunning herself on the casting deck to taking the hooked-up rod from the holder behind me. 

This fish had serious intent to get as far from the boat as it could and as quick as it could. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a run with this much power. The braided fishing line was screaming off the reel to the point where I was certain we were going to be spooled. I begun to back down on the fish to ensure we weren’t spooled only for my wife to say “honey, I’m hooked up also”. My wife, the little quiet achiever had attempted to clear the second line only for a fish to intercept the lure at the precise moment she was about to remove the rod from the rod holder. She had been fighting the fish to the right of me while my focus was solely on my daughter and her determined fish. Knowing that we had two fish on changed my game plan as a skipper, I checked to see how much line my daughter had on her overhead reel and decided to turn the engine off. My wife’s fish was being very well behaved and made its way to the boat with very little fuss. The pressure was now on me, second time around, to land her prize. This sizeable longtail gave me a big broad side making it very easy for me to quickly gaff and throw straight into the esky. With one fish in the boat, my attention turned straight back to my daughter whose line was still halfway to Cairns. It was clear she was getting tired, but she was determined to land this fish all by herself, she refused to hand the rod over despite the blisters that had started forming on her hand. Amelia soldiered on through pain and fatigue, after 20min we got our first glimpse of the fish, another longtail tuna, similar class to that of which was already in the esky.

Chasing these saltwater speedsters is sure to put a smile on anyone's face.

Chasing these saltwater speedsters is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

This fish was not going to make it easy for us, it continued to fight deep and circle the boat. Watching the pain my daughter was enduring made me contemplate jumping in with my speargun to dispatch the fish in a more timely fashion. Another 15min passed before I was able to take a deep-water swipe at the fish with the gaff and successfully pinned the fish just behind the head. This was my girls first longtail tuna, almost a pigeon pair of 10kg+ fish sure tested them and their tackle out. Both lures were destroyed, with the bibs twisted and the wire that holds the hooks together exposed, but their patience ensured they were able to land these quality fish. Despite the fish continuing to feed around us we made the tough decision to leave them biting and have a look for our demersals that we originally planned for. We found some awesome territory with some great shows on the sounder but found the bite was very tough. Undersized fish and sharks were the only species readily taking our baits. We tried multiple areas for all similar results. We tried deep, we tried shallow, we used live and dead baits, we even jigged plastics around and the only respectable fish that came over the gunwales was a pan sized goldspot cod landed by my son Ethan. Heading home late that afternoon it gave me the time to appreciate that allowing flexibility in your fishing plan will give you greater success. As an example, this trip would’ve been somewhat fruitless if we hadn’t taken the time to hang out with the inshore bait schools. Needless to say, the fresh longtail tuna was absolutely delicious. We enjoyed it sashimi, rolled with rice in sushi and also cooked medium rare on bruschetta. Until next time, stay safe and God bless.