It’s that time of year when I head up north to South West Rocks for my annual attempt at catching big fish from the kayak (attempt often plays a bigger part than fish in this statement).
I seem to have attracted a bit a reputation for bringing bad weather with me, so most of the kayak fraternity that make the pilgrimage aim for the week before or the week after I’m there but there’s always a hardy few that stick with me, after all the law of averages says I’m due for a good week.
This trip the weather was varied as you’ll see from the photos, the trouble is that taking a good photo on a calm sea is a tenth of the challenge of taking one on a rough sea, so the pictures will always make it look better than it was.
one of the calm moments
one of not so calm moments
one of the wet moments
Of my six days there, we managed to get on the water for five of them and spent at least eights hours out each trip, traveling upwards of 20 k’s per day.
To catch the fish you have to catch the bait and for the first time I seemed to have that one under control. I was bringing up strings of slimy mackerel and would have my bait holder full in no time.
That was stage one in the bag, the next stage was to prove a bit more of a challenge.
This is where the rumour started that I had Tourette’s, I have never had so many fish hit my bait and not hook up before.
The spanish and spotted mackerel hit your line very fast, so all you hear is the line screaming off your reel and you have to drop the paddle try to get the rod out of the holder whilst it is under a lot of pressure from the fish, then the line goes slack, the fish is gone and the stream of profanities starts flowing. The more fish I lost, the longer the stream and the more the rumour took hold. My days were starting to get rated by the number of fish I had lost rather than caught.
this was actually a dolphin but the first glance had done the damage
In the evening we would discuss where we went wrong and plan for the next day. The day I decided to tighten my drag up for a different tactic was an interesting one as my kayak suddenly stopped and then took off at quite a speed backwards, not sure about this tight drag idea, I could get whiplash. It doesn’t take you too long to figure out that you are hooked up to a big shark and then you have to decide what to do about it.
I had lost so many fish I decided to fight this particular shark and see it I could get him boat side and then at least I could cut the line near his mouth. It turned out to be about an eight foot long bull shark and I’m not sure which of us was happier when I got to the trace and managed to cut the line.
When we hook something big we try to stay in two’s in case we need a hand, Ian captured some of this fight on film. The rest is in the video so I’ll move on.
hooked up to a bull shark
We had been catching a few mac tuna through the week but they aren’t much fun on the table so they had been released. Now it was the last day and I had a rather sad looking eski and was facing the prospect of telling those at home about the glorious fish I had eaten during the week from others catches but apologising for my own inadequacy, or I guess I could swing by the fish markets on the way home.
safety flag on a kayak
Other years the last day had saved my butt and I had returned the hero with protein and this year was to be no different.
The wind was up and I was pretty exhausted so I decided to hang in close within a kilometer of the shore and review it if the wind dropped.
I loaded up with some more live baits and started my laborious trolling up and down the areas I knew any fish heading south would have to pass through.
It was a slow start with only a mac tuna to show for the first few hours but as the tide got closer to the change more fish showed on the sounder and my exhaustion drove me closer to the breakwall for an easy escape back to the boat ramp.
As I went over the shallow reef near the wall my line shot off but then went slack and then slacker as a small yellowfin tuna came running straight at me. I wound as fast as I could slipping back into Tourette’s mode as I went but he was past me by the time I got the line tight, he then came right past the kayak so I thought I would tail grab him as he slid by.
That cost me my rod as he jumped, wrapped the line around the tip, dived and left me with half a rod. My tasted buds freaked as they saw their sashimi getting away so I took no chances and whipped him on board with the gaff as he swam past on his first circle (all tuna swim in circles when they start to tire).
That was my last bait and others were heading in so it seemed like the right time to finish the week and start packing the car, I had sashimi and my absence for the week would surely be forgiven.
That was until Jon swings by and says “do you want another bait, I have one”, I was too tired to say no so I took his slimy offering and rigged up another rod.
Down went the bait and I started one last loop, again heading back towards the breakwall as the wind had picked up and was blowing us offshore.
Then the drag starts screaming and I see some big flashes of silver on the surface so I knew it was a good fish, maybe a mackerel.
He gave me a good tow around but I was trying to go gently as I really couldn’t cope with dropping another good fish and this was my last chance for this year.
After towing me in several directions, my least favourite being off shore with the wind, it started circling and I knew it was a tuna but it kept passing under the yak and as I held the rod close to the bow, the kayak just kept going round and round and round in circles until I was getting quite dizzy ( it must have looked pretty funny from where Jon was sitting).
At last he came to the surface and on his first pass of the yak I sunk the gaff with such an amazing feeling of relief, which was followed with a feeling of ‘oh shit look at the size of it, what the hell do I do now’.
The wind had blown us out quite wide so I just pulled him into my foot well, half sat on his tail so I could get a foot on the rudder pedal and started paddling for home.
It’s the biggest fish I’ve boated on the yak and it’s taken 4 years in some pretty crap conditions at SWR to do it but it’s amazing how it all seems worth while.
Again this place has taught me so much about myself and fishing when I thought I knew it all.
longtail tuna and a small yellowfin tuna