Whale of a time
  |  First Published: October 2010

October is one of those prime fishing months I look forward to all year, as the weather is pristine and there is a whole host of fantastic fishing opportunities.

There are heaps of quality inshore species available including barra, jacks, fingermark, salmon and big queenies.

The mountain streams are also alive with fat, rod-bending sooties and aggressive jungle perch – perfect quarry for a stealthily cast lure.

Offshore and the heavy tackle season is in full swing out near the reef edges with giant black marlin here on their annual spawning run.

Closer in there will still be plenty of big Spaniards around along with heaps of various tunas. If you are a bottom bouncing enthusiast, October is also a great month for chasing trout on the reefs as well as red fishing in between the coral sections.

The hardest thing about October is deciding where to fish. Most anglers will head offshore, as this month usually brings calm, beautiful conditions that are hard to pass up after long months of southeasterly trade winds.

But over the last month the great weather has been illusive and there have not been many chances to head out and get amongst the great fish. I did manage to get out once recently on a rare occasion where the beautiful weather coincided with a weekend.

The boat ramps went into overdrive that weekend and with the fish also cooperating, very few anglers came home without a good feed.

Bottom fishers chasing trout cleaned up with some very good fish taken, as well as a bunch of by-catch including red throat, sweetlip and some bumper reef jacks. The mackerel have also remained on the chew and there have been some excellent Spaniards finding their way into iceboxes.

Inshore, the deep water at Cairns Inlet has been producing some good fingermark, and this spot should continue to improve. In addition quite a few barra are being caught along with some salmon on both the esplanade flats and to the north along the beaches.

When I was out enjoying a day of mackerel fishing recently, I had one of the most bizarre fishing experiences in all my 30 years of fishing.

I was on a solo trip and had been doing some drift fishing. I had already caught one 13kg mackerel and put it on ice, and after tidying up, I was settling in for a mid morning coffee when a huge humpback broke the surface about 10m from my boat.

The whale was on a collision course with my boat. My instincts kicked in and I jumped up and stomped on the floor of the boat, attempting to make enough noise to divert the creature.

The whale, which was about the size of a greyhound bus, dived at the side of the boat, almost swamping me before disappearing out of sight.

Then my mackerel rods, which were in strike drag in their rod holders, buckled over and 50lb braid screamed off the reels.

The whale had accidentally picked up my lines along its right pectoral fin. The lines were obviously firmly attached to the whale, as my 3.85 Explorer was being pulled sideways through the water.

I grabbed the closest rod and tried to thumb lock the reel at the spool and pop the line at the hook, which didn’t work. So, I tried, and also failed, on the second one before I realised all my outfits were quickly being spooled. The humpback was now really motoring, and was close to taking the rods over the side with it, so I grabbed my knife and cut the lines.

The whole show was over and done with in about 40 seconds and left me feeling dazed. Initially I was annoyed at adorning such a beautiful creature with my mackerel rigs and braid, but I’ve since realised there wasn’t anything I could have done to prevent it. I was also really lucky not to be capsized boat or lost the outfits.

My experience was a friendly reminder about how majestic but dangerous these gentle giants can be and all within a few kilometres of the coastline. For me it was a very real reminder to have a grab bag handy with all of your survival items together and ready to go when on the water.

It’s also worth having an escape plan, as you never know how suddenly situations can change and you could find yourself out of your boat and in the water.

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