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Farewell to a Weipa legend
  |  First Published: September 2013



September really looks like it could fish as well as any if air and water temperatures are anything to go by.

A mild winter has been the key and I am tipping the barra will fire up and look to spawn earlier than normal. An early wet predicted by weather experts also backs up this theory. An upside to this is that us fishos should get in some cracker sessions before the barra season shuts with the big girls coming out to play as hungry as ever. Smaller males will be in tow bringing the estuaries to life. However the downside to this early action is the commercial fleet will get a good crack at these big girls as they move towards the mouth to spawn. Unfortunately thousands of tonnes of these big breeders are slabbed, sold and turned in to you know what, doing untold damage to the fishery. That’s just the way it is here in Queensland though and we will have to live with it like we already have done for many years. Hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future we might be able to see just how good a recreational big barra fishery Queensland can be.

The rivers shouldn’t be the only thing to fire in September with the offshore also a sure bet. Spaniards will be the main target for the pelagic fisher while out wide the sailfish and marlin will also join the party. Reports are starting to come in from Weipa’s billfish fanatics consisting mainly of some nice sails with the odd juvenile black making an appearance. Consistency is still a bit of a worry, but they are there and well worth the effort.

Farewell Dave

Last month saw Weipa farewell one of its top fisherman and guides with Dave Donald retiring, pulling camp and heading off for some new adventures at the southern end of the state.

Dave and his family moved to the mining town in 1997 and started what was to become a very successful fishing charter business running up to 4 custom boats at its peak. The number of repeat clients Dave had is testament to what a top bloke and fishing guide he was. Dave, a true professional, guided thousands of clients to countless fish around the Weipa area preaching mainly catch and release. An avid tagger Dave was recently recognized by SunTag having tagged and released over 5,000 fish. A pile of recapture certificates you couldn’t jump over gave up plenty of information of habits and growth rates in the Weipa area.

One figure that sticks in my mind was that a fingermark Dave tagged in the Hey River was recaptured 12 times each time by Dave at one of his many secret spots. I was asked to join Dave as a full time guide in 2003 and had the privilege of being shown around Weipa’s expansive waterways by the man himself. We formed a great partnership that went on for many years with Dave helping me grow up and learn the guiding trade and I’m sure keeping him young.

Dave was and still is a fisherman who thinks outside the circle. Willing to try and invent new techniques, he always had something new or some type of method to try. His pioneering of vertical jigging with softplastics and leadheads is one of the first to come to mind, having bought a jig mould from the states many years before many knew what jigging was. We would spend many hours in his shed prior to the season starting making hundreds of leadhead and bucktail jigs which were used to devastating effect in water not previously fished by lures.

As many long time readers would remember Dave is also a top writer and photographer and this Weipa column was his own for many years. His well written articles and photos in this magazine and others were hugely important for the Weipa area and really helped Weipa and the western side of Cape York to become the sportfishing Mecca it is today.

While I’m sure Dave will come and fish his beloved Weipa again, I would like to wish him the best for the new chapter in his life. You’re a top bloke and one of the best fellas I have ever had the privileged of fishing with.

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