Our tenth year at Hinchinbrook turned out to be our best yet, with the best weather, fishing, craying, squidding and oystering to date. The only shortfall was in the crabbing department.
Since our last trip, Hinchinbrook Rent a Yacht had changed hands and the new owners had continued the tradition of excellent service. Debbie O’Neill and Paul Hunter, who are the faces of the partnership, which also includes Glenn Hunter, couldn’t have been more obliging. The Princess, which we have chartered for the past eight years, was in better working order than ever before with plenty of maintenance work undertaken since our last trip.
The usual briefing before departure saw us underway about 11am, with Goold Island firmly in our sights. It was virtually same crew as last year, with only one change. Trevor Gordon was unable to attend and had relinquished his spot to previous regular Jason Hagen from ABC Fishtalk. Jase had a few house maintenance projects underway, and had to meet with builders early on Day 1, so he came out to Goold in his reef boat later that afternoon.
Day 1’s fishing was very slow, with the usual pelagic action on the southern side of Garden Island all but non-existent. The big plus however was the perfect weather, which held for the entire trip. In five days the wind never got above 10 knots and the skies were almost totally cloud free for the entire trip.
The other big bonus was the mild temperatures, with it being so cool on the top deck at night that twice I had to go downstairs to get a shirt. When you consider our trip was in mid-December, the mild weather was something to talk about. Add to all this, the trip was in the lead-up to the full moon, and the nights under a filling moon were just sensational. The crew sat for hours under the moon each night, sipping a drink, savouring the sensational food and reliving the day’s highlights.
The fish started to flow on Day 2, with grunter and GTs the main players. Crayfish and squid were also on the shopping list for our super chef Bruce Cordiner, and we delivered with five crays and about 20 squid by the third day.
Deep fried fresh squid is something else, but it was topped by the meal we had on the third night, which goes down on the list of all time bests. Smoked fish, crayfish salsa and oyster Kilpatrick entrees before finishing off with barbecued crayfish. The taste buds were screaming for more but the belly was saying enough.
Breakfast was another taste sensation, with our short order brekkie cook, Ken Duncan, in the galley churning out fantastic meals on demand, as we staggered back to The Princess after early morning raids or just crawled out of bed after a sleep in. Jason even got in on the cooking and produced an excellent Thai fish curry one evening. As readers can imagine, the sensational meals were a major feature of the trip, and were as equally anticipated and talked about as the fishing.
Over the past nine years we have only taken tinnies under 14ft on the trip, so Jason’s reef boat opened up a new perspective. A trip to Otter Reef by Jase, Ken and Terry McClelland produced a nice haul of trout and one mackerel on Day 3, with another monster Spaniard lost at the boat.
Day 4 was scheduled for another first – a trip down the eastern side of the island to Zoe Bay, on the southern end of Hinchinbrook. We headed out early with both boats – Jase’s boat cutting the chop, with my tinnie tucked into the smooth water behind. We only got to Macushla Point when my overheat alarm went off, and I turned the motor off immediately. A look under the cowling revealed water and steam coming out the top of the thermostat housing on the main block. That was the end of my trip to Zoe Bay. Jase threw me a line and towed us back to the houseboat. As bad luck goes we were very fortunate. The motor could have gone down a Zoe Bay, resulting in over a 30km tow!
Jase, John, Ken and Bruce decided to go to Zoe alone and returned later that day after a great trip, that wasn’t without its dramas. The group returned to the boat after a mandatory visit to the waterfall on the southern creek, to find the tide had fallen faster than anticipated. The 17ft reef boat was on the sand. Bruce and Ken tried in vain to move the boat as the tide receded further but had to wait for the other two. The four muscle men luckily managed to get it afloat again; otherwise it would have been a long day at the bay.
The usual trio of jacks, fingermark and the odd barra were all absent until the final day, when a hot morning bite saw John Wedrat nail five nice fingermark in a short session. Rob Cannon and I could only manage to contribute one fingermark and plenty of GTs to the total. You couldn’t wipe the smile off John’s face for the rest of the trip. All the fingermark were caught on El Natural coloured PrawnStar Juniors.
The GTs, which are normally the most prevalent fish, were overshadowed this trip by the much more desirable grunter. While not in the monster class there were plenty of quality javelin taken on prawns and squid baits and surprisingly three fell for lures. Prawnstar Juniors in Honey Pot colour accounted for two grunter on lures, while the third was taken on a 10cm SWIK soft plastic, in beer pearl colour. Both are very simular colours.
We have often caught the odd grunter on lures but this was the most yet and the frequency is getting to the point where it might be worth targeting them on lures. Remember it’s not that many years ago that catching bream on lures was a rarity. It’s just a matter of enough people putting in the time chasing grunter on lures and successful techniques will surely emerge.
Crabs were the only scarcity this trip with about 20 pots checked regularly for four days providing a measly four bucks. The lack of rain in the months before our trip was the most likely cause, as we have experienced excellent catches on some of the previous trips after rain.
All up ’05 was rated by the crew as the best yet. It’s no surprise that the first job on returning to port was to book The Princess for the same time in ’06.Reads: 512