THE FISHING doesn’t get much better than it is right now. Just about everything is going off but I guess that’s to be expected at this time of the year.
Despite the past 12 months being pretty quiet and suffering from some fairly ordinary weather, the fishing on the South Coast is not too shabby. Just about everything that is supposed to be around is, and most anglers are catching a few fish from beaches, rocks, estuaries and outside.
I don’t keep or kill a lot of fish these days but I do have a few forms of fishing that are planned just to catch a feed. These include reds and kings from the boat and blackfish from the rocks. Apart from bigger kings, I’d normally keep my fish alive until the session was over before bleeding and cleaning them.
I keep my blackfish in a keeper net in a clean rock pool and the reddies go into icy-cold saltwater in a large insulated ice box on the boat. I’ve been doing this for years and never saw a problem until recently.
Roger Morley and I were fishing the rocks for blackfish with Currarong local Dave Mayne. Every fish Dave caught was bled and had its neck broken as soon as it was out of the water, which seemed a bit strange. I didn’t take much notice but Roger asked Dave why he killed his fish instantly, rather than cleaning them altogether when he’d finished fishing. Dave reckoned they tasted better so we investigated further.
A few weeks later Roger was fishing for blackfish with Paul Baker, who used to work as a professional fisherman, rod-and-reeling yellowfin for the Japanese market. I fished with Paul a few times many years ago and we caught some big yellowfin. Every fish we caught was gaffed, shot in the head with a .22 rifle, had the gills removed and a thick piece of nylon filament inserted the full length of its spinal column to kill all the nerves and stop it shaking. I always thought that was just to make them easier to handle but apparently killing them this way stops them stressing and the meat heating up or being tainted by lactic acid build-up and other body fluids during stress prior to death. Abattoirs do the same thing with cattle, which are head-spiked, bled and then have their spinal cords removed for the very same reason.
Roger tried this new technique the next time he caught some blackfish and he reckons it works and the fillets definitely tasted better when the fish was killed straight away before it could stress out in a keeper net. If you keep a few fish for a feed now and then, try killing them as soon as they come out of the water by bleeding them and cracking their necks and see if they don’t taste better. I guess it goes without saying that putting them in cold saltwater or on ice after they have been despatched is also a good idea !
Anyone who does a bit of fishing would have had the odd trip when everything went wrong but a few decent fish were hooked. I had one recently.
The plan was for Jim and a mate to fish from his Bar Crusher while young Andrew and I fished from my boat for mahi mahi out wide around the traps near the Block and Cheese, a few kilometres south-east of The Banks. We loaded up with livies just outside the river entrance and headed out to The Banks, where we pulled up to compare notes on the plan of attack. No sooner had we pulled up than Andrew was over the side spewing due to lack of sleep the night before. Why anyone would want to talk to girls on a mobile phone until 1am is beyond me but maybe I’m getting old. Anyway, it looked I was off to a good start with my one and only crew member sleeping up forward.
I was sure we had agreed to go out to The Block and find the traps. I put a couple of small pushers out the back and started following Jim but when they veered north-east and just kept going, I thought they either didn’t know where The Block was or had suffered a brain explosion. We trolled down to The Block and, half-way there, one of the lures went off. That was a mako about 70kg that thankfully was hooked in the corner of the mouth. He was released after about 10 minutes and we headed for The Block.
We did a few laps around The Block and then around some traps nearby with nothing to show for it so we decided to go up north and drift back down with livies out for a mahi mahi. I had a new jig stick with a Shimano Torium reel that I was keen to try so I clipped a 50kg leader on it and fed a slimy back as the current took us through half a dozen traps. Andrew was feeling better after the mako so he fed a bait back on my 15kg stroker. His bait didn’t want to play and wouldn’t come out from under the boat so I grabbed the rod and tried to get it out while he looked after the jig stick.
I’d no sooner grabbed the stroker than the jig stick went off slowly and then stopped as something fiddled around with the bait. It was that slow that Andrew wasn’t even sure that the bait had been eaten so after a few minutes I told him to put the reel in gear and wind to see if was a fish or just an energetic bait. He came up solid but not much happened for a few minutes until about 80kg of marlin stuck its head out of the water and Andrew worked out his line was connected to it.
He offered me the rod because he knew how keen I was to put a bend in it so I put a on gimbal belt and got stuck in. With 24kg braid and a beefy rod, I gave that fish heaps and within 20 minutes it was under the boat and knocked up, just as the light trace wore through and we parted company. I wasn’t too fazed because I’d planned to release the fish anyway.
I put that outfit together to jig for kings and troll but I’d always thought it would be capable of stopping a reasonable billfish. At around 1.8 metres long the Loomis Pelagic is no short stroker but it handled the job pretty well.
When the boat was cleaned up I gave Jim a call to see what had happened. They’d kept going until they reached the continental shelf and found some bait schools and lobster traps. Their first two baits got eaten by the same marlin, which smashed them up on their mahi mahi tackle. Next drift they put one bait out on a 24kg stroker and heavier trace and Stomper ended up landing a striped marlin of around 85kg. We all ended up with a couple of chunks of marlin for dinner and despite the best-laid plans going haywire we all agreed it had been a pretty good day.
Bob Russo with a nice lizard taken on a soft plastic during an all too rare period of rain.
Keeping fish in a swimmer or keeper net may not be the best way to store them before killing them.
Andrew Finney with a Shoalhaven River bream that ate a soft plastic.Reads: 521