The 2008 Port Hinchinbrook Fishing Classic was held from 17-21 September at the stunning Port Hinchinbrook just south of Cardwell on the doorstep of Hinchinbrook Island. And 146 anglers took advantage of some sensational Tropical North Queensland weather to get amongst some fantastic fishing.
With two divisions in which to compete, there was always going to be some tough competition over the four days of the event.
Division One was the billfish challenge where teams of anglers fished 6kg line to tempt as many marlin and sailfish onto their lures and baits as possible in the four days. Division One entrants automatically received entry into Division Two.
Division Two was the inshore and estuary division where anglers chased a range of species on line no heavier than 24kg. Baits and lures were the main method of angling and anglers had to weigh fish in gutted and gilled to be eligible for some of the prize booty.
Division One was the big prize money division with anglers, crews and boats all competing for a share in almost $40,000 in cash. The prize money break up included $3000 per day for the most tag and release billfish, $20,000 for Champion Team, $5,000 for Runner-Up Champion Team and $1,000 for the Champion Captain and Crew. There were also individual trophies for Champion Male and Female Angler.
Day One saw the big game boats head out at 7am with a sail past the Marina. The sail past included all the boats in the competition and was a showcase of how this tournament attracts not only the big game fishing rigs, but also the smaller estuary and near shore fishing rigs. It was quite a sight to see multi-million dollar game rigs cruising alongside $10,000 tinnies – something you don’t see at many competitions these days.
Once the 4-knot Marina speed zone was cleared and all boats safely negotiated the Dugong Crossing Zone, the after burners were lit up and the big rigs muscled out to their fishing grounds. With only about 40 minutes from the finish of the sail past to the start of fishing the big rigs certainly made up some quick ground through the idyllic conditions.
The fishing started at 8am and within an hour several boats had landed marlin and even a sailfish was landed. Things were looking like being very busy for the 6kg game crews.
Fishing Monthly (Stephen Booth/Travis Davies/Shayne McKee/Greg Livingstone) was fishing exclusively in Division Two in a boat loaned to us from the team at the Tinnie Shack in Mission Beach as one of our crew gets chronically sea sick (that’s me!), but the day was so nice we headed offshore to Eva Island and then further out to a mark kindly given to us by the Cardwell sportfishing legend Carl Stokes.
At Eva we scratched around for a coral trout and some small reefies that were all undersized before we headed to the mark. The mark was an old wreck that reportedly held nannygai, reefies and a school of very cranky and big GT.
Sitting in 70ft of water, the wreck was the perfect place to drop a few Gulp plastics down and jiggle them around to see what we could hook. The first drift revealed myriad fish shows and some spectacular bottom (wreck) structure and with two 7” Gulp Jerkshads and two 6” Gulp Swimmin Minnows out we were in with a real shot.
A few light pecks, a couple of half-hearted strikes and then we finally hooked a queenfish of about 3kg. We rushed this fish to the surface and underneath it the bottom rose too. By the time the fish was landed we had drifted into 90ft of water about 100m from the wreck and the sounder had blacked out at about 30ft. We looked over the side and saw so many big GT we were just plain staggered.
We jigged and ripped plastics and metals past these fish for no result, which seemed strange for GT so I decided to chuck a popper out to see what happened. On went the biggest Bill’s Bug Popper I could cast on my heavy plastic rod, one bloop and about 80lb of GT exploded all over it without hooking up. I thought that was pretty lucky considering I was using 35lb line but two more bloops into the retrieve a bigger GT nailed it and had the reel screaming in shrill protest. Within 10 seconds the fish had beaten me and I wound in slack line.
That was all the invitation everyone else needed and it was popper time. For the next three hours we got harassed by serious GT, but only landing three of the big brutes. The first landed went 24kg, the second tipped the scales at 28kg and the third, landed by Shayne Mckee, looked to be about 33kg. We kept the big fish for the weigh in and released the others. After cleaning, Shayne’s big GT weighed 26.5kg – an impressive GT on 35lb string and just over an hour’s effort on the rod! That fish proved enough to take out the day one GT/Queenfish title and we all thought it was a good shot at taking out the overall title.
The afternoon was spent checking out a few more marks for no reward and the GT kept calling us back. We landed a few more, even got some other trevally species, but nothing to match Shayne’s fish. The big thugs shattered Greg Livingstone as he lost a fish we estimated over 40kg after 20 minutes. He desperately wanted a big GT as he’d never caught one but he was to be disappointed on day one.
Meanwhile the game crews were having a great time of it with plenty of strikes, hook-ups and fish landed. But it was the crew aboard Sea Baby IV who won the day’s fishing, landing four fish and winning the day on count back. This netted Gary Marks, Scott Marks, Darren Simpson and Ashley Plaez $3,000 for the session.
Day two started earlier for everyone as they raced to be in position before start fishing at 8am. We headed for Eva Island again as I was sure we could scare up a GT and land one of the famed fingermark that live around the rocks there.
We started with a short popper session at Eva Rock and Travis Davies hooked up a really nice 15kg trevally that looked like a midget when compared to the fish of the day before. But it still gave him some grief in amongst the washes and bommies before being landed. We released this fish straight away as we were sure we were going to get a bigger GT when we headed further offshore.
Around Eva, birds were smashing baits herded up by longtail tuna and the distraction proved too much for us and we spent an hour chasing bait schools and fish for one lone longtail of about 9kg caught on a quickly retrieved plastic. After this fish was landed we tried a bit of trolling for mackerel, but could only manage to scare up another longtail, so we gave it away and headed offshore to the GT.
As we arrived we swung a little wide of the mark to check out the surrounding area and, soon enough, up came the GT. Greg was the first to react and grabbed a popper. First bloop and a big, angry GT swiped his lure. Second bloop the GT crash tackled the lure out of the water before missing the hooks. But on the third bloop everything came up tight and Greg was ordering us all around like a seasoned pro to make sure this fish made it to the boat.
The fight lasted almost 45 minutes and, with Greg and fish fatiguing, we finally traced the fish and bought it in. This was another impressive fish of about 25-30kg so we decided this was the one we would keep and we’d let all the other GT go for the day.
That proved to be some sort of curse because Greg’s was the first and last GT we landed at the mark for the remainder of the competition. Later that day the big GT weighed clean at 23kg, giving Greg the day two title for Trevally/Queenfish.
The inshore fleet was doing well on day two with all categories of fish being weighed – a first for the tournament and a measure of how good the fishing was on that day. Out on the marlin fleet the action had not slowed a bit with three teams tying on three fish landed for the day. After a count back it was Caboom, with Graham McCloy, Greg White and Damien Rigato, who took home the $3,000 daily prize.
The last two days closed out weather wise for us and we couldn’t make it offshore to the GT mark. We decided that we’d try Lucinda Jetty for a fingermark and got blown away there by the wind, and the creeks and estuaries proved no better. We did manage a cobia on the last day, but the Division Two competition was full of experienced Hinchinbrook anglers who really started to put together some nice fish in the trying conditions.
On Day three Morgan Lindley claimed the biggest barra prize and overall biggest barra with an impressive 7kg cleaned fish, while Caboom also landed a 22kg tuna to take honours in that division. Offshore the big boats were not deterred by the weather and well known game boat Kanahoee took out the daily prize for billfish on day three with four fish landed to the crew of Rob Drane, Jack Erskine, George Campbell and Wade Alleyn.
Day four saw the offshore fleet still battling the conditions early, but after lunch the conditions dropped out and Mauna Kea took out the daily prize with three billfish landed for Geoff Ellens, Jourdain Ellens and Simon Hallam.
The competition finished with a great presentation dinner where all the major prizes were awarded.
The $20,000 first prize in Division One went to Mauna Kea with 10 billfish landed, while the $5,000 second prize went to Moana. To show how prolific the offshore marlin fishing was, the fleet of 19 Division One teams had 131 strikes from billfish, achieved an impressive 98 hook-ups and 64 billfish, comprising of 55 black marlin and 9 sailfish, were tagged and released.
The Division Two category was also hotly contested with some impressive fish taking the overall titles. Some examples include Shayne McKee’s 26.5kg GT, Allan Hancock’s 8.86kg nannygai and Grant Hart’s 17.5kg mackerel. Remember Division Two fish were cleaned weights so they were very impressive fish.
Next year’s event planning is already underway and interested anglers can contact Port Hinchinbrook for more details about this year’s event or upcoming events on (07) 5538 0269.
This event would not have been possible for Fishing Monthly without the outstanding and kind help of a few organisations and individuals. Firstly, we never would have made it onto the water without the help of Dean and Carla Grieve from the Tinnie Shack in Mission Beach (07 4088 6125). They worked together with Formosa Boats, Honda Marine and Garmin electronics to provide us with a fantastic 5.5m Formosa centre console rigged with a 135hp Honda and fitted out with all the right Garmin electronics to get us onto some great fishing. And we would have been driving around with no clues if it wasn’t for the great help of Carl Stokes, Ryan Moody from U-Beaut Barra Charters and Cardwell local Ben Johnson, who freely gave advice and some marks to get us started. Of course the organisation team for the competition need to be thanked, but especially Sandy Murray (event organiser) and Richard Blanchette (general manager Port Hinchinbrook) for their ever-helpful advice and organisation of the great accommodation and nightly events. Lastly, thanks to my teammates, who all showed me up. Travis Davies, Greg Livingstone and Shayne McKee were the most frustrating and fun guys to fish with for four days – my skin is a little thicker now!
Division One Winners
|1Sea Baby IVGary Marks/Scott Marks/Darren Simpson/Ashley Plaez||$3,000|
|2CaboomGraham McCloy/Greg White/Damien Rigato||$3,000|
|3KanahoeeRob Drane/Jack Erskine/George Campbell/Wade Alleyn||$3,000|
|4Mauna KeaGeoff Ellens/Jourdain Ellens/Simon Hallam||$3,000|
|Overall:Mauna KeaGeoff Ellens/Jourdain Ellens/Simon Hallam||$20,000|
|Runner Up:MoanaRobert Carey/Eric Lollo/Joseph Carey||$5,000|
|Champion Crew:Mauna KeaChris Miles/Bevan Beauchamp||$1,000|
|Champion Female:||Melissa Edwards (4 fish)||Trophy|
|Champion Male:||Damien Rigato (6 fish)||Trophy|
Division Two Winners
|Day||Division||Angler||Cleaned Weight (kg)||Prize|
|Mangrove Jack||Derek Catchpole||3.14||$100|
|Red Emperor||David Lee||4.14||$100|
|Coral Trout||Dave Christensen||3.72||$100|
|Mangrove Jack||Morgan Lindley||1.10||$100|
|Red Emperor||Paul Sharpley||7.22||$100|
|Coral Trout||Barry Smart||4.52||$100|
|Mangrove Jack||Chris Stott||1.30||$100|
|Red Emperor||Luke Mewett||3.84||$100|
|Coral Trout||Gary Elder||2.68||$100|
|Mangrove Jack||John Campbell||1.32||$100|
|Red Emperor||NIL Weighed|
|Coral Trout||Tom Raleigh||2.58||$100|
|Mangrove Jack||Derek Catchpole||3.14||$500|
|Red Emperor||Paul Sharpley||7.22||$500|
|Coral Trout||Barry Smart||4.52||$500|
We stayed in the Lake Vue Cabins at Port Hinchinbrook, which were set up to cater to our needs. Each Cabin had two queen beds, small kitchenette, bathroom and toilet and wonderful air conditioning. They also featured a great balcony overlooking the small waterway where you could simply relax and watch the sun go down (or chuck small poppers for barra, jacks and tarpon!). There is also a four person outdoors spa and shower, which after battling the big GT was just sensational. Contact Port Hinchinbrook on (07) 4066 2000 or log onto www.porthinchinbrook.com.au for the best deals.