Versatile Weipa
  |  First Published: December 2008

Various travels and adventures had kept me away from the local Weipa area for most of the season so it was good to get back for a fishing ‘fix’ with a mob of mates, and get to do my own thing. A significant part of my guiding career has involved matching the expectations of fishers with the variety of options that are available along the Western Cape Coast and this trip proved no different.

Our group included a number of Weipa regulars, namely Ken Stien, Gavin Adams, Bruce Rampton and Ross Johnson. Also along for the ride was G Loomis tackle honcho Graham Todd, plus newcomers Darren Jennings and Jeff Reid of Reidy’s lures fame. All were keen to try a variety of tackle and techniques with lure casting, fly fishing and offshore jigging on the agenda.

In spite of copping a battering from the constant southeast trade winds, the results of our daily labours with a range of tackle demonstrated the great versatility of the Weipa fishery, whether it be river, beach or offshore.

With four boats on the water each day, sometimes heading in a variety of directions, it didn’t take long for a pattern to emerge. As the tides headed towards the full moon, lure casting results improved but slowed when night fell. Catches then peaked when the moon began to wane and the low tides fell around mid afternoon.

All of the group were very aware of the ‘no run, no fun’ rule when tropical estuaries are concerned and found that the prime mangrove bashing times corresponded with the first hour and final two hours of the run out, plus the first couple of hours of the flood. Some excellent mangrove jacks came out of the sticks, usually before the tide exposed the snags too much.

While most of the activity was spread around the Hey, Embley and Mission rivers and their many creeks, a couple of trips up to Clough Landing on the Wenlock River brought mixed results. One side creek would produce barra, estuary cod and mangrove jacks while the next was devoid of everything except those fish with forked tails and whiskers – and, no, they weren’t threadies!

Ken and Jeff were reluctant to return to the Wenlock after bearing the brunt of the whiskery encounters but I managed to talk them into trying again by offering to hold their hands.

We landed a couple of fish early on that day but hadn’t added to our score for a number of hours, so the mood was becoming very surly. A change of location on the tide change suddenly found us casting to a snag that was stacked with ravenous barra, the ensuing hour of almost constant hook-ups saved our day and my reputation.

Most of the crew enjoy fly fishing so a land-based fishing session to the beaches south of Weipa was scheduled around the most suitable tides. Thankfully, the wind backed off a little on the chosen morning giving us near ideal conditions for a session of feather flinging.

The chosen ‘hotspot’ failed to produce but a patch of fish turned up near some discoloured water further along the beach. Mixed amongst the barra, blue salmon, brassy trevally and queenfish were some sizeable king salmon and these became the immediate target of both flies and lures.

Bruce landed the best salmon on lure, a beautiful golden-hued beast over a meter long and 10kg in weight. Flies also accounted for some great threadies with many of the group landing a species first. The powerful runs and sandpaper jaws of the hooked salmon found plenty of weaknesses in the fly tackle but there were enough fish working the area to provide plenty of shots.

This marvellous morning proved to be one of the highlights of the trip. There are few better experiences than standing on the sand sharing a hot bite with a group of mates, particularly when you have the action all to yourselves.

Graham was keen to try a couple of new jig rods from the Yamashita range so I organised the use of a vessel that would handle the journey to a couple of my favourite reef haunts well to the south. A nice fingermark started the ball rolling on the first patch of reef we tried, giving Graham’s lightweight but powerful Steady Jigging model a good workout.

Things went quiet after that first fish but started to improve when we moved to shallower water. Ross had just released his second undersized coral trout when my Snapback was grabbed by something that went from heavy to heavier! Nothing much happened until I screwed up the drag on the Certate 3000 and bent the Loomis GLX spin rod into a dangerous curve, then Mr Heavy decided that he’d try and spool the reel!

The next 40 minutes gave Graham ample opportunity to witness one of his top shelf products – and my aching arms and back – being red-lined. I’d been ready to break the fish off a couple of times but was dissuaded by the constant tail beat that possibly signalled that a trevally was more likely than a shark.

Once we had colour, the jumbo landing net was quickly discarded as being too small. Ross and Graham eventually wrapped a hand towel around the tail of my personal best GT and struggled the massive fish over the gunwhale. It was ironic that after fishing the place for so many years, Weipa could still produce something out of the box, a fish that would take pride of place in my scrapbook.

The new rods were eventually tested by a number of hefty fingermark, a couple of large mackerel, a school of small trevally and the inevitable unstoppable. Some medium sized trevally would have been nice but it seems that my XOS model was all we were getting.

When you take into account some very ordinary weather and the fact that most of our fishing was restricted to where we could comfortably reach in a 4m dingy, it was agreed unanimously that the visit had been a beauty. There were even murmurings of the next Weipa excursion.

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