Courageous rescue
  |  First Published: December 2004

The beautiful Sunshine Coast is very busy over the holiday period. This, coinciding with the summer run of pelagics right along the coast, can be a recipe for disaster.

Anglers galore chase the various mackerel and tuna species found here, many fishing from boats that are used only once a year and often poorly maintained. This, coupled with a tendency to take risks when the fish are on, results in any number of calamitous debacles!

Unfortunately, we aren’t blessed with easy bars around here and many boaties end up wet and embarrassed rather than on their way to a productive reef. If you’re unsure about crossing a bar, please ask for help. The wonderful Coastguard staff can help you with the best way out, and back in again. The entrance to the Mooloolah River is perhaps the easiest way out into the briny on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a better option than attempting Noosa or Caloundra if you don’t have much experience.

Rescues are common during summer. Most are carried out by Coastguard volunteers, but occasionally anglers are put in dangerous situations rescuing foolish boaties who have come unstuck.

One such event occurred recently near Brays Rock off Mooloolaba. The angler in the wrong place at the right time was experienced boater and well-known lure maker Alan Dolan.

On this particular day Alan was minding his own business and having a bit of fun with the fish near the Rock. Another boat was nearby, and from their display of mindless boat handling skills it was obvious there was trouble looming. As the vessel drifted in to the white water and hull-destroying rocks the skipper finally decided to move away. The driver was accompanied by a seven- or eight-year-old boy who ended up in the drink when the skipper panicked and accelerated away from impending doom a little too quickly. To make matters worse, the young lad wasn’t wearing a lifejacket.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the skipper immediately leaped from the boat to rescue the boy, leaving the boat in gear and heading off to Noumea. Alan manoeuvred his vessel so that the two panic stricken swimmers could be rescued. He could not, however, motor to them or his own boat would have been destroyed and he too would have needed immediate assistance. The two swimmers had to somehow swim to the safety of Alan’s boat. Right in the middle of all this, another boat turned up, and Alan asked the crew to concentrate on rescuing the people in the water while he attempted to save the boat, now motoring in wide circles some distance away.

As Alan approached the skipper-less boat it became obvious that this wasn’t going to be easy, particularly since he was on his own. After several failed attempts he finally boarded the other boat, having knocked his own into neutral rather than allowing it to head off towards the horizon. Alan eventually reunited the two wet fishermen with their boat, and they immediately climbed on board and headed for the safety of the boat ramp. Hardly a word of thanks was heard from the ungrateful, and very lucky ‘skipper’ – if he may be called that.

There are many lessons to be learned from this fiasco. The most obvious is to take care when boating in unfamiliar territory. Also, a young lad in a tinny bouncing around in rough water would be safer with a lifejacket strapped on, rather than having them out of reach in a hatch somewhere. There are plenty of other lessons to be learned from this horrifying experience, not the least of which is to show some heartfelt gratitude to those who saved your life and your boat, while risking their own.


During January the fishing along the Sunshine Coast can be exceptional. Pelagic activity increases rapidly with good slug casting and trolling available not far off the coast at all. Often casting slugs from a convenient rock wall is all that is required to secure a feed. Cubing is another good way to tangle with mackerel and tuna, and flycasting for these species is also becoming popular. Be prepared to slug it out if you target tuna on fly! On the day of the rescue there were a few school and spotted mackerel, the odd Spaniard to 8kg, and a northern bluefin tuna or two in the vicinity. Occasional schools of small yellowfin were seen and a few caught that day as well.


Those who choose to fish the bottom with livies, fresh baits such as squid or flesh, or even jigs, can expect a veritable fisherman’s basket this month. Snapper were still quite active throughout November and into December so hopefully they’ll still be a viable target for the holiday anglers. A few respectable coral trout have come off the close reefs, particularly North and Sunshine. Scarlet sea perch, red emperor and cobia also appear from time to time, particularly up at Double Island Point. The wider grounds may deliver jobfish and amberjacks for those with strong backs.


In the estuaries mangrove jack will be targeted by many hopeful anglers, and flathead, bream and whiting will hopefully keep fishos happy too. Jacks are snag dwellers, and aren’t often found far from structure. For this reason, a lure lobbed into the snag will be more likely to tempt a jack than one cast too short. Similarly, a livebait drifted into a snag with the current will attract more attention than one cast into open water.

It may be worth dropping a crab pot or two at the beginning of your session and collect them on the way home. Plenty of crabs are caught every year by shore-based anglers as well as those who drop a pot or dilly into a likely-looking spot.

Dawn patrols in the lower reaches of most Sunshine Coast estuaries will be necessary to catch trevally and tailor. There will also be schools of tarpon, and all three species respond to surface lures. Quickly retrieved lures, particularly slugs, will also often produce the goods.

Boat safely and keep a good lookout for other vessels during the busy holiday period.


1) Alex Bewsey caught this wahoo off the Sunshine Coast in early December.

2) Jono Bain caught this Sunshine Coast mangrove jack on a Jack Snack lure in December.

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