When planning a Brandis family holiday to the Sunshine Coast, we decided to book a charter as we were new to the area.
Adam and I booked a trip with Mooloolaba Game and Fishing charters [details in the Charter Directory section of this issue]. We had hoped to book onto a full day charter but, unfortunately, there weren’t enough people so we headed out on a half-day trip. This limited us to the inner reef areas, with the target being the northern tip of the Barwon Banks.
Skipper Ian and deckies Peter and Jim couldn’t do enough for us. Although, when I mentioned taking a few pictures for this article, they did frisk me for a handheld GPS!
Thirteen others joined us on the charter, mostly tourists and first-time fishers. All tackle, rigs and bait were supplied, with the weapon of choice being a boat rod matched to an Alvey 625. The tackle was a paternoster rig and two dropper loops, each holding single 6/0 hooks. I had a Christmas gift of Shimano TLD20 to test out, however, so I boarded with my own gear.
At 6am we boarded Crusader II, and after the briefing we motored past the swanky houses nestled along the canals. The conditions couldn’t have been better, with a clear blue sky and an ocean like glass.
Our first drop of the day was at the northern tip of the banks, and we were full of anticipation as the skipper set anchor. Our bait was squid and pilchard cubes. At home in this environment I usually use two or three ganged 5/0 hooks, but the singles on our droppers did the trick here. Peter gave us the word to drop our baits and the skipper told all of us to hang on.
BANG! We all hooked on to a school of rosy jobfish, and double hook-ups were occurring all around the boat. Adam was standing beside me and brought three double hook-ups in succession. We were fishing in 30m of water so getting down and winding up took some time.
Jim and Peter were helping with unhooking catches and grabbing errant hooks waving above heads. With so many first timers this was a concern, as they excitedly brought their catches aboard – struggling fish, loose hooks and all. With 15 anglers on board, safety was an issue but the deckies were on the ball.
The catch was cleaned and placed in individual bins, enabling everyone to bring home their own fish.
We motored to our second drop, remaining on the extensive banks. The skipper found another school on the sounder so we were given the signal to drop. We pulled more rosies, red emperor and the occasional snapper, and all around the boat good quality pearlies were being hauled in. The deckies could not have kept busier, with tourists’ cameras flashing all around the boat. Judging by the volume of the conversation and the inevitable fishing tales, this trip was obviously exceeding all expectations. To learn techniques on how to catch pearlies, I recommend that you check out John Gooding’s excellent article in QFM September 2004.
Skipper Ian informed us that we had time for one last drop before heading home. Motoring between locations gave Jim and Peter a chance to get on top of the fish cleaning, tidy up the area and replenish bait bins. As they went about their duties they gave advice where it was needed.
Lines were checked, rigs were baited and we were eager to add to our catch bins. Ian scanned the drop area for fish by motoring backwards and forwards, slowly watching his colour sounder. He noticed a big school just off the bottom in about 45m of water, and as he dropped the anchor for the last time he told everyone to get ready.
All lines hit the water and then it was on for young and old. Snapper were coming to the boat as fast as we could get our lines into the water. I dropped to the bottom and started to bring the bait up when I was hit – and the same thing was happening to everyone else. I got plenty of plate-size squire but it took Adam to bring up the knobbies. Quite a few others also brought big snapper to the boat.
We motored back to Mooloolaba and arrived back at the marina just after midday. After that experience, I thoroughly recommend booking a charter when you’re on holidays in a new area.
1 One of the Barwon Bank’s red emperors, brought aboard by young Alan.
2 One of many quality snapper from Barwon Banks.
3 Adam and his first knobby snapper, bound for the barbie.Reads: 7531