Time for a time-out
  |  First Published: March 2005

Cape York based guides don’t take charters during the wet season. The area is often subject to weeks of northwest monsoon and the occasional twister, wiping out much of the fishing area on the Gulf coast at very short notice.

There can be days, even weeks, of top fishing weather but the unpredictability of wet season weather is not worth the gamble. I’m sure that if a client were to fish a muddied estuary swept by wind-driven showers while the surf pounded on the normally calm beaches, he wouldn’t be keen to return!

When you explain this to prospective clients, the question invariably follows: “What do you do then in the wet, put your feet up and have a holiday?”

Of course! When you work for nine months of the year, sometimes seven days a week, a holiday is well deserved. There are usually piles of magazines that haven’t been read, new DVDs to watch, and time to have a fish yourself.

There’s also tackle to be serviced, boats to be refitted, mechanical repairs to organise, newsletters to write and post, and bookings for next season to process.

In the midst of all this activity, I attended a general meeting of The Fishing Party in Proserpine, and along the way dropped in to chat with a couple of fishing mates at Cardwell. Vic McCrystal, Don Porter and I caught up on everything from the latest gossip to fishing trips that happened over three decades ago.

For a couple of decades, Vic was North Queensland’s unofficial sportfishing ambassador. His modest home just off Highway One became the visitors’ centre for every angling pilgrim heading barra-wards. On the day Denise and I first met Vic back in 1973, we were the fifth party of visitors he’d spoken with that morning (the other four had turned up unannounced), and it was only 9.30am!

Just about every angling personality (and many others besides) who ventured north in the 70s, 80s and early 90s ended up in Vic’s boat. His guiding services were offered with no strings attached, his advice and time given for free. Vic was often forced to lock the door, pull the blinds and ignore the constant knocking just so he could get his latest magazine column written on time. His writing was his income, a labour of love that provided a modest amount allowing him to lead the frugal lifestyle he enjoyed.

As a person who knows just how hard you have to work to make a living out of recreational fishing, I find it difficult to accept that an icon like Vic has been virtually ignored by the industry he had a major part in promoting, particularly since he gave up writing in the 90s. Our ‘leading lights’ should be ashamed of this, but such is the nature of the man that Vic holds no malice towards those who benefited from his writing and who didn’t reward his contribution.

Vic’s health is not the best these days but his eyes still sparkle as he animatedly recalls his plethora of fishing experiences. He was there when lure fishing for barramundi and Murray cod was in its infancy, there when game fishers first battled the giant black marlin of Cairns, and was there when the Australian National Sportfishing Association was born.

His books, long out of print, are a treasured section of my fishing library, a personally autographed copy of The Rivers & The Sea being a fishing jewel.

Vic still gets out fishing occasionally and enjoys a good yarn. His neighbour and mate, Don Porter, is always ready to oblige.

Don’s been a mate of mine for nearly as long as Vic, since we were fresh faced members of ANSA’s early Queensland executive committee. He recently retired to Cardwell from Townsville so he could relax in one of our state’s most picturesque and fishy locations.

Don has been writing a lot more since he retired. He now pens regular columns in Fish & Boat and doesn’t mince words, even if it means stepping on a few toes.

We all agreed that becoming a ‘mature’ angler meant that we had less time to suffer fools, a trait some people might refer to as becoming ‘grumpy old men’. But when the greenies want to lock up the places where some of your life’s most memorable experiences happened, and ‘do gooders’ want to wrap your grandkids in cotton wool and sit them at a computer screen rather than let them go out into the natural world, the hackles rise.

The morning went all too quickly and it was time for me to hit the ‘frog and toad’. A lot of water had passed under our respective bridges, water that was teeming with fish – and the great memories that went with them.


National Party Senator Ron Boswell was guest speaker at the recent management meeting of The Fishing Party (Qld) held in Proserpine. Senator Boswell documented the amazing circumstances that resulted in TFP’s block of votes, giving the federal Liberal/National coalition control of the senate for the first time since Malcolm Fraser, and he labelled the rise of TFP as a “spectacular success”.

The Senator said the GBRMPA Representative Areas Program closures were going to be much more costly to the federal government than expected, because non-commercial fisher businesses were being compensated. The initial figure of $15 million looks like blowing out to over $200 million.

It was not until TFP became active and requested compensation for non-commercial fisher businesses that the government considered making this money available. You can be sure that any government will think carefully before any implementing more RAP-like closures.

Delegates from all over Queensland attended the meeting, including the newly established North Brisbane branch. News of the proposed Queensland EPA Hervey Bay zoning plan was presented and an action plan developed.

The USA-based Water Works Wonders advertising program was presented by Gary Fooks and received widespread acclaim. The program seeks to encourage outdoor water-based activities based on community and family values, a much-needed initiative in our urban-oriented society. TFP will be leading the charge to have Water Works Wonders make its mark in our country.

Moves to install branches of TFP in every state have been successful, with a Victorian TFP group already staging a protest rally on Port Phillip Bay. A national TFP conference is already on the drawing board and should be held in mid-year.

Keep an eye out for a couple of major TFP fund-raising events to be held in the not too distant future. In the meantime, more members and branches are needed. TFP will be very active in the coming Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay zoning plans. If you’d like more information, send me an e-mail.


1) Sportfishing stalwarts Vic McCristal and Don Porter enjoyed a morning reminiscing with the author at Cardwell recently.

2) Senator Ron Boswell was guest speaker at the recent meeting of The Fishing Party. TFP Senate candidate Kevin Collins joined Senator Boswell for an after-meeting chat.

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