IT’S HARD to write an article on a Weipa because it gets so much publicity in every fishing magazine that you pick up. With the amount of guiding businesses, long-range charter boats and Columbia-clad so-called experts raving on about ‘secret soft plastic techniques’, it's easy to just turn off! So try this for a change...
Last Labour Day weekend I was fortunate to have the opportunity to fish with a good friend of mine, Steve Head, who’s been a long-term resident of Weipa. Steve's knowledge of Weipa's fishery is a reflection of his passion for the outdoor life, and so I see him as much a part of Weipa as bauxite.
We arranged the trip for the long weekend prior to the full moon in May, as we figured the rains would have stopped and the constant stream of southeasterly winds would allow a smooth run down the coast.
I had arranged our camping gear of swags, tents, outboard motors in boxes and various pieces and put it onto pallets, roped them down and had them sent by Endeavour Shipping at Masons Wharf in Cairns, two weeks before the trip, for a very reasonable rate. This left us flying to Weipa with only our clothes and fishing tackle. After the rotten weather we had had on the east coast over the past month I couldn't wait to jump on that Dash.
Arriving in Weipa that night we were met by a heavy thunderstorm and Steve laughing and saying, “It never rains in May, mate!” This turned out to be the call of the weekend.
The next morning saw us head down the coast in a couple of 4m boats which are, in hindsight, exactly the way to travel for coastal exploration. If your boat is too big you can't drag it up the beach if you strike bad weather, and you also have to carry more fuel.
Our boat consisted of: 160 litres of fuel in 20 litre drums, a 100 litre Tropical Ice Box roped into the nose of the boat to stop the load from shifting back during travel, a small esky for food, a fold-out hotplate, basic clothing, drinking water, and maps (both topographical as well as those outlining the new alcohol restriction zones).
A basic boat for this type of work should be lightweight. Try to stay away from heavy casting decks and extra aluminium work. Look for a dinghy with a fine entry in the nose for ocean work, rather than a rounded version – as Wozza and Pete found out when they went for a beer in their esky only to discover, with horror, that a quarter of their beers had exploded through 'nose slap' (on the first day!).
I'm not a great lover of four-stroke motors as their performance 'out of the hole' leaves a lot to be desired with a loaded boat. However, with economy being everything for long distances, I could see a definite advantage for this motor. We used a two-cylinder 40hp Merc, and travelled 85km for 25 litres at 3/4 revs. It's just a matter of tightening up the throttle friction, keep pointing it south and flick your brain into freewheel.
Steve has done the trip from Weipa to Karumba in a 4.2m tinny with a 30hp four-stroke, which is a huge effort. The adventure of such a trip always seems to be talked about by people on the east coast, but he's the first person I know who has done it – and thanks to his experience, he has opened a door for us to further explore the west coast.
It's amazing how much gear you can pack into a 4m boat. It's even better when you travel with two or three other boats, making it easier to distribute the load – not to mention the safety factor, being in such a remote location.
The isolation leads to better fishing in smaller creeks, untouched by commercial netters. Some of the shallow freshwater creeks draining into the ocean of crystal clear water are also good for a midday dip. You have big schools of pelagics all to yourself, isolated bommies off the coast all to yourself for popper tossing and you can lose each other up the back of estuaries flicking at snags out of the wind -– only to meet at the end of the afternoon on the beach at the mouth of a creek to watch the sunset and choose between a deck chair and a cold beer, or connecting to queenies right in front of the camp.
Next issue I'll outline what we found best on the fish front. Until then, enjoy June.Reads: 727