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The silent hunter
  |  First Published: June 2005



Many land-based anglers yearn to explore new areas but are prevented by time, money and transport limitations. The solution? Take the cheap option and buy a canoe or kayak, and you’ll have the means to discover greener pastures.

STEALTH

I love fishing from my canoe. Gliding along effortlessly, fishing as you go, is one of the most effective and rewarding ways to fish. Imagine quietly sneaking up to a trophy bream grinding barnacles under that old set of wooden pylons, or sliding over that weed-patched sand flat towards a mammoth flathead that has no fear of your approach… it’s breathtaking stuff. There’s also the appeal of cruising alongside rays as big as truck tyres, and casting slugs at hungry schools smashing baitfish within inches of your hull – not to mention the thrill of being towed around when you hook into a quality fish.

You almost feel as though you’re cheating! The fish just don’t know you’re there. With a small craft you become the silent hunter again.

The sights aren’t just restricted to fins either, with spottings of tiny native kingfishers with iridescent blue and orange plumage, cautious turtles, weird-looking lungfish and the occasional platypus.

Opening new doors

When I was younger I fished from every bridge, park, wharf or jetty I could find, wishing I could just get around that next rock bank or have enough bank so I could throw a lure to that next group of oyster-encrusted rocks. The great thing about fishing from a canoe or kayak is that you can access all those spots you couldn’t get to when you were land-based. My catch rate increased tenfold once I started fishing from a canoe.

That said, you don’t have to give away land-based fishing. Sometimes the best thing about your craft is that you can use it purely as transport. Ever been casting along the side of the bank and wondered what the opposite bank was fishing like? What about that sand flat you could wade if it wasn’t for that deep gutter blocking your path? Or the next set of pools in the upper reaches of your local bass river? With a canoe or kayak you can fish everywhere. These craft draw virtually no water and are light enough to launch into any small creek that you’d never dream of being able to fish before.

Optional Extras

When it comes to small craft fishing, all you need is your hull, a paddle and some tackle. It’s that simple.

However, if you want a more specialised fishing platform, you might want to consider making a few additions. Over the past couple of years I have equipped my Coleman Vantage with a Minn Kota 42lb Saltwater electric motor (which includes a bracket), a Lowrance X135 sounder, a new seat (praise the Lord!), and some drink holders and rod holders for trolling. With extras like these you do get the drawback of increased weight and longer launching time, but that’s it.

If you’re prepared to spend a bit extra to customise your craft, your first concern should be a well-fitted seat. After six hours on the water you’ll know what I mean! My next adjustment would be a homemade sand anchor, but it all really comes down to personal choice.

In any case, once you have paid the initial cost of the canoe, the rest are extras and need only be included to suit your style of angling. Because canoes and kayaks are so cheap, as well as being easy to launch, they make great first boat, particularly for young anglers. You’ll never have to buy petrol, worry about registration, rusting trailers or servicing outboards – and it’s also great exercise. From around $1000 you can have all the advantages of fishing from a boat without the ongoing costs of owning a bigger vessel.

Estuary Finesse

Most of my fishing these days is based around light or ultra-light lure casting for bream, bass, flathead, trevally, tailor and the odd tear-away mangrove jack or mulloway if I’m lucky. This style of fishery is available to almost every angler along the east coast, and is very easily accessed.

When fishing the small tidal creeks, river systems and estuaries I only use a handful of small lures. Poppers and slugs can be used to ‘scout’ out an area for really active feeding schools of trevally, tailor or queenfish, and plastics can be used for pretty much the rest!

My soft plastics mainly consist of Berkley Bass Minnows, Squidgy Wrigglers (Bloodworm colour being a favourite), and various Atomic Fat Grubs. I also bring a couple of Storm Chug Bug poppers, a generic metal slug and maybe a couple of Rebel Crawdads. When you’re armed with a small selection of lures like this you can cover most bases without having to bring out every lure you own.

In recent days a lot of attention has focussed on ‘finesse’ fishing for estuary dwellers, with switched-on anglers getting good numbers and quality of hard-to-catch species such as bream and larger flatties. These ‘light leader, light line, light lure’ techniques are based on the concept that a fish is more likely to take a presentation which looks natural and which is presented in an environment where the fish feels safe.

Stealthy approaches from small craft are just another level of finesse. These boats sit lower in the water, providing a smaller profile to wary fish than a standard bass or bream boat.

On one trip up one of my local creeks in Brisbane I was amazed to see some of the biggest bream of my life crunching on barnacles on the underside of moored boats. At first I thought they were those massive sea mullet that congregate under wharves at this time of year, but as I edged closer I realised they were bream. I approached with nervous anticipation and was able to get so close that I could have netted them if I hadn’t been shaking so much!

And that’s the pleasure of small boats like kayaks and canoes – you really become part of the environment. Because you can sneak up on the fish, sight fishing becomes a huge part of your angling arsenal, with monumental bust-offs often occurring in plain view.

Another point to mention is the confidence that you gain from fishing with a canoe. When you know the fish aren’t aware that you’re there, you truly believe you’re starting with an advantage. Nothing compares to landing a thumper bass or mega bream simply because it was unaware you were even fishing for it.

Sheer Joy!

The joy of owning your own little craft and the angling options it opens up are great reasons to look into these silent boats. They’re a cheap and fun way of catching fish and a great way to get out and experience Australia’s great estuary, creek and river systems. So the next time you’re down at your local park or wharf and see the river twisting upstream or that group of pylons just out of casting range and wonder about what could be up a bit further, wonder no more.

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