WEIPA has been a dream destination of mine for many years, and I finally had the opportunity to go there in May this year. My friend Mick White, who was born and bred in north Queensland, rates Weipa the number one destination in Australia – and this is after a lifetime of fishing the north and then spending 18 months travelling all around the Land of Oz.
My dream finally came true with a phone call from Dave Donald, of Dave Donald Sportfishing in Weipa. He told me he’d run out of time to do a boat test on his new Hooker 5.9 Fisherman when he drove down to Cairns to take delivery, and asked me whether it would be possible for me to fly up to Weipa do the test. There is a God!
Convincing the Minister for Home Affairs that I was going to Weipa for the weekend to WORK didn't wash, and my workmates didn't help my cause by casting aspersions upon my story, making sure at all times that the good wife was within earshot. The price you have to pay to work nowadays!
A quick departure from work on Friday saw me on the 4.05pm Qantas flight to Weipa, landing in plenty of time to go fishing if we had wanted to. The new Qantas flight schedule out of Cairns is perfect for a weekend fishing foray in Weipa. The return flight departed Weipa at 5.35pm on Sunday, which meant two whole days of fishing. Er, I mean work!
What better way to conduct a boat test than to spend two days exploring the endless piscatorial options available in this region. I had a glimpse at the enormity of the area from the plane window as we came in to land, but it wasn't until I was on the water that I started to get a real picture of the huge expanse of water that makes up Albatross Bay.
Dave commented that Weipa has the highest per capita boat ownership in Australia and it's not hard to see why. With so much virtually untouched fishing habitat closed to commercial fishing it's no wonder this is fishing heaven. The Hay, Embley and part of the Pine River have been closed to commercial fishing for many years.
Saturday morning saw a real gentleman's start, with a 9am departure after a night out at the local golf club with Dave, his wife Denise, new guide Josh Lyon and the latest charter group. The food was top notch and the company was excellent.
We headed out to the end of the shipping channel in rather rough conditions. Dave commented that it was too rough for his clients but he felt it would drop out around lunch time. Now this was a completely new concept to me. Having fished most of my life on the east coast, the idea of a southeaster dropping out as the day wore on was completely foreign. But sure enough, by lunchtime the wind was easing and by 2pm it had ceased to exist.
The sharks won the battle in the first session, and it was certainly an entertaining one. The sharks in Weipa are XOS, and huge 12-foot whalers circled the boat and homed in on our hook-ups at every opportunity. I’ll never forget the sight of two massive sharks converging from opposite directions on a large fish I had been fighting for some time. The fish made a mad dash for the top and the three met right on the surface. Out of the churning mass of foam and fins popped my Prawnstar lure!
We worked hard for our fish that day, and with 50 percent of them being turned into shark food it was time to leave them and try up the river. It was then that I got a real feel for the size of the place. We were on the plane for nearly an hour before we throttled back and positioned ourselves to fish the run-off from the mud flats as the tide subsided.
It started with a flurry, with my second cast producing four or five hits before I finally hooked up on a small blue salmon, which was quickly photographed and released. Dave is big on catch and release and we only kept two fish from two full days’ fishing.
The rest of the session was slow and we moved many times. By the end of the afternoon Dave was calling me a Jonah and blaming me for the poor fishing, the very day after he had finished the best charter of the year, with well over 200 hundred fish landed on their best day and 30 species caught for the week. I was beginning to believe him as I recalled spending a week a couple of years ago at Punsand Bay near the tip of Cape York. In spite of it being fantastic fishing compared to Cairns, the locals rated it the worst week of the year!
The next day local Fishtalk correspondent and teacher Lance (the real Jonah) Jarrett joined us for a day on the water. I’d finished taking photos for the boat test so it was time to get serious about fishing. We headed down the coast fishing our way from reef patch to reef patch, landing numerous species as we went. My new ‘Jonah’ tag was soon forgotten as the fishing went from excellent to incredible.
One frantic session saw a few triple and numerous double hook-ups on queenfish well over a metre long, with a sprinkling of trevally, barracuda, longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel thrown in to spice it up. We fished until we'd had enough and then left them biting to return to the shipping channel in the hope of tangling with a big fingermark.
A very appealing feature of the area is the endless kilometres of pristine coastline, with offshore winds allowing sight fishing from the beach for everything from barra to those holy grails of fly fishing, golden trevally and permit, to bommie hopping for reef species. The run along the coast was worth the trip alone, with the fantastic fishing as a bonus.
Jigging the shipping channel with soft plastics, jigs and Prawnstars produced more trevally than we could handle and we couldn't get to the bottom to find out whether there were any fingermark below. In the end our aching backs and arms had Lance and I looking at each other thinking, “I don't want to put my lure back in the water as I know what will happen, and it hurts!”
It was time to call it a day and head for the ramp in time to retrieve the boat, have a shower and pack to catch the flight back to the reality of Cairns. As I took off I checked out some of the places we had visited and reflected on the fantastic company, hospitality and fishing. If you ever want to wash the pressures of life in the fast lane from your mind, catch the 4.05pm Friday Qantas flight from Cairns to Weipa.
1) Weipa's endless sand beaches and offshore winds make for fantastic boating and beach fishing.
2) Dave Donald from Dave Donald Sportfishing showed us how it was done.
3) Lance Jarrett proving he's not a Jonah.
4) The author was surprised to nail this longtail tuna on a Prawnstar but the inventor, Andrew Fogarty, later told him they love prawns.Reads: 1964