No bones about it
  |  First Published: October 2003

ON MORE than one occasion I have been fishing steadily the close-in reefs catching the size of fish you would expect in these areas, when something much larger than your kilo grassy scorches off in an unstoppable fashion to the nearest coral outcrop. Now mostly quick stuff in shallow reef waters means rubbish such as sharks but occasionally, not so. Also generally you get a look at the old reef shark – he is not a particularly persistent animal. One or two circles and up he comes. Same with the occasional estuary cod – they give up the ghost real quick.

So you manage to keep the bottom running rocket out of the rocks and are just starting to think you might be a chance when off it goes again, just as strongly. This time with the head down, driving stubbornly for the bottom. You hang on, hoping that the 45lb Schneider doesn’t pop. Finally, after a couple more minor surges up to the top comes one of the prettiest fish you will see anywhere. Don’t forget to pull it in however for as you stare at it mesmerised by its colours it never seems to give up and makes a final lunge for the leg of the outboard. Now the fish described above you might expect to come in around at 8 to 10kg – and these fish can get this big. At this size they are virtually unstoppable on all but the heaviest tackle if they don’t catch you by surprise!

This one was a nice fish, but not massive – about 3kg. How about that! Pound for pound I reckon they pull as good as a jack heading for the timber.

I wonder if this is how Paul Roder’s two ‘black spot tusk fish’ (Grant’s Guide) or bluebone (local name) carried on when he caught his pair recently. Paul was fishing out off Bustard Head at Outer Rock on two consecutive days when each day’s fishing finished abruptly on the top of the tide with a top tussle. The first fish weighed 8kg and measured 71cm, with the other being 61cm long, and don’t forget these fish, unlike some of their smaller softer cousins, are relatively firm fleshed and taste great.

Paul answered a recent call of mine to anyone who had had some success with the local bonefish supplies (yes folks it is ‘official’ they are about). Paul was fishing near Great Keppel Island earlier this year when he and his mates got onto a ‘patch’ of ‘bonies’. These fish apparently followed up a large berley trail en masse. The boys got 15 fish to 93cm. I’ll let Paul’s own words describe this event. “We were out about the Keppel Isles when we got into a big school of bonefish. The largest was 93cm and we caught about 15 of them. We were fishing between Great Keppel and Middle Island, but closer to Great Keppel, fishing on the sand, with reef beside us. A large berley trail of fish skeletons contributed I think.”

Now this is a great catch, and a great story and proves my belief that there are more bonefish in our region than we give credit for. We either scare them away with our mechanically noisy comings and goings or we just don’t know how to fish for them. I bet the 93cm specimen put on a turn. I might mooch up there for a go at them myself.

1) Paul Roder with one of his two magnificent bluebones.

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