The Fishing Dutchman
  |  First Published: October 2005

Jaap Busch hails from Holland, where he lives 10m below the sea and looks up to watch the ships pass by. Surprisingly for such a cold country, Jaap fishes year round, changing his target species with the seasons. In summer he chases white fish, eel, carp and zeelt, while in winter he targets pike, redfin and snoek baars on lures and livebait. Jaap also chases trout year round, on fly.

Anglers require a number of licences in Holland with an annual government licence costing $15, as well as a local club licence of $25 per year. If you want to fish in privately owned waters there is another fee of $30 per year for each location.

He also annually visits England to fish, travelling overnight on a ferry to chase trout in the lakes and salmon in the streams. Fishing in England is very expensive, hence the once a year trip. It costs $10-$15/day to fish the lakes and up to an astronomical $250 per half day to fish a top salmon stream. That only entitles you to access to a few kilometres of the stream and even landowners have to purchase a licence to fish streams running through their own property.

Jaap’s sister-in-law, Josina, lives in Cairns and every five years he comes with his wife to Australia to see her family, and of course to fish. I met Jaap on his most recent trip, as I work with Josina. Jaap's wife, Liesbeth, had some medical problems, which saw her spend some time in hospital and resulted in their stay being extended while she recuperated. Between visits to the hospital, Jaap made the most of his extended stay in Australia and fished every day, mostly from the popular land-based platforms around Cairns. He caught numerous small fish from the jetties, with his best session tally being 18 fish.

Jaap’s fishing tackle is quite similar to that used in north Queensland, and differs only in line diameter and size of lures. He brought his telescopic spin rod and reel with him to Australia. His lure collection was spot-on for small estuary and freshwater fishing; the only problem was that the hooks were a bit light for the likes of barra and jacks. Jaap winds left handed, like most Americans, but his retrieval techniques are the same as lure tossers in north Queensland.

Eels are Jaap’s favourite eating fish back home, and he smokes his own, along with trout. Interestingly, Jaap caught an eel off the Marlin Marina in Cairns and he viewed it with the same disdain that Aussie anglers have for this much-maligned species.

I took Jaap out with my regular fishing buddy, Rob Cannon, on three occasions, and while the conditions were perfect, the fishing fell far short. The first trip was out from Mourilyan Harbour to the magnificent North Barnard group of islands. The weather and seas were perfect, but as it was only a short break between extended southeasterly blows the water had not cleared sufficiently for the Spaniards to gather around Olive Rock, one of their favourite winter playgrounds. Jaap had a ball landing plenty of small reef fish but we couldn’t put him onto an arm puller.

The following weekend the wind dropped again and this time it was out to Double Island, just north of Cairns, to try yet again for a Spaniard. While launching, we spoke to a boatload of anglers at the ramp at Yorkey’s Knob and they informed us that the Spaniards had gone ballistic a couple of hours before, just off Scout Hat Island. While they only managed to land two fish, there were runs and bust-offs galore.

We headed out on one of those rare glassed-out afternoons that bring peace to the soul. The birds were working lazily and the bait was on the surface. The mackerel could be seen on the sounder, all down around 12-14ft, but we couldn’t entice a bite, despite trying hard with trolled gar and a spread of lures of various sizes and depths.

Just on dark I noticed on the sounder that all the fish had dropped down to 24ft, so I lowered a deep diver back until it got to that depth. I had barely engaged the reel when bang – Jaap was on! The fish took a heap of line, and as soon as the other three lines were out of the way, we gave chase. Jaap fought the Spaniard like a real pro and after a lengthy battle we finally saw colour.

The 10kg, 108cm Spaniard was hooked in the corner of the mouth on the rear treble, with the front treble lodged into its side near the pectoral fin, which gave it a lot of purchase, hence the extra long fight. The big fish eventually came to the gaff and Jaap was all smiles. The photos of his prized catch were emailed around the world the very next day.

The Spaniard was the second biggest fish Jaap has caught in his life – only outweighed by a fat 15kg carp, caught in his homeland. While the carp was bigger than the Spaniard, Jaap rates his Aussie capture as the highlight of his fishing career.

Jaap Busch was over the moon about his late afternoon Spaniard capture.

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