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Things That Go Bump
  |  First Published: December 2002



OUR recent night shark fishing expedition on Turkey Beach wasn’t something that we’d planned. Our trip to Yellow Patch was blown out and we decided to fish Turkey because it’s still accessible in a bit of a blow.

Geoff, Carl and I launched at the Tannum Creek ramp for the run through Tannum Creek and Boyne Creek, via Colosseum Inlet. Boyne ‘Creek’ is simply that tidal narrow stretch behind the mainland and Hummock Hill Island that makes it an island.

After running through there and navigating the shallows around Mondulans, we continued to Norton Point. Here we knew we could assess just how rough Rodd’s Bay was in the roaring, omnipresent 25 knot north-easter /wester. If it was too rough, we planned to make camp on Norton Point and fish for the big night whiting I’ve caught here many times before. If Rodd’s Bay wasn’t too lumpy, we planned to run the 7km across this very shallow and open area of water, making a beeline for Turkey and the islands at its entrance.

On previous trips we had pulled up at the Morris Creek camp at the mouth of the creek, but Geoff wanted to see as much of the country as possible. For his sake, we decided to make for Bird Island and see if there were some night-time blue salmon on the prowl. These fish are in residence during March and April – we’ve caught them at that time of year at night – and there can also be a run in early Summer. This was what we were banking on.

Bird Island was perfect for the rough northerly blow because the beach faces south-east. This island makes for a lovely camp in this kind of weather, with the wind coming from your back. This also makes it much easier to cast the cumbersome live baits.

We beached the boat and made camp right on the beach. You have to check your tides here; the big four-metre tides wash through the tent door because there’s not a lot of habitable high ground. Camping on the beach is the go, and it’s best for this sort of night fishing because your camp is right near the set rods. The style here is to sit beside the campfire, have a bit of a chat and a cold beer, and occasionally check the rod tips with the spotlight. Easy as.

We allowed the boat to beach itself around two hours below the high tide mark. This sandy beach has no rocks etc. to hole the boat, and beaching it takes the worry out of watching it all night if the wind changes. For this spot, a strong south-easter may cause some boat concerns at high tide.

We had secured some live baits earlier, including some good-sized whiting, mullet and ‘biddies’. Live baits are all the rage for salmon and, as we found out, sharks as well. We tossed out our first round of live baits at around 8pm, when the tide had risen enough so that there was a reasonable depth of water in front of camp. This whole corner of Turkey Inlet is fairly shallow so you need to be patient, often for several hours around the bottom of each tide, for the water to come back. But usually the fish come with the rising waters, and tonight was no different.

But there were no salmon! Only shark after shark. We knew this because the 60lb Jinkai mono traces (usually tough stuff) were no match for the ‘snip-snip’ brigade. So out went the wire traces.

THE MEN IN GREY SUITS

I hate using wire traces, but it was obvious that if we were going to have some fun it was going to be with the men in grey suits. And so it was. There’s no shortage of whalers and reef sharks here, mixed with much bigger stuff that we couldn’t hold on our little ABU, Calcuttas and Penn Spinfishers. (It was a little sobering to note that we were swimming here only a few hours earlier.)

Geoff had the best battle of the night with a beautiful leopard shark. It was a stunning creature at nearly two metres long, and it took both Geoff and Carl to hoist it for the photo. These sharks are harmless and, according to Grant’s Guide to Fishes, are rare catches on a rod because they’re usually shellfish eaters. This shark took a whole ‘biddy’ bream on 20lb braid and gave Geoff a bit of a run up and down our little beach before we finally ‘tailed’ it. It’s the method we use to land all our sharks, and is more fun on the ones you know have no teeth!

This shark’s colouring made it one of the most spectacular fish I’ve ever seen, and it’s the only leopard shark I’ve seen caught. It was a real pleasure to slip this big girl and her pair of resident remoras (sucker sharks) back into the murky depths.

My personal contribution was an early-morning shovelnose shark. The fish was around the same length as the leopard shark (but not as heavy), and it took me some time to subdue it on the ABU 6500 8kg baitcaster. The shovelnose took a whole whiting and almost the rod, reel and rod holder to boot with its scorching first run.

Our technique was timeless and simple. We set out four rods in lumps of PVC for rod holders, set about 20 metres apart, and we got the spares out quick smart if one went off. These battles rage for some time, and the fish run up and down parallel to the beach – the fish that you stand a chance of landing, that is. The big ones go wherever they want to – usually straight out to sea!

A good time was made even better when the whiting turned it on off the beach in the morning. We kept around 20 nice fish for a take-home feed.

And the wind? Well, it howled 20-25 knots all night and made our trip somewhat sloppy back across Rodd’s Bay the next day. Who says fallback trips can’t be great fun?

1) Geoff’s leopard shark (the photo quality is poor because the camera was opened before rewinding the film).

2) The author’s shovel-nosed shark.

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