This month, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a coffee with Mackay charter boat skipper, marine surveyor and YouTube junkie, Greg Reynolds.
Greg runs Reefari Charters, a top class day tripping operation using his vessel, the 33ft Cougar Cat, Raptor II and the Steber 41 Gameboat, Mako.
Reefari Charters has carved a niche in the incredibly competitive world of sports fishing and Greg has had a large part to play in that success. You don’t have to spend long around the bloke to see why the punters like him; he’s a well-mannered, amiable guy with a wealth of experience and know-how that is truly astounding. If he’s not glued to his depth sounder or gaffing a fish, you can usually find him playing director with a camcorder in hand.
So Greg, what got you into making the YouTube videos?
Mate, the main reason is really just to show people what we’re doing. I love being able to capture the emotion, feeling and raw action as customers hook into big fish, often for the first time. Nothing beats it! It’s not a pro fishing show by any means but it’s still live, it’s still real and it’s all happening. That’s what I love about it.
(Note: check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/Reefari?gl=AU&hl=en-GB or go to www.reefari.com)
You must have spent your fair share of time at sea. What’s been a real highlight for you?
With a shipping background and 13 years in the Merchant Navy, the craziest thing I’ve ever seen was a little known phenomenon called ‘St Elmo’s fire’. It’s where the sheer static electricity in the air from a thunderstorm had sparks coming out of the ends of our fingers. It still amazes me to this day! It was so unbelievably freaky.
We had thunder all around, aerials humming, and when you would hold you hands into the wind, sparks were flying from your fingertips. There was so much thunder and lightning all around, we were thinking we were going to get struck by lightning. Freaky stuff!
(Author’s Note: The natural phenomenon is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae (also called St. Elmo), the patron saint of sailors . The sparks are luminous plasma which are created by the discharge originating from a grounded object in an atmospheric electric field like a severe thunder storm.)
Another highlight was when I caught a 20ft giant sawfish, which became entangled in a crab pot rope off a ship in Port Hedland, WA. It was one of the biggest things I’ve seen with at least a 6ft saw, and it had to have pushed a tonne in weight.
One to look out for too, is the Green Flash. I’ve only ever seen it once. It’s a bright green, momentary flash that occurs at sunset on perfectly calm days when the horizon is crystal clear. It culminates with the dipping of the sun behind the horizon, as the light is refracted. So keep it in mind when next you’re out on the water on sunset.
(Author’s note: This optical phenomenon is also seen as a green dot and green rays, but is always just after sunset.)
So what about the worst moment at sea?
That would definitely be getting caught up in 50lb braid, with a loop entangling my right index finger. It is dangerous stuff that braid, so beware.
To explain it briefly, it happened whilst setting a drag on our live bait rod. Unfortunately, the bait got smashed by a large shark, I believe, with me caught as well (via a loop around the finger). I was dragged over the back of the boat, hanging onto a rod, and head in the water. It wasn’t a great position to be in! With one angry shark tearing off line at a great rate through my finger I was cut to the bone and believe me, I felt every meter it took.
There was not much I could do, so I yelled for the decky to cut the line, but luckily it broke at the reel, to my great relief. We still kept fishing for a couple of hours (that’s commitment), before rushing back and spending a couple of days in hospital. Unfortunately my finger is a bit shorter now, and I have a constant reminder of that day’s event. One I won’t forget.
Ouch! When did you first start fishing and when did you decide to start chartering?
Like most anglers, as early as I can remember. I was always fishing and crabbing as a child with Dad, catching bream off the banks of the Burpengary creek, near North Brisbane. Chartering is only a relatively new passion, but we’ve come along way in three years.
What would you say was your most memorable moment as a skipper?
Fishing and boating is all great fun and an amazing experience that keeps us all coming back for more. Any day on the water for me is great and I truly do believe catching fish is a bonus. We’re blessed with some great catches, which puts more and more pressure on us to be responsible with our spots. Conservation has become more important than ever.
One of our most memorable charters was when we came across a huge school of large-mouth nannygai. Next thing we knew, the deck was exploding with these awesome eight-way hook-ups on quality fish all up around 6-7kg.
Amazingly, we managed to do this three times in three drifts. Total fishing mayhem! Within no time, we simply just had to stop; the esky was overflowing, the weather was perfect, it was glass calm and everybody was blown away.
Where does your charter operate and what makes you a standout in the business?
We operate out of Mackay Marina to nearby islands and reefs. I think we offer the best service possible, quality gear and we fish hard. We’ve got enough spots to make sure customers are rarely disappointed and we are flexible. We’ll do what it takes to catch the fish!
Do you do anything different during winter to maximize your catch?
The reef does go quiet in winter, but like any fishing, you have to be flexible. For example, we will often troll for Spanish mackerel and giant trevally if things are slow on the bottom. But with heaps of top spots, we will work them hard to maximize our chances of finding the fish, and can consistently get good catches all year round.
The large-mouth nannygai are staying with us all year and the snapper are an added bonus at the moment. We’ve been pulling smaller fish for the last couple of months, but the bigger ‘knobby’ ones will start to turn up in the coming weeks.
Any secret weapons?
Quality gear is well worth paying for. Stick to brand names, and don’t be afraid to pay for electronics. It’s well worth it in the long run. A top quality sounder like my Furuno unit is worth every cent. You’ve got the high pixel count, definition and power that allow you to really develop a picture of the world beneath.
Raptor II’s 1KW through-hull transducer lets us pick up the bottom while we plane along at high speeds. You need to be able to track that bottom and that’s how we pick up most of our fish producing spots.
The quality sounders also tend to tell less lies. If it says that there’s fish, you can just about bet on it. In addition, don’t forget to use your eyes and ears. Everyday is different and something as simple as a bait shower, a bird circling or even a sea snake can lead you to fish.
What are your favourite target species and can you give us some tips for catching them?
Definitely Spanish mackerel, giant trevally, coral trout and red emperor. You have to be flexible. One technique mightn’t work, so diversify. Try live baiting, jigging or trolling lures. Even something as simple as a lure change can make a big difference.
For trolling, I’m using the new Rapala 30+ X-raps, F-18 Bluewater Classics, Halco Lazar Pros and RMG Crazy Deep Scorpions with high levels of success at the moment.
If the GTs are on, they’ll smash anything, but big stick baits and dumbbell poppers have proved effective. To find them, look for the points of structure with moving water, preferably white water, and work the area well. Bigger tides are preferable.
Live baits are also great ways to pick up quality fish. Just drop down a bait jig and return the small fish that you catch to the depths with a big hook through the shoulders (legal sized of course). It is an ideal method for taking any quality fish – big baits for big fish! Even if they’re shut down, you can still usually temp them on a livey. We’ve landed some awesome bluespot coral trout up to 15kg in this way. They are truly spectacular!
So what are your plans for the future?
We want to keep improving and really polish our mackerel and giant trevally fishing. We’ve had the new development of a possible bonefish fishery around the islands with three caught recently on Mako. I would love to catch one on lure or fly.
I didn’t catch them. The owner of the Mako did. They were all taken around the Cumberlands group and they’re definitely bonefish. I won’t say too much just yet, other than they weren’t big, but were 100% bonefish. There’s lots of potential there and it’s pretty exciting stuff!
My longer term goal is to go chase 1000lb marlin off Lizard Island, but with a baby on the way, I had to cancel the charter for this year. I will definitely be going next year though. Can’t wait!
As far as the charter goes, we are also starting up a new VIP sports fishing service using a high speed 21ft centre console with a 175 Eco-tech on the back. It will specialise in targeting trophy pelagics like your GTs, mackerel, tuna and maybe even the bonefish.
It will be a more lure intensive option with lots of high adrenalin casting and sight fishing opportunities, as well as trolling. This will be run by Captain Josh Wight and will be a must for sports fishing fans. We actually caught and released a 30kg GT just recently, so once we start targeting this area, there is a stack of possibilities.
I hear you’re doing some Hardline charters these days. Tell us a bit about that and the draw cards of that kind of fishing.
It’s a new thing we’ve got going where we’ve got mother-shipping charters running to the outer reefs up to 200km offshore. The beauty is that you get the comfort and room of the mother ship and we then tow out the Raptor II to use as a fast-running day boat.
It opens up all sorts of possibilities. Not much is off limits! We hit the reefs, deep shoals and even run past the reef to fish the edge of the continental shelf. It’s awesome fishing. There are schools of huge GTs and amazing reef action. This year we’re running with Centurion, which is a big roomy boat with some ultimate comfort.
If you could take anyone in the world out for a day’s fishing, who would it be?
Probably Richard Branson, because he’s quite a unique character with an entrepreneur spirit that I very much admire. He lives life to the full, plays hard and I’m sure he’d fish hard as well!
Thanks for your time Greg.
Cheers, LeeReads: 2866