Hooray for May! The annual invasion of XOS amberjack over the wire weed and gravel beds of Wide Caloundra begin in earnest the month.
Incredible discovered this fishery eight years ago after having every pearl perch we hooked monstered on the way up. In desperation we sent the only pearly that made it to the boat back down on shark gear. When an XOS amberjack finally lay on the surface beside the boat, our eyes were opened to the fun and power of amberjacking.
The greater amberjack (Seriola dumerilii Risso) is caught throughout the year south of Deep Tempest, usually in sizes 5-10kg. Smaller juvenile greater and high-finned amberjack in the 40-50cm range plague Hutchies in spring and early summer. These tough little fighters are well known to the soft plastics brigade who tease them with small jigheads and braid fished on light spin gear.
The amberjack at Wide Caloundra in May are the apex catch: aggressive, awesome, oversized brutes that terrorise the pearlies and squire in the wire weed. Fighting an amberjack is not a sportfishing activity but a vertical tug of war! If you pull hard enough and your gear is good enough, you win. Otherwise, your hooks will straighten, your line breaks, or the fish will scream straight to the bottom and rub you off on the reef. Very exciting!
A typical Wide Caloundra amberjack starts at a scrawny 12-15kg, but can easily top 50kg! Jan Patterson, the fanatical fishing son of Firebird’s Warren ‘Wazza’ Patterson, landed a 49kg monster amberjack last year on a Japanese jig, and Incredible landed a 50kg amberjack a year earlier. The 2009 season saw a run of smaller fish between 12-20kg, which resulted in a few amberjack being landed for a change. In 2006 the average size of landed amberjack was a whopping 35kg! And gauging by the massive bust-offs Incredible has had already in March and April, it appears as if the big boys are back in town!
The old adage “Don’t take a knife to a gun fight” applies when dealing with monster amberjack. The gear described has been proven in the heat of battle, but unfortunately it still won’t guarantee success in all cases.
The Incredible packs a brace of TLD 50 2-speed reels (soon to be upgraded to the new excellent Fin Nor game reels) loaded with 37kg (80lb) mono.
These are fished on 6455XXH Sabre Short strokers, which are custom-made at Gary Howard’s factory at Brendale. The Sabres bend in half but don’t break as they take the load off the angler. It costs a little more for the custom rod but Gary does a great job and you will know the rod is right for you and fight with the fish you hope to catch. Forget long, stiff rods or braid, unless you are a masochist.
A Black Magic drop harness and a kidney belt straps the angler to the rod and reel, which allows him or her to rest their arms while still fighting the fish.
Terminal tackle again is simple; no double or leader, just main line attached with a Uni knot to a 300lb ball bearing swivel. Two XXXX hooks usually MUSTAD 7766D or MUSTAD HP 10827NPBLN from 9/0 to 12/0 are snooded on to a trace of 100lb plus mono. A ten ball running on top of the snood is usually plenty of weight.
Any of the ledges at Wide Caloundra, including 58m, 64m, 72m, 80m and 95m that hold pearl perch, will have its share of big amberjack. Amberjack are readily identified on your sounder as large arches stacked up like cord wood on top of the pearlies.
Harness up your mate and clip the reel to the harness lugs before you put a bait in the water. Put the hooks through a just legal pearly, hussar or squire with the barbs free of the bait. With the reel set to low speed, in free spool and the ratchet on, pull line hand over hand from the rod tip to send the big bait downward.
When the ratchet starts howling of its own accord, get the lucky (or hapless?) angler to count to three then slam the lever drag over to sunset. Then grab your mate by the back of the harness and hope like hell you’ll both stay in the boat!
When the fight is on, your main aim is simple – pull harder than the amberjack. I have seen big, strong men go pale as they start to realise that this is a battle they may not win, especially when these blokes are using their own very expensive jigging gear without a harness. I had to help save a few rods from going over board, just ask Michael Thompson, an Incredible regular. His first amberjack was caught on a long stiff rod and braid without a harness and went over 30kg.
Amberjack are at the unfashionable end of the fishing scale with bulky tackle, big fish and brutal contests being the order of the day. While amberjack are great chewing, we release most fish that we catch as they are simply too big for the average bloke to fillet and freeze down. They look great in photos however and give the angler bragging rights for centuries to come.
Incredible Charters can give you a chance at doing battle with monster Amberjack. Just call Keith Hall on (07) 3203 8188, 0427 03 8188 or email: --e-mail address hidden-- to book your Incredible charter.Reads: 2223