Originally posted to Yakfishwest May 2015
** Contains a picture of a man who has since passed away. RIP John “Jackman” Louis
Preface: I am a ‘ring in.’ A fisherman for sure, but I don’t own a yak. I get the call up to the team again for my professional ability as a chef. I don’t take that lightly, as I know Jim and Kim must be quite capable of catering for every other charter they do through the year, so it is an honour that I go in that role.
Friday 10 April
Put in a solid 6 hours at work before getting out around 130.
Home and loaded the car with all the pre packed gear, last on was Carmel’s kayak which Brett had asked me to transport for her as he only had space for his PA.
Waved good bye to wifey and son at around 4 and didnt stop until Eneabba. The servo had just closed (7.03pm) so a quick walk around and some frantic texting/emailing/calling to scotty who had just found out that the wholesale shop closes at 12 on saturday and I, who was supposed to do the shopping, wasnt getting in to exmouth until around 2! Shopping list sent, back on the road again, passing the 300,000k mark in my beloved Subi just past S-bend and rolling in to my step-aunties (who I had never met before) on the northern side of Gero just before 9pm.
Saturday 11 April
I woke around 430, half an hour before my alarm and was back on the road by 5.
Just coffee and a stretch at billabong.
Fuel light came on about 40k’s short of Carnarvon… I knew it would be close, but didnt know how much the drag of a yak on the roof would change consumption. Fortunately I made it.
Just fuel and back on the road.
Being only around 1pm I had plans to stop at learmonth jetty for a look and hopefully to open the account, but missed the turn as Olwyn had flattened the sign. Not to worry, better to get into town, find the fellas and relax.
Around 230, the man who would be my roommate for the night at the novotel, Glen, turned up. Glen travelled further than the rest of us: all the way from Singapore. Clearly a man looking for an adventure.
Around 4 I decided to have a spin from the marina wall. Glen was clearly skeptical, as he brought only a camera.
Mine was a good call and I quickly nailed a couple of small brassys and queenies with the action hot to trot on anything retrieved fast.
Glen ducked back to get a rod and the action slowed a little. With a bit of coaching on what I call “northwest style” Ie forget finesse just get something shiny and move it fast, Glen was getting hits to, but failed to connect.
Turning my attention to one obvious boulder just off the wall, I picked up a procession of bream and a chunky little cod to close out the session. The jacks were there, shadowing hooked fish, but not interested in my offerings. All great fun on 8lb gear.
Dinner with all the crew for the week at the potshot, and many tales of how incredible the previous week had been for those who had made the early trip had us all heading back to the hotel for an early night.
Sunday 12th April
To the non local, me,it looked like we should be up and at them on sunday morning, but the lack of haste from Scott, Brett or Jim showed something was up, and that something was the wind.
So we pottered around, had some breaky, last runs to the tackle and bottle shops, loaded the boat and watched some footy.
Just after midday the “It’s not gonna get any better” call came through and we hit the water in what looked like fairly tame conditions at the marina.
Glen looked somewhat bemused that we were heading out on a boat with barely 30cm of freeboard, but we reassured him with statements like “We do this sort of thing all the time in Australia”
Jim pushed the throttle down to get us on the plane while still in the marina and the reason become evident as we passed through the heads and it was a little lumpy out side.
When the alarm started sounding from the console, I am sure Glen thought this was going to be the last photo ever taken of him.
Classic Jim style, taps the screen a few times which stopped the alarm, and off we went again.
Yep, we do this all the time in Australia.
That alarm went off 3 more times, but Jim assured us that it was just salt water getting in and shorting it out.
Whatever, just get us to the island.
After a quick briefing on general camp rules, everyone set about unpacking and setting themselves up for the week. I scored a bed in the closest cabin, sharing with Scotty and Vandy. Not bad methinks.
A mix up with the bucher meant the mince that was supposed to be for that nigh, was frozen solid, but fortunately Jim had an amazing looking scotch fillet aging in his fridge, so BBq to kick things off.
As an aside, Jimbo clearly knows a bit about meat. He ran me through the whole process of how he dry ages his beef in a normal home fridge and the results, as the fellas will testify are fantastic.
Scotch fillet, Potato salad, crunchy noodle salad and beer braised onions, we were off to a flyer.
Monday 13th April
Bacon and eggs for breaky.
Most people hit the water pretty early, but with the wind up a bit they all went north and into the creeks.
As did I, but I was on foot. The stories were that John had picked up SEVERAL barra from a creek that I could access on foot and with that almost my sole though I wanted to get there before there was too much water as that would stop me getting to the good snags.
I caught the usual procession of whiting and bream on the walk, but nothing particularly substantial. When I got to the creek, the sand spit out the front was a moving carpet of ghost crabs. I unsuccessfully used a few as bait.
Some cracking hits from energetic jacks, bream and flag off a small bommie as the water was just getting to the rocks on the north end of the island on the way back. Big airborne smashes, good fun.
But most exciting was the silver stalker. Quite certain it was a barra which stalked several casts of the popper but couldn’t entice a hookup. Made me late back to camp to make lunch. Not that it mattered as there wouldnt have been enough water to get to the crew any earlier anyway.
Intended to have steak or sausage wraps for lunch, but everything was demolished the night before so no left overs! Ham and cheese I think in the end…
The crew had similar stories to me, nothing extraordinary, but plenty of medium size fish keeping everyone occupied in and around the creeks.
Jim showed off the ‘new’ motors on the boat to me on the way back, man that thing can fly on a glassed off creek!
We also briefly check the mud crab flat, but no change since Jim last checked it, all silted up after Olwyn. That put an end to any plans of mud crab night.
By the evening it was blowing its bits off and contingency plans were being formulated.
Corned beef with all the trimmings if memory serves correctly, colcannon style mashed potato, grain mustard white sauce, carrots with honey like nanna makes… mmmm
Wierd thing about Wilderness is I can never tell when the wind/water is like from my bed. I thought it sounded great so I got up with my alarm nice and early expecting the crew to want an early start.
Turns out, it was not so great.
It was evident that this would be at best a late start so I got on to the slowest breakfast for the week: Pancakes. Complete with berries and custard.
Over these, the lads decided it would be a good day for a whiting competition. Teams were picked via a draw the stubbie holder from the bag method. I was on the team drawing the WI custom stubbie holders donated by Glen, we also had Vandy, Dunc, Jarman John. The team catch cry of BAAAH HUMBUG chosen due to our having the ‘old men’ Glen and John challenged HEAST HERF of Scott, Brett and co, despite some obvious infighting about the name making them sound unintelligent.
Since we all love a feed of whiting, we were playing for dinner, anything over 28cm to be kept, biggest bag by number wins. Losers serve winners drinks for the evening.
We had a great time with the whiting masters Glen and John and got into fish on the closest corner of the island before the cheating scoundrels blew past us on the 4 wheeler to get to the further end of the flats.
Many many whiting taken, tactics and plans formulated and reformulated as the tide bottomed and returned. The biggest leaning curve went to Dunc who was formerly uninitiated in this form of fishing but with coaching and borrowed lures was catching fish like the rest of us soon enough.
and also a very large longtom that actually gave him some serious curry on the light gear before eventually self releasing to save him the point you get just for catching one.
On the way back with the tide on the rise I found some big bream over a patch of broken ground that made for half an our or so of great fun on 4lb gear. By the time I finished there was only one point left on each of the trebles on the little sub dog I was using.
Terrible photo sorry, but one handed, wading, using a phone to take photos… is not easy.
The indent on the foam is 25cm from the bottom of the rod for reference.
While the counting was being done a few of us had fun with a reasonable cod a couple of jacks and a big school of bream in a tiny deep hole that formed around a rock on the point. Despite Scotts protest that many of our fish were undersize (They werent) team BAAAH HUMBUG substantially won the day. I dont remember the final count but we had more than twice as many keepers as they did.
Back to camp for lunch, again, with everyone hanging around I decided to forgo the standard wraps and instead knocked up some pizzas using, among other things, some ‘ding sausage’ provided by Wayne. Excellent.
After lunch nearly everyone headed for the south point on foot.
I was walking away after talking to John who was trying to get a few more whiting, by his reckoning we needed 3 per person for a meal and we didnt have that when my 8cm berkly deep diver got hit. I was chasing queenies, I got about 34cm of angry whiting! What those little beggars will hit when they are hungry!
Glen was wand waving from the furthest rock, Hoolly was dropping cranka crabs on jacks, Wayne was throwing into the deep out the front…
I got smoked twice, the first on an unsighted fish (though I would be pretty comfortable calling cod) on that deep diver, and then by a big jack when I was dropping a fuze paddletail straight down off the end rock where Glen was. So much fun in the crystal clear water.
Spaghetti bolognaise for dinner I think, but what was to come after that was truly special and unprecedented:
In marches the winning team for a victory parade led by Dunc on his bagpipes. Merriment and celebrations.
One of you beer wenches from the losing team fetch me a beer!
Thus ends day 2
Was a late start for most as the wind was supposed to drop off around 930, but with everyone champing at the bit to get offshore some slugged it out into the sou wester a bit earlier across to Burnside. I was a late addition when I realised Carmel wasnt going out so I grabbed her kayak. Lunch prep done I jumped in the stock revo and slugged it out.
I got a small gt which bricked me. After some struggling I eventually broke it off, but could still see the fish tethered to the reef. Unfortunately my attempts to loop the line with a paddle only dislodged it and I had to watch as it slowly swam away with my lure clearly visible in its mouth.
It was when I got out to the rest of the crew out the end of the bar that all hell broke loose.
As I approached you could hear the Coghlan catching call, as anyone who has fished with him knows. I guessed GT or tuna as the crew were gathering and they don’t get that excited about queenies.
When I got close enough to make out the frame of an enormous giant herring.
I left them to their photos and got into it. Maybe half an hour later I was almost ready to swap lures as my hamma wouldn’t swim straight (I’m told I was working it too fast) when twitch, bump, slack line, twitch, weight, lots of weight heading to the back of the yak, crash splash zzzzzzzzzzzz, yep I’m into one to!
The jumps were more reminiscent of a salmon as the sheer girth of these monsters kept them low, I slugged it out for about 5 minutes on 15lb and a 2500 rarenium with Scotty in close pursuit camera in hand. I called it coming up so Scotty could ready the camera but misjudged how deep it was and keeping too much tension it busted me off on the jump, leaving me with a shredded 30lb leader, sore shoulder and so pumped to get back into it. This is that shot… Thanks Scotty, better than nothing!
Over the next hour there were at least 8 hooked (Scotty dropping 2 more) a couple of double hook ups and 3 fish brought to the yak between 8 anglers. As you can see these were genuine giant, giant herring, all around the 1.2m mark and solid. There were a few other fish amongst them, including a good size golden to Brett, and this nice queenie to singapore Glen
Average GT that was destined to be eaten
Plus a new species to my list, a pennant fish (correct me if I am wrong)
The trip back was much easier, using the wind and swell to drive and the rudder to maintain position relative to the reef edge casting as I went.
On the way back I watched as Hoolly tried to lift the biggest queenie I have ever seen into his yak by the leader. He shouted a few expletives when it broke…
And then while re rigging he caught the rip cord of his PFD on something setting it off scaring the shizz outta me, so I can only imagine his reaction.
I had a dugong surface only a few meters from the yak and promptly disappear when I tried to follow it for a photo.
I also had a very large and lit up GT buzz my 70mm viral barely 2 rod lengths from the yak. That would have been short lived!
On the run back up the island trolling that viral I got 3 more brassies around the kilo mark. Good fun, but could have been more if I had swapped back to the 8lb spool.
Pulled the yak up the beach, walked back down to the water and floated for a few minutes, exhausted.
30 or so Battered whiting dont last long around 13 people, also one fillet of that GT, some pickled, some ceviche and the other fillet cured for tomorrow.
And then the main meal, fried rice with red bbq chicken.
Thursday was a much less fishy day.
I did however get my fish of the trip, a queenie of about 90cm on my first pass through one of the outflows. It was a good fight on 15lb with little room for error having hooked up heading into the current and wind just as the lure passed between the bommies.
After some amateur indecision I made the right call to go with the flow out to open water and complete the capture. Quick pics and swam for a bit before release. It was caught on a crystal minnow I found stuck on a mangrove on monday and re fitted hooks to. It’s now retired to the net above the bar at camp.
The rest of the day was hard work with lots of k’s covered by all involved.
Scott got another giant herring and there were several more hooked with one lost at the yak but most hookups being brief.
Brett got 2 golden trevally, and a nice gash on his foot when his queenie landed itself in his yak, caused chaos and got out again. He managed to keep everything together and attached and still landed it.
The afternoon wind drop off made conditions unpleasantly hot and humid.
Roast for dinner with all the trimmings. (Actually I think I have that out of order… oh well it doesnt matter, point is we ate very well!)
Forecast was overcast, low winds and plenty of water movement for our last day, so an early start was planned. Would dreams be made or shattered?
Friday 17 april, final day.
Warm, overcast and windless, most of the guys made the outflows around the top of the tide filled with confidence.
A couple of the guys found reasonable numbers of fish. I was late out and didn’t get a lot.
But, bagged another new species in the form of a Spanish mackerel around 45cm.
Decided to go and check out the end of Simpson island (since I was almost there already!) and got blown away by a big cod in the shallows. I couldn’t not fish a small sand bar there as a clear drop off with fast moving water was always going to hold fish. It did and I got good aggression from mid size queenies but again couldn’t stick the hooks.
Picked up another small mack on the way back, I think this was a school.
Chased bubbling bait fish for a while and hooked another mack which bit me off soon after I got it close enough for an ID.
Back on what was dubbed “herring highway” and now mid glass off I was a couple of hundred meters from the other guys and found myself among lots of tailing fish. It took a while for anyone to hear me calling them over. I tried trolling and decided that was too hard to get in front of the fish so switched to casting a hamma. It was at least 20 minutes with no result before anyone else came over. They called them as milk fish and with the lack of reaction to any lure I have to agree.
It was a surreal experience though sitting on a glassed off ocean with large dorsal and tails regularly appearing.
I did managed a solid hook up and screaming run but soon lost it and retrieved a clean cut leader. I didn’t think much of it but over the next half hour there were several small to medium sharks hooked and one brought to the yak, which leads me to believe that is what did me.
An hour or so where there was not enough current or wind to move a yak the raft of 9 yaks called it a day for the long paddle home.
I got one final hook up trolling a paddle tail plastic on the end of Burnside. Zzzzzzzzzzzz stop. Paddling back around I found my line running straight to a solitary rock on a sandy bottom. A few more pulls and it parted with an extended length of shredded leader.
And that was all she wrote for fishing at WI 2015.
Friday night is traditionally fish night as we devour whatever we have kept from the week. This year, that almost didnt happen as we spent so much time chasing big fast things and not as much chasing tasty red ones. But fortunately Jackman John reluctantly took the posting for the last day to catch us a feed of jacks and did indeed triumph. Add to that Steve Riley of Exmouth tackle and camping supplies, who had come over to provide a second boat for the run back, took Brett and Carmel out and also got a few for the table.
Steve doesnt eat fish but I was very grateful for his willingness to jump in and fillet some for me, along with Vandy and John who processed the jacks.
Perhaps not the feast of fish from other years, but certainly sufficient. Yellow curry, baked with garlic and butter, battered, and the WI special, mangrove jack in ginger wine sauce.
The Pink dress of shame was awarded and we all had a couple of quiet drinks to think over the week.
The trip home is an unfortunate affair. With no choice but to go on the day you are given, the weather can make things interesting.
2 boats, 9 yaks, 14 people, a weeks worth of gear and unfriendly winds, it was a trip to remember.
Hope you enjoyed it.