Not sure why this never got posted here… But in lieu of heading back there next week…
(Copy and pasted from the yakfishwest forum)
This year was my fifth trip to Wilderness in 6 years.
Once again I hit the water as soon as possible in exmouth, in this case that was Saturday morning, taking a walk from the caravan park up to the marina along the beach throwing a gold slice on 10lb gear. I picked up my first fish around 845am, a queenie of around 60cm just north of the marina.
It was then kayak loading time and once again having Harry and his boat “Pizzaz” was of great benefit as we could fit all the yaks on and keep Jims boat free for gear and supplies. Trent and I both kept back our lightest spinning combo and a pocket size lure box, lessons learned from other years, maximise fishing time.
I made the supply run across to the island with Jim, Kim, Nick and our backpacker helper Lucy. I have made that trip about 10 times now having done extra runs a couple of the years and still it just takes my breath away every time. It especially helps when you have glassy calm conditions as we once again scored this year.
It was good fun building the excitement for first timer Nick. It was more humid than any other day that I have been there and we were all soaked with sweat and struggling to keep up water intake as we unloaded the stuff.
Back to town by early arvo and briefly in to mantarays (formerly novotel) grabbed the rods and back out to the marina with Trent for the last couple of hours of sunlight. I boasted to Trent that I would have a fish before he was rigged up but the usually productive north corner was too low on water to produce anything. We headed around to the south wall where we found a point with a bit of water movement in some deeper, though still under a metre, of water. We soon had action and picked up a succession of brassy trevally to a kilo or so and queenies in the 50cm class. I was sure there were golden trevally amongst them to, but we didnt get any. A great fun little session before the official trip had even started with lots of screaming light gear drag, double hookups and flying queenies.
Dinner at barbecue father with the full crew, almost all familiar faces, and many repeat offenders.
I wasnt surprised to be awake by 6am on the sunday and Trent and I again made the most of our spare time with the tide being at about the same as the night before we went back to the same spot. Sandflies aplenty, not as much action as the night before but I did get one nice golden trevally, confirming to me that they would have been there the night before.
Back to the hotel for final pack up and down to the marina and on our way.
I sat ‘up front’ on the boat with the Vandy’s and it was great to catch up, reminisce on previous years and again build the anticipation for another year. However, what we agreed upon was that the more you go to wilderness, the less the fishing matters. Of course it is always the draw, but the social, natural and psychological benefits of the place suddenly rival the fishing in importance.
By the time we got to the island, Harry had unloaded all our yaks and daisy chained them together from the mooring. It was a matter of pull in and untether yak, seat, drive, paddle and angler in and send them on their way.
Soon enough all yaks were pulled up above the tide line in front of camp and we had a quick unpack.
The ‘arrival briefing’ was particularly brief as most of us were familiar with the rules.
Soon enough a group of us made our way landbased to the south end of the island.
The usual jacks were in force under the end rocks but tempting them was a challenge. I swear they are smarter every year. However with the advice of ‘tighten your drag as far as you can get away with…’ first timer, Dave got a solid hookup on a paddle tail plastic. The fish tore off several metres across the front of the rocks, catching the angler unprepared, ending the battle under a rock slightly further out. It was oddly satisfying to see an angler with that silly grin we all get after getting smoked by a powerful fish.
I landed one in a hollow victory, the fish smashing the lure just below the surface and I lifted it out before it had a chance to fight back.
Brett was now getting fish out the front on a marabou jig even as it rapidly lost feathers. So we all turned our attention that way.
A procession of queenies and trevally fell to each of us using a variety of lures.
As sunset approached I got a bigger than usual hookup with the fish powering away briefly, pausing for a couple of headshakes and off again heading north along the front of the rock wall. I had backed the drag down to allow the smaller queenies to shine on the light gear, but now found myself palming the rapidly emptying spool. I began following the fish north scampering across the lower section of rocks and back up to the higher ground. I could feel the grating of line on sea weed and just hoped it was floating weed being dragged around. By now the fish had switched and gone back south so I again followed but this time I realised the point where the line entered the water wasn’t changing. A sure sign I was hung up on weed and or reef. Those painful few seconds as the line was still grating as it ran out while I agonisingly tried to decide which way to go to free the it felt like an eternity. Inevitably it broke and I was left to wind in at least 10m of shredded braid and looking at my spool, guessing I lost 20-30m on top of that.
You may have seen the (infamous in my family) 360 video on Facebook where Scotty has immortalised my reaction to ‘How did you go?’
I got F#$(@&G SMOKED!
First night revellery was enjoyable but knowing we had early tides, breaky time was set for 6am for 7am launch, so a relatively early night.
I didn’t sleep well as it was hot and humid, but that just meant I was up before my 5am alarm and got stuck in to lunch prep before even cooking breakfast allowing me to hit the water fairly soon after the others.
North was the plan. In the lead up there had been discussion of circumnavigation of tent Island which was the initial plan.
I am told there were some nice fish taken from the north end of the island, including a mangrove jack for Scotty Cog
and the giant herring shown in the video by Glenn.
He seems to get one there every year even if no one else else does.
I made my way across the expanse towards where the lead group of yaks were, pulling up and having a chat to each person as I passed them.
Scott Vandy was just landing a fish when I got to him so I got him a photo of his first wolf herring.
Scotty Cog was battling wind, waves, and current trying to extricate a lure from a bommie he had stuck it to. It was quite amusing as he was the only one on the trip with a 180 drive, yet he was using his paddle to manoeuvre. For fear of damaging the drive I think…
I worked around the inside of that bommie, casting basically onto the shore and working back out to the yak after spooking some bigger fish in the shallow rock filled water.
I got my first GT for the trip and a respectable one, pushing the 50cm mark at a guess and a couple of kilos.
Hit up a big lump of rock in some deeper water with Wayne that just screamed fish, but apparently the fish couldn’t hear it.
Brett had pulled up out the front of rooster creek and was standing and sight casting the line of dead mangroves out the front. The tide was fairly pushing in, so I used that and made one pass, then allowed it to sweep me in to the creek. I cant remember who it was that was coming out and told me, its sand fly hell in there dont go in. So I reloaded with bushmans, checked my clothing seals and coverage and let the current take me in.
That ended up being a fun little session across the bottom of the tide, I just let the current do all the work, drifted in until it turned and then back out. I kept two jacks in the high 30’s to take back for dinner and also got to photograph Davids first ever jack, and a respectable one of around 40cm at that.
Even jumped out on a beach and had a little float for a few minutes, very welcome comfort in the humid conditions.
I was last out of the creek and it was very shallow by then, made the short paddle across the sand bar out front interesting with small waves breaking around. Wayne, Brett and Scott V were working in a loose semicircle, a sure sign that something was happening. As I pulled up I was told there were Giant herring around, but also demerit point scoring ‘cuda.
Trusty 15gm gold twisty deployed on the lighter outfit and there was never a long pause before a voice would cry out hookup! Only for it to be downgraded to argh its a bloody ‘cuda.
I hooked a giant herring which stayed attached about as long as it takes to say
‘Yep, this is not a ‘cuda its a HERRI…’
*fish launches into the air and throws lure back at angler*
‘…ng and its gone.’
A few casts later I came up solid. The heckling of ‘bet its a cuda’ died down when the reel screamed for a full 5 thousand count and i responded with never seen a cuda do that!
Then the aerials started as easily my biggest queenie took to the air. I guess the full fight took under 10 minutes but it felt like we were ‘doing the dance’ circling each other in the final stages for a long time. I was very grateful that Brett was there with video and camera on hand to capture the moment, one of my best fish to date, though I did attempt to take some myself of the fish in the kayak.
I now know that its hard to measure a fish that size on a brag mat in a kayak, but it was comfortably over a metre. Took a bit of swimming to revive but swam off a couple of minutes later.
The rest of that session was a bizzare one for me, with these brown fish that i didnt recognise from profile, following my flat out twistie. When I eventually hooked one, they turned out to be bluebone! Only little ones of less than 30cm, but none the less.
As we all headed back to camp, I felt it was too early and since I had been told Vandy and Trent were down there, I detoured towards the creeks.
As I approached, Trents voice came over the radio
“I think I know who will be wearing the pink dress this year.”
“Who? and what happened?”
“Well I was trolling and got such a hard hit that my rod holder spun around and I missed grabbing the rod as it flew out the back.”
So by the time I passed him, he was in no mood to keep fishing and after a brief chat I pressed on.
I got to Vandy in the first creek and he was having a ball on the ultralight gear with bream and whiting. We slowly made our way back and being the bottom of the tide by the time we got there, I ran extra wide around the reef while he ‘hatch sailed’ across the shallow northern corner.
Tuesday 25th. ANZAC day.
I had been thinking about how to commemorate ANZAC day, as WI always has something special and being there for that date couldn’t be ignored. Well all my ideas paled into insignificance as Glenn wandered up to the main camp early and set himself up with his ukulele.
With all of us there, and the fantastic sunrise beaming across the gulf and lighting up the clouds in front of us, he treated us to “The band played waltzing Matilda”
filled the air. A special moment.
Trent and I were both late on the water and he proceeded to catch a squid on his trolling lure not far from camp so he turned back to get some live bait rigs.
By that time, half of the group was half way up burnside and the other half were milling around in the southern side of the channel between wilderness and burnside. That was odd, as we normally cut across a fair way north, so worthy of investigation. Turns out Vandy had caught a nice spaniard. Uncommon but not unheard of, and Scott Vandy had spent a while fighting a big shark. It seemed I had missed the action and we pottered up to the end of the island. Water was screaming around the south side of the island and off the point and there was no shortage of fish working it. There was a lot of weed to however. Surface lures were the go, but even they would catch clumps every couple of casts. I persisted in close to the wall and got several trevally, including one that completely engulfed my popper, and queenies, but had to pull my rudder and/or mirage drive every couple of minutes to clear the rafts of weed.
I opted to work slowly up the island as the high tide allowed me to fish the ‘second edge’ of the island, up on what is exposed reef at low tide. Surprisingly few fish wanted to play, but cruising slowly along in glassy clear water without a care in the world was magic. That is not to say that I wasn’t catching fish, just not as many as I might have otherwise.
Trent was working the outer reef edge and got a good spangled emperor on the fresh squid, which went some way to easing the loss of the day before.
A bit later he got a good cod which gave him a serious workout as it reefed him a couple of times, but with persistence he won out.
We drifted over big schools of brassy trevally in the outflows and caught a few, but when you saw how many were there, it was clear that they were shut down.
Very late to the main outflow party, most of the action had slowed by the time I got there, but I think these pics apply to that day…
Trent and I were last to head home from the outflows and slowly made our way back along the island. I was a few hundred metres in front of Trent by the time I got to the point and I knew that the inner reef wall often fires for cod and jacks as it gets super shallow with the last of the tide. I was working my little rooster around and getting those weirdo bluebone on surface lures again, then I got a squid… strange happenings.
Just after Trent got there I hooked another big queen. In the super shallow water it spent a lot of time airborne until eventually straightening my hook.
That kept us fishing a bit longer, but the impending sunset and low tide meaning a long kayak drag up the reef/beach had us scampering home, just in time to not get any demerits for being late back.
WI turned on a particularly speccy sunset, which again brought me back to contemplating the cruel reality of war for freedom.
I dont know why this stupid picture wont rotate… it shows it up the right way everywhere else…
A slightly later start on wednesday as there was talk of taking the WAngler boat and Jims boat out for a bit of a photo shoot, that ended up being scheduled for thursday, but Scotty made the most of the anglers on the water heading north to get some drone footage and photos.
A controversial decision that the remainder of us Scott, David, Nick and myself would head back to burnside was made.
In our defense, we did’t really hit the outflows much at all, but focused on light gear along the mangroves on the western side of the island at high tide. This has become one of my favorite activities at wilderness as there are plenty of little speedsters available to hit anything you want to throw. Hence why I took Nemo (My sons combo, loaded with 4kg test mono and with the drag coated with heavy reel grease) for a spin.
I wanted to land a fish first so although that was rigged up, it had to wait.
That didnt take long. I was fishing an area that has an ‘invisible’ creek, just a slightly lower patch of ground hidden by the mangroves, that last year I saw Kim hook a big golden trevally in. Throwing a small floating stickbait, I just saw about 10cm diameter of open yellow blubber lipped mouth engulf it off the surface my little reel scream into life. Fortunately I had cast away from the mangroves and knew that the flats were pretty safe as long as it stayed out there. I started squealing like a schoolgirl at a Bieber concert for Scotty, or anyone else to hurry up and bring a camera. All the while the fish was swimming an arc and now heading back towards the mangroves. I peddled like a bat outta hell to head it off and successfully did so, only to have it arc back the other way and call for some fancy yak handling to spin around and keep it on the safe side again. My hollering continued as the fish now turned and bolted directly back out onto the flat. The elation was short lived as suddenly it was gone. Another big fish lost on light gear, changed the tone of my shouts. Upon retrieve I found that disaster this time had struck due to the hook, split ring and anchor all having pulled out of the back of the little lure.
With that, I decided Nemo still had to wait, and I wouldn’t trust those stickbaits anymore.
Next hookup, soon after, was a hoot, as I got my first WI Giant herring. It was then that I realised the amusing fact, I caught several GH in Perth before my first up north. Happily I had David nearby so I got a got photo of myself with it. Thanks David.
Now Nemo got his chance. I also had a wager on with a mate that I couldn’t catch a GH on this beat up, almost featherless, marabou jig. Ok so the real bet required it to be metro, but better for confidence if I could get one up there first.
Have you ever fished one of those kids rods? With that tiny little spool and stuff all gearing, if you want to make a lure move fast, you have to wind REALLY fast. I worked my ass off and managed three hookups.
The first, a giant herring that threw it just moments into the fight, but I was seriously impressed with not breaking off straight up. The little drag sung and the fish flew. Not only had I hooked one on that munted jig, but i hadn’t broken it off on a kids rod and reel.
By now Scotty had gone past me and was getting plenty of fish, but also seriously harassed by sharks. Anyone who has fished with Coggers will know how vocal he is when fishing. It was absolutely hilarious all the things that came out of his mouth directed at fish and more so at sharks. I shouldn’t mock too much, as I’m sure that my hollering not much earlier was just as girly.
That brings me to my next fish with Nemo. It got sharked. But I got the jig back, and still didn’t break off. Not the combos fault.
By now, Scott had been playing with a school of golden trevaly in the 40cm range and they were now sheltering under his kayak presumably from the onslaught of the packs of sharks. This was by far the most sharks I have ever seen and though most were around the 1.5m mark, there were some bigger ones and being fired up chasing hooked fish it was a little intimidating getting fish out of the water.
In that context, I was still fishing nemo and hooked another golden, by casting at Scott and stopping it about 1m short of hitting his yak. Hooking up was easy enough, but by using that arc style run, I couldnt stop this one getting to a clump of snags and busting off.
With that, the adventures of nemo the emo at wilderness Island were over as one couldn’t be bothered re tying the bimmini twist etc with the fish on the chew so actively and even though I said I would get to it that night, I never did.
Back to the normal light gear and with a slightly better condition marabou, I caught a couple of goldens which was fun playing race the shark and only conceeded one.
That of course made for interesting times as at least two whalers circled the yak while I unhooked and photographed the fish and chucked that part overboard. The risk of losing a hand outweighed the desire for a close up underwater photo of the rest of that fish being eaten.
I pulled the mirage drive and splashed water up that way to wash the blood off, figuring no shark could fit it’s head in that gap if my splashing drew too much attention to my hand.
We picked up a few more fish but the session was mostly over, so we headed back towards the outflows for the second half of the run out.
When we got there it was clearly not for the faint hearted with plenty of wind blown chop pressing up against the fast moving out flowing water. I was determined to troll up a golden and this time ran out a lure on my charter special which was still rigged up with 6kg mono from Kalbarri classic.
It lasted until I passed the first outflow and the first decent load that got put through the rod… snap…
That will teach me not to retie…
I got myself into a groove doing big laps across the front of the outflows, going with the current line on the last one, back across about 200m out and then back up the first flow and repeat. The other three guys mostly fished the walls for jacks and trevally, though Nick made a few trolling runs with me but the conditions really weren’t pleasant.
A miss communication had me thinking that the other guys were running back up the inside of the wall and would pop out the first outflow on their way home so I made several more laps and called it quits. However when I got to the first outlet and they werent there I was a bit confused. Turns out they went all the way around the island, if I had known I would have joined them, but then had to slog it much further than I did straight up the guts of the wind. Either way, I again found myself slowly making my way up to the beach, nearing sunset and dragging the yak across an extended length of reef.
The first beer went down well that night.
Thursday Dawned with a bit of drizzle in the air, not enough to be rain, but just right for a spectacular rainbow that was well over 180 degrees from our elevated view and hit the ground/water just out from camp. There were also lots of fish busting up around the front of camp and we watched as it was slowly broken up into a couple of groups. We were all captivated by Wilderness TV at its best.
My photos were pretty average…
But this was not taken by me….
So as I alluded to, Thursday was a boat day for a few of us. David and Dave joined Scott on the WAngler boat, while Nick, Lucy, Kim and I joined Jim on his boat. The plan was to hunt GT’s with plenty of big queenies expected in the same areas.
First stop looked amazing, glassy clear with lots of fast moving water pouring around the end of the island on the rising tide.
First cast was game on with at least 3 big queenies going for my clone stickbait right back to the boat. Unfortunately I couldn’t stick the hooks to any of them and this occurred for several casts until they got a bit gun shy.
Scott hooked one and after a reasonable fight, it was dutifully netted and brought aboard. It had a good photo session before the decision was made to keep it for Jim to make nummis. (pickled queenfish) Meanwhile, we rounded the corner and pulled up on a beach to sort it out so I swapped rods to my lighter gear rigged with a 15gm sea iron which I had brought in case I needed to cast at tuna. I landed a nice brassy after only one or two casts.
Back to the corner and Jim was encouraging us to fish the shallow rocky areas hoping for some big mangrove Jacks. We thought that was what we had when Kimmy hooked up big time. After a tough battle where it went under rocks and was encouraged out, then around some different rocks… she eventually got busted off. Big cod probably.
Soon after she was on again though. After a longer than expected fight we had colour and were expecting a trevally, but were surprised to see a big queenie, hooked in the shoulder being worked to the boat.
It took Nick a few shots with the net to get it aboard, in his defence, shoulder hooked fish are harder to net, but eventually up she came.
More photos, and that one was released.
The action had quietened down with the flow slowing considerably so we moved on to the next location.
I grabbed a few pics of the Wangler boat along the way.
If you know this area you will recognise it, it certainly looks like a big fish hangout.
The brassys and medium queenies were thick. We had a frenetic half hour or so where it was hard not to catch them. I had now handed my rod to Lucy and was trying to coach her into catching one. She was epically unlucky. I don’t think she was doing anything wrong, but just couldn’t hook the fish even when they were climbing all over the lure.
If memory serves, someone had hooked up on the rocks so while Jim maneuvered to unsnag them, I went to the front of the boat and started casting into the deeper water away from the rocks.
There was an eruption as the fish nailed my lure in one of the best surface hookups that I have seen. We then went in to the aerial display as a big queenie went nuts. Soon enough we went to tug of war, and soon after that the fish was in the boat. My second metre queen for the week. Again plenty of photos and the fish was released.
We continued catching fish for a while, but just could not temp the big jacks, probably because it was so ridiculously gin clear that they were watching us drop stuff on them. I even tried micro jigs. Lucy jumped over and had a snorkle and spotted some monster squid.
A bust up a couple of hundred metres away caught our attention and both boats shot over as fast as possible. Scott and crew got there first and Scotty called across that he was getting follows from Giant herring. After the fish sounded and re appeared once or twice we had fish swiping at lures jiggled right beside the boat. Not GH, but small school macks. I got a classic polaris mack hit in the distance just after starting to retrieve the lure. The fish easily clearing a metre out of the water. Fun little fight but easily knocked over on the GT gear being only 60cm or so.
After deciding there were no tuna or herring, we moved to our next spot.
(order may be incorrect)
This was an area that Scott had had a great session on previously, but Jim was not so enthusiastic suggesting that was the only good session that he had there. Fish on the sounder, but we couldn’t tempt them. We were probably 50m away when Scott hooked up. After a reasonable fight he boated a good size golden Trevally.
We didn’t persist much longer and the next spot was an abrupt sand spit that just appears out of nowhere for no easily visible reason.
This looked exceptionally fishy with bait milling on the surface and a sweet drop off into the deeper water. We spotted a few big fish, including a black GT that I didn’t see, but Jim and Nick assured me was BIG. I had a follow from something big and broad across the shoulders, but I would have called as tuna shaped. I guess it could have been a longtail, but we will never know because I only got a couple of seconds look before it lost interest.
It was amazing fishing the aquarium as we came around to the rocky side and watched a variety from bream to fingermark, jacks and cod but I think it was just all too glassy and still and we provoked few fish to strike.
That seemed to be the recurring theme of the day and after one more spot and then back to the now fully exposed rock bar from earlier in the day we saw a heck of a lot of fish, but they were not interested.
Finally we worked back along the wall of Simpson Island hoping for Jacks, which we got a couple of, but soon headed for home.
The gulf turned on the full range of non-fishy wildlife on the run home including turtles, dolphins and even a very brief appearance of a dugong.
I had my first go at driving one of the island vehicles to take the fish down to the beach to fillet. Almost made a fool of myself with the touchy throttle and not touchy clutch, but successfully didn’t stall despite over reving a bit. Jim and Kim broke out the big wok for some fantastic Queenfish green curry. Here is another sunset.
Friday, our final fishing day, I had made my mind up that regardless, I would go up the creeks after regretting not doing it other years.
Unfortunately it was an error. The tide being so huge the fish had disappeared waaaay up into the mangroves and everywhere on the edges of the creeks was just moving so fast that I doubt fish could hold position and even when you found somewhere out of the current, it was a real challenge to manage the yak to be able to fish those little windows.
Trent and I persisted and did catch a few fish.
I found one little corner of clean water and got a couple of hits and when I finally hit something solid, the response was a stream of ink coming at me! The hooks pulled but it was certainlly a surprise.
The next hook up pulled after only a few moments and was engulfed again. A nice cod.
I spotted a big queenie in the entry to the creek at the bottom of the estuary, just patrolling the front. Mild interest didn’t last.
My big plan was to fish ‘Jack creek’ on the top of the tide which was really productive last year. I didnt time it right and was there way too early. With water absolutely flying through I went along it backwards, paddling just to slow the drift and ruddering to point the bow and fish each side. It was unfishable, but on the exit I got monstered by a big queenie. The first pass didnt hook up, but the second cast did. The fish nailed it right next to the kayak and kept going. It pulled the rod down against my arm, which was on the rudder control, so hard that it pinned it against the side of the yak. Before I could sort myself out it had a jump on the other side of the yak and got off. A new way to lose a fish and certainly one of those ones where you give the fish a nod and say ‘Well played!’
My final memorable hookup came after the tide had turned. The fishing had been very quiet for over an hour so I figured, maybe if we try a more expensive lure. Thats how its supposed to work right? Well I tied on the most expensive I had, a Crackerjack. Ok, not expensive by some standards.
First cast was on the spot.
Hookup was brief and like early in the day disconnected very quickly.
But moments later, wham again.
When I got the lure back in, the front treble was mangled and the rear was missing two points! In P21’s defence, those hooks were old, but it still made me giggle.
Just as an aside on fish behavior, I think in both cases, the initial fish was a jack. The commotion of it hitting, briefly fighting and getting off then draws the attention of any cod in the area which then nail the lure as soon as it is released.
Tough day at the office, but one outta five I can handle.
Some general comments on the week, The average size of fish was certainly up. All the ‘small’ queenies and trevally were 5-10cm bigger than the average other years. For me, there were more big fish. Brett and Scott both commented the converse, suggesting there were less big fish, but for me, it was a stellar trip.
No matter what I targeted (except boat day) the fish appear to be hunting the same size bait, so use the same size lure. Jacks up the creeks, 10cm hardyheads, metre plus queenies and goldens on the rock bar, 10cm hardyheads. Fish lures to suit. My top lure for the week again, 80mm rooster, though the ol 15gm twistie easily held its own, though less fun than the surface hits.
As always, amazing social trip. Great guys, massive info sharing and just great fun. Thanks to our hosts, Jim and Kim. Even if you don’t get up there with a YFW trip, try to go see them sometime. Brett and Scott also organised some theme nights which were fun, and in some cases disturbing.
Thanks to everyone who came, get on it to everyone else.
Hope to see you up there.