Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bad Day for Fishing

Current Location: Cairns, Australia
Current Position: 16º54.83' S 145º47.25' E
Next Destination: Lizard Island (Home of the 1000+ Kg Black Marlins)

We haven't had the best of luck fishing in Australia; it's not like in the Pacific islands where every trip yields a nice dinner or fresh fish taco lunch. KT calls it the curse of the freezer; We bought an Engel 12 volt freezer to keep our extra fish, and ever since then we haven't had any extra!! The only frozen fish we have is some bait for our crab traps, and that is really just a place holder to keep it from being filled with all things non-fish.

It's not like we haven't been trying. Every trip I immediately put out a couple of lines and drag them right to the anchorage. All I seem to catch is seaweed, and as of the other day a boobie. Not THAT kind; the bird. Every time a see a Boobie bird it reminds me of a dodo, I mean really stupid. I know Darwin never saw these things when he was coming up with his survival of the fittest theory, either that or I would hate to see how stupid the unfit boobies act. We were sailing along, relaxing in our new beanbag chairs, when I noticed these birds hovering around the back of the boat where the lures are. They keep circling and circling checking out the lures (at least something was interested). All of the sudden they both start diving at them and missing.. diving and missing!! By now we were yelling at them trying to scare them away, this only seemed to encourage the attempts. Finally I hooked one.. damn!! He's flopping all over getting dragged behind the boat at about 4 knots. Well now the other one is jealous and starts diving at the lure 10 feet up the line from where his buddy is getting rolled through the wake.

So I start reeling him in faster (so he doesn't drown) and his friend is still diving away, seemingly unaware that the two things are related.. maybe he thought his friend was doing a happy dance about his new food and he really wanted some too. I finally got the boobie up on the swim step, I couldn't have hooked him better if I tried.. right in the middle of the beak. I had to hold him down while he was flopping around; I mean this guy was moving more than a 50 lb Tuna. And wings; they REALLY get in the way sometimes. I finally released him and he flopped back into the air to join his buddy for a little in flight conversation; like gee Bill "What was that all about?". What ever they shared it wasn't anything to do with Darwin's theory; because the other one broke flight and came back for more. I don't know maybe they thought it was fun; but if they can't catch a lure one the surface at 4 knots I don't know how they survive.

That was how the day started!! We sailed through the night and as we were pulling into anchor at 4am I pulled in the hand lines but I waited until later to pull in our rail reel (it makes noise and I didn't want to wake up KT). Well later never came. I started the engine, took down the sails and finally woke KT for the final anchoring phase. I'm at the bow when I hear this screaming for help. The 150lb test line had gotten wrapped in the prop and was screaming off the reel. YIKES!! One problem about waking KT up for a quick thing, is KT doesn't really wake up quickly. She thought she had put the boat into neutral but it was still in reverse adding more line to the prop.

Did I mention this is Croc country and most beaches have shark nets off of them; oh and jelly fish that will kill you!! I kept thinking that I didn't REALLY need to get in the water, I could look off the transom and check it out from there. The water was so murky you couldn't see the prop, or the bottom of the rudder for that matter. I tried to use a boat hook to get something off of it and the first time I got my lure back.. but it was a mess; I had to get in the water. So I donned my light wetsuit; not the most flattering piece of apparel I own but I figured that would keep the jelly fish at bay. I had KT stand on the back with a spear pole, as if that would help against a 10m Croc. I had to get inches away from the prop to see it; and it was a mess. There was a huge ball of line wrapped right in front of our feather prop blades (I'm not sure we could have move forward), and it was bar tight. I tried to cut it with a knife and it just broke off. After a couple of dives I got most of it and just had to clean up the prop shaft. It was then that I noticed it had also walked its way up the shaft, into the hull and started rubbing on the hull from the inside. Luckily it was melting (and not ripping the hull apart) but now I had a melted ball of fishing line in a very tight space in the hull pretty far under water. I had to get out the hookah hose (air hose with a pump and regulator) and go to work for a while.. in murky croc/shark invested waters. While I was under the hull I sort of mounted the prop shaft and propeller, figuring that I didn't want to leave any dangling bits for somethings breakfast. I finally cleared all the tangles and we were free to go.. I had survived, the boat was ok, but my only catches for the day were a boobie and a prop!!

So that was our worst day of fishing but we've had bad luck since we left Bundaberg coming north. One day I took my 15 foot surf casting rod into the dinghy (10 feet) and went to do a little fishing. I finally hooked into a nice dog tooth tuna (my Favorite), but I couldn't figure out how to get the fish in the dinghy with the reel out the front of the dinghy and the fish out the back. He finally got off.. uggh!! North of Percy Isle there were HUGE schools of tuna running but every time we got close they went deep or disappeared. I finally had some luck in Scawfell. I took the dinghy to the point and on the second cast (small pole this time) the water erupted into a splash of whitewater the size of the dinghy.. snap line gone.. like it was cut. I threw in my trolling hand lines and immediately caught a spotted mackerel and got it into the boat (finally dinner). As I was getting ready to head back to the boat, to finally show I haven't lost my touch, I noticed a large school of tuna in the channel. I headed out did a wide loop and whammo.. got something on one of the hand lines. I put the dinghy in neutral and it immediately started getting pulled backwards like in the movie jaws. I started hauling it in when whatever it was decided it had had enough and took off; snapping the 400lb test line like a piece of thread!! Hey a least I had something and I wasn't shut out.

The following day, after a night evening meal of fish curry, we headed out into the schools of tuna again. This time we circled outside and let them swim into the lines. We caught our first one on the first pass.. nice size and hey we had a freezer, so we went back for more. We caught a second one and as I went to gaff it, I dropped the gaff into the water.. and to our amazement it floated. Now the fire drill began.. get the gaff before it sinks. I quickly threw the fish in our fish bag and hauled in all the lures (we had three lines with five lures). Then we tried to back up to the floating gaff. Just when we would get close it would drift off. Ten embarrassing minutes later it was finally on board. I'm glad we saved two tuna; after cutting open the first its meat was littered with small little white pearl balls. I thought it was a parasite so we didn't keep that one. But the Sashimi from the other we had was wonderful.

Now, we are getting ready to head north into the Black Marlin breeding area. I bought a rail reel just so I can see a Marlin tail walk. When we catch them on the hand line then don't put on acrobatic displays. They pop to the surface and swim just under it, or they snap the line. Anyway hopefully we'll be able to feed ourselves and with a little luck get some good video of a Marlin. Keep your fingers crossed!! I don't want another day of Boobies and Props!!

To see what we've been catching check out our catch log here.

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