Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wahoo up the Wazoo

Current Location: Fanny Bay Anchorage, Darwin, Australia
Current Position: 12 25.49 S 130 49.08 E
Next Destination: Kupang Indonesia

Well the curse of the freezer is over, and it's chocka block (full) of fish. After a slow start to the fishing season, we are finally catching fish at will again. In fact, we've never really seen anything quite like it. The wahoo are literally jumping out of the water at our lures. At first I thought it was a fluke. I was coming up the companionway when a huge wahoo leaped through the air right behind the boat, in the perfect spot right between the arch supports, about 7-8 feet in the air. Then the hand-line snubber went tight and I hauled it in, a nice 3.5 footer. Well now that we have the freezer, we can be a little more selective in what we keep and I get to continue fishing.

It started in Lizard Island, you know home of the huge Marlin. We were sitting on the boat when a HUGE school of Trevally came chasing baitfish, slamming into the hull in the process. I got out my surface popper and hooked a nice size one... only to find out that it was a protected fishing area. Australia is trying to preserve areas and has all sorts of categories of fishing restrictions and the boundaries change over time. Some cruising books are out of date so make sure you get the latest info before you wonder why the fishing is "too easy". After our first taste of fish in a while, KT encouraged me to continue fishing by offering fresh made rotis (like tortillas) for fish tacos if I caught us some more. Never being one to shy from a challenge, I immediately got in the dinghy and went around the point to a legal fishing spot. No sooner than I had put in the lure and got up to plane, I had a fish on; and it was a fighter. I use the same 400 lb test hand-lines in the dinghy as I do on Billabong, so I can land some huge fish. It's always exciting to fight a fish mano-a-mano and it is even more exciting to be so low to the water in the dinghy. You usually don't know what you have until right at the end. Well, just as I got this guy close it did a final deep fast dive, tearing the line from my hands. I even got some line burn marks on my hands it was so fast. I finally landed a 2.5 foot Shark Mackerel and almost headed back to claim my fish tacos. I decided I'd take a couple more runs around the point and see what happened. I got a couple of big hits but nothing stuck. Well I've mentioned before that I've always wanted to see a Marlin tail walk, and I finally got my wish. While this wasn't the 1000 plus pound monsters of the deep that frequent Lizard Island (this was a little 2-3 footer juvenile one), it was cool to watch just the same.

I planned our course from Lizard to Cape York at the edge of the shipping channel (to avoid the frequent, huge freighters), and when possible, through the reefs. We got some strange looks from the other yachts as we headed off in a different direction to the same anchorage, but getting amongst the reefs did wonders for our fishing. We kept getting these jumping Wahoo. After throwing back some smaller wahoo and some huge Barracuda with Doberman Picher sized teeth, we finally hooked a 4-foot keeper that had jumped as well. It got so that I could recognize the sound of the fish leaving the water and turn to see it in the air. One time a 5+ footer landed so close to the cockpit (missing the lure) that we both got splashed. I think the record height was 10 feet, and one guy leapt in such a way that the stretch of the snubber pulled the line forward and his height allowed the snubber loop to come off the cleat and it took the whole lot with it. The jumping must have happened 8 or 9 times over the course of a couple of days before KT finally got out the video camera and used a rail mount I made her to film our wake. I guess a filmed wahoo never jumps, as all jumping ceased the minute the camera came out! We froze 7.5 feet of Wahoo, about 25 meals for the both of us, and threw back about twice that much.

Now KT wanted a tuna for sashimi. The problem was that I was already running my lures tweaked for tuna not wahoo. Everything I had read about wahoo said they like to hit fast lures, running deep. Well I was running surface action lures at 4-5 knots and they were loving it, leaping at them. The problem with Wahoo is they kill your lure; the teeth are so sharp they tear the skirt to bits. It got so funny that I would re-skirt a lure, we would guess how long till it caught a fish (20-40 minutes) and I would show KT what was left after the attack; usually just the head of the lure. It got to the point that I would just throw out the ratty lure and they would still hit it. The tuna we finally caught was on a tired lure with only a couple of strands of the skirt left over green glow beads. Oh well.
Sitting in Darwin it is nice to be able to dig into the freezer for a great Wahoo dinner (it freezes well) and I've even started to try and make jerky. The problem is I can't seem to keep any. I "test" its progress usually with nothing making it below decks for more than an hour. We'll keep you posted on our success.

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