THE older you get, the greater the realisation that there is more to fishing than merely catching fish. In fact, helping others embrace and enjoy the experience is definitely number one in terms of personal satisfaction. Mentoring rewards
If there’s one thing my 30 years as a professional guide has taught me, it’s that unless you’re able to enjoy the experience of your clients catching fish as much as you do yourself, you probably won’t last very long in the game. In my case, assisting others to find the fish of a lifetime and then revelling in the moment with them, has definitely helped me appreciate my own milestones more intensely. Mentoring rewards
If I had to recall my most satisfying fishing achievements, they would all involve mentoring young up-and-comers into the sport. This was highlighted recently when the COVID-19 travel restrictions inspired a couple of unexpected visitors to head northwards instead of south.
Way back in 1976, I quit a career in medical technology to start a tackle shop in Yeppoon – one of those questionable life path changes that leads to the unknown. One of my first moves on arriving was to join the local sport fishing club, which was at that stage a mob of eager kids under the loose control of a person named Nev Wust.Mentoring rewards
I became the only second ‘senior’ in the club – essentially another vehicle and boat used to transport the kids up the beach to Fishing Creek, our usual spot for club competitions. During those years, I came across an enthusiastic young angler named Wayne Rich and ended up fishing with him frequently through his teen years.
Thanks to an obscure tip from one of my tackle shop customers, I happened upon a local spot that produced big barramundi in the right weather and tidal conditions. It was there Wayne landed his first big pink eyes – a beautiful chrome salty that would’ve gone better than 110cm in today’s measurements.
This fish was dwarfed by an absolute horse Wayne hooked a couple of nights later, but the trebles came loose when it leapt skywards and shook its huge head. The commotion actually caused a passer-by to come running when he heard the crash of the jump, to check that one of us hadn’t fallen in!Mentoring rewards
Nowadays, Wayne’s a grandad and he dropped in with his extended family on the way back from a leisurely trip to the tip of Cape York. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a day on the water with him, particularly as his son Alex and partner Claire would be coming along for the ride.
Fortunately, grandma Tracey offered to stay home and mind their two grandsons. For the first time in weeks, the trade wind dropped off and produced perfect conditions for a day working the shallow reefs south of Weipa.Mentoring rewards
We trolled a couple of my favourite spots and landed a procession of fingermark, cod, stripey snapper and small mackerel. Claire landed our best – a lovely golden trevally that unfortunately didn’t make it to the camera due to the skipper trying to lift it aboard without using the landing net!
Wayne was up to his usual tricks of course, losing my favourite lure to a freight train that rubbed the leader off on a bauxite bommie. Once we had a feed in the icebox, we headed out to the shipping channel and jigged up a procession of small mackerel and trevally around a few of the markers.
Suffice to say that my father and son experts were out fished by novice Claire, who seemed to have the touch when it came to hooking trevally. It was an absolutely wonderful day with plenty of laughs – a journey more about reminiscing and renewing acquaintances than catching fish.
Though we may not have seen each other for years, they rolled away quickly as I shared the boat with Wayne and his family. The connection we cemented long ago was as strong as always – a bond founded on fishing.
Closer to home, I’ve been fishing regularly with a young neighbour of mine, Tom Hockey. His dad is a fisheries officer and had to work during the recent Weipa Fishing Classic, so I offered to take Tom and his younger brother Charlie out for the day, to see if we could find a fish or two that were worthy of the leader board.
As for half of Weipa, we got away early from the Evans Landing boat ramp and headed south towards a spot I’d hoped would escape the attention of the masses. A few hard-working queenfish schools caused us to make a halt just past the new Amrun Jetty, where the hits came thick and fast on cast poppers and metal slugs.
We measured a couple of fish when the motor decided to stop due to running short of fuel. It took well over an hour to identify and sort the problem, so I made an executive decision to stay closer to home in case more complications arose.Mentoring rewards
With a number of reasonable sized queenfish recorded and released, our focus was turned to big mackerel, so we headed to a spot where I thought a few might be found. As suspected, they were there, and Charlie dropped a 1m fish on a popper he was casting over bommies, which occasionally produced giant trevally.
Tom then missed a good fish on a trolled garfish, hooking up for a second time on the very next pass. His elation quickly turned to disappointment as 1.5m of silver with a mean toothy grin broke the surface – rotten barracuda!
Our focus then turned to birds working schools of feeding fish wide of the coast. Racing around after fairly spooky tuna schools, we came across one of Weipa’s favourite fishing ‘lollypops’ – a bait ball! The next three hours became a blur of action with queenfish, trevally, tuna, spanish mackerel and sharks smashing into a tightly packed mass of small baitfish until they virtually destroyed the school.Mentoring rewards
We were constantly hooked up to the various species, losing a heap of lures to bust-offs and bite-offs in the process. Spaniards proved elusive – managing to shed hooks or sever mono leaders. Most of the trevally were hard-fighting brassies – a cousin to GT, these fish fight as hard kilo for kilo.
Mobs of mack tuna raced through the mass regularly, but only one was boated in the mayhem. In spite of our fuel hiccup, the day had eventuated in almost non-stop action and plenty of new experiences, especially for Charlie. One of his queenies ultimately scored second prize in the junior section of the Classic, a terrific result taking into account the number of highly experienced junior fishers in town.Mentoring rewards
There were plenty of smiles at the end of the day, and I can assure you the biggest was plastered over my weathered mug! What a joy it was to host a couple of future fishers to a day they’ll long remember.