This coronation trout was a great addition to the esky.

Trip to Saumarez Reef

A few beautiful spangled emperor were jigged up.
Trevally were coming in thick and fast.
GTs can be found on just about any reef.
Various cod species kept the fun ticking along.
This green jobfish has a face only a mother could love!
Scott was super happy with this longnose emperor.
Jigging proved the most productive method on the trip.
GTs at this size can be a real workout.
The author with another lovely cod jigged up off the bottom.
Amazing colours are usually a feature of a remote reef trip.

THERE’S not much to report on my fishing charters because I’ve only been out once over the past month. We caught a couple of flathead and a few small snapper, but I just haven’t been able to line up with any good weather, so hopefully next month will be better – we’ll see how we go. Saumarez Reef

On the flipside, myself and a couple of friends were lucky enough to head out with Reality Fishing Charters to Saumarez Reef. It was supposed to be a seven-day trip to the Swain Reefs, but because of a coral reef fin fish closure, we ended up heading to Saumarez and I must admit the change didn’t disappoint.

Like most trips, it started early in the morning, packing all the gear into the car and heading to Bundaberg. At 7am we arrived in Bundy, where the crew were getting the boat ready for passengers before heading out on the seven-day fishing adventure. As usual, when going on a fishing trip, the wind was already up to a solid 20 knots before we even started putting our gear on the boat but after a few hours the boat was packed, and we were given a safety briefing.Saumarez Reef

By this stage, the wind was a nice little 25-knot breeze from the east and with this we started our 24-hour trip to Saumarez Reef. Everyone was happy and full of energy – eating, drinking and enjoying the start of the adventure. Unfortunately, the wind did not let up and because it was coming from the east, we took it on the side of the vessel all the way.

A few people started to feel the ill effects of seasickness as the daylight faded. The next morning, a few anglers were feeling a little worse for wear, but for the most part the adrenaline had kicked in and kept us in good spirits – we knew the pain was going to be worth it in the long run.Saumarez Reef

It was around lunchtime, when suddenly – after travelling over all that open ocean – the beautiful sand cays and reef appeared. Our destination was in front of us and as soon as we tucked in behind the reef, the swell eased off and we were in relatively calm water. With the weather that was predicted for the coming week, we could not have been in a better place.

The reef system ran north south, and the forecast was for 20-knot and higher wind coming from the east. As soon as we arrived, the crew deployed all the dories for us, and we were fishing in no time. As we’d never been there before, we did a bit of exploring and trolled hard-bodies up and down the inside of the reef, though not a lot of luck was had on the first day.Saumarez Reef

So, we headed in for a lovely dinner and a good night’s sleep – to be ready for a big session the following day. We headed out the next morning with huge expectations of big fish. We started our morning session by trolling up and down the inside of the reef and throwing stickbait around isolated bommies, though to no avail.

After a great lunch on the boat and a fair bit of discussion, a few of the fishers decided to head out deeper to see if there was anything in the 30-40m line. Unfortunately, at that stage the wind was a solid 25 knots, so heading out there would be difficult in small boats. So, we all headed out for the afternoon session and still not many fish were caught because the conditions had deteriorated further, though the fishos who braved the conditions and headed out wider caught a few nice fish on jigs.

We had another good night’s rest and were ready for a big session the next morning. With our newfound knowledge, a game plan was devised for the morning session. We weren’t planning on doing much jigging, so we didn’t have a lot of appropriate tackle. However, the anglers with me did have a fair bit of gear, so we headed out to the 30-40m line and started jigging for a few fish.Saumarez Reef

Scott from Bayside Bait & Tackle and one of my very good clients, also Scott, were with me. So, we had Scott A and Scott B respectively to make things even more little interesting. Both Scotts had a designated jigging outfit and plenty of jigs, while I didn’t have a jigging outfit at all. I was going to pay the price for this in the long run, but that’s the way it goes when you’re heading out to a new destination – you can’t be prepared for everything.Saumarez Reef

As soon as we were out wide, we were greeted by a stiff 20-knot easterly breeze and luckily my friend Clint, who had been in these situations before, let us borrow a sea anchor. We deployed the sea anchor, taking our drift down to 0.7-0.8 knots, which was still quick, but slow enough for the fishers with jigging outfits to get to the bottom where the fish were.

Once we got this sorted, it didn’t take long for fish to come over this side. Both Scotts absolutely nailed them, and with his proper jigging outfit Scott A was out fishing me by at least 10 to 1, and Scott B at least 7 to 1. We were catching a mixture of Robinson’s sea bream, spangled emperor and longnose emperor to name a few.

Though it didn’t take long before the bite went quiet. We called it a day and shot back to the big boat with our catch on ice. It was time for a feed, a drink and a snooze to prepare for the folllowing morning. Remember, we were halfway into our trip at that point, so it was time to get fish.Saumarez Reef

The next morning, we had a game plan and headed straight out into a solid 20-knot breeze. We aimed for the 30-40m line once again and started a few long drifts with the sea anchor deployed and the fishos jigging straight away. They were into great reef fish in an amazing variety and before long we headed back for lunch.

With a high tide in the morning and lower tide in the afternoon when the reef drained right off, we came to the conclusion that the afternoon session out wide was not as good as fishing in close to the reef on the low tide. Also, the wind had started to hit 30 knots, so for the afternoon session we decided to do a little anchoring and bait fishing around isolated bommies.Saumarez Reef

We were catching a variety of fish, with the main being Japanese sea bream around 3-4kg. In close proximity to bommies, the fish had the 15-40lb Venom rod loaded with 50lb braid buckled over and the drag screaming. You couldn’t give these fish an inch otherwise they’d bust you off.

I was able to get into a few of these fish, with the gear I had. The two Scotts and I had a ball getting into these lovely sea bream, a few trevally and a few unstoppables that buried us into the reef. Another day ended and we were back to the boat for a great dinner and a well-deserved sleep. That night a breeze picked up to 47 knots at its peak.

Thankfully, Captain ‘Turtle’ had us in a great spot tucked in behind the reef and even with the conditions, everyone had a sound sleep – except perhaps the crew who were on watch all night. The next morning, we woke to the now familiar 20-knot conditions, but it was forecast to drop out a little by the afternoon. As for the previous mornings, we headed straight out to the 30-40m line and the fishers started jigging.Saumarez Reef

Instantly, great 3-6kg fish came aboard, with the odd bigger model among them, and all fantastic table fish. Scott A with his jigging outfit absolutely brained them and easily caught 10 fish to my every one. After another fantastic lunch, things changed a bit. The wind dropped right out and so, for the first time, we were able to get to the front of the reef where the big pelagics usually hide.

As the weather had stopped us for most of the week, a few of us were more than ready for action. When we got there, we had a quick chat about our game plan. We were going run deep divers such as Zerek Pelagic Z out to the sides, and further back a rather large Zerek Zappelin stickbait on the surface to mimic the flying fish we could see everywhere.

With the game plan sorted and our rods deployed, Scott A got the boat up to 8 knots and we started trolling. We hadn’t gone 100m before a Pelagic Z got hit on the outside – unfortunately it didn’t hook-up straight away, but Scott B kept his eye on that stickbait. Suddenly, a tuna leapt out of the water and grabbed the stickbait.Saumarez Reef

Immediately all hell broke loose and the PE8 Venom rod buckled over with the drag screaming. Scott B really wanted to catch a pelagic, so we told him to grab the rod while Scott A and myself got the other two rigs in. By the time they were in, Scott B was yelling that we’d better get chasing this thing, because it was taking a lot of line.

We put the throttle down and got a bit of line back on the reel. The old yellowfin tuna fought hard and Scott had a great battle with the Venom. Eventually though, Scott B was happy with the 12kg of yellowfin tuna in the boat. We travelled around for an hour or so, but unfortunately the wind had picked up to about 15 knots, so we headed in behind the reef to do a little bait fishing for the rest of the afternoon.

We caught a few nice Japanese sea bream before heading back to Bigcat Reality for our last night on the reef. We woke the next day to a hearty breakfast and noticed the wind had dropped right out, but we only had a half day of fishing left before we had to head home. The decision was made to drift that 30-40m line again, and it didn’t take long to hook into Robinson’s sea bream, longnose emperor, Japanese sea bream, spangled emperor, coral trout and cod.

It was amazing how many fish we caught that last morning, all because the weather had settled down. Unfortunately, as all good things must come to an end, we returned to Bigcat Reality and packed all the dories on board for our 24-hour steam home. All in all, we had a fantastic trip and even though the weather conditions were not favourable, our captain put us in a good place so we could actually fish and enjoy our week.Saumarez Reef

A big thank you to the crew who looked after us – a fantastic bunch who were free with knowledge of where fish were and the techniques that would work – ensuring we got the best out of our seven-day trip. A couple of must-haves if you decide to visit this place are a sea anchor to slow down drift, a good jigging outfit and a lot of 80-200g jigs and pelagic trolling gear.

If you get the chance to go to this destination, make sure you cover all your bases with heaps of different tackle. I paid the price by not having a jigging outfit and caught nowhere near the amount of fish the other anglers did, but I still had a cracking time watching the fish hook-up.Saumarez Reef

Until next month, stay safe on the water and if you’re interested in any of our off the water or on the water tuition classes, or you just want to do a fishing charter, don’t hesitate to give me a call on 0432 386 307, email or check out the Facebook page.

About Sean Conlon

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