A Fishing Tale

Aug 6  First point – if you are not interested in fishing then exit the blog and go and check your emails because this tale is about the story of one of Australia’s iconic fish – the barramundi (‘barra’ to the locals). For those with an interest in fishing please bear with Bob for this story. It will also go some way to prove the theory that you do not have to be mad to like fishing but it does help.

Most fishermen who go to Groper Creek chase the elusive ‘barra’. Those with boats are at an advantage because they can cover a lot of river territory with live bait and lures to catch their prize – and quite a few are successful. However, if you do not have a boat then you are limited to casting in hope from the river’s edge … or …

The locals are aware that sometimes the barra appear under the jetty by the boat ramp just after high tide on the runout tide. In fact, Bob had seen them one evening but they could not be enticed by a lure. They seemed only to be interested in live bait.

On Sunday morning around 9 am after a high tide overnight, all the locals were talking about the flathead ‘pads’ that showed that a lot of quite large flathead (another iconic Aussie fish that tastes delicious) were around. So, since we were due to leave Groper Creek on Tuesday, Bob decides to try for a flathead or two overnight on Sunday when the high tide was just after midnight. Bear with me … the story now starts …

First requirement was for some fresh live bait. So off to the jetty with the cast net to try for some prawns. The best place to cast for prawns is right under the jetty so Bob lies on his stomach and reaches out from the third step and casts in hope … success – a good haul of live juicy large prawns … step one is complete. The prawns go into the bucket with water from the river and the battery operated aerator is switched on to keep them alive for the night’s adventure.

High tide is due at half past midnight so Bob sets the alarm for midnight. When the iPhone alarm interrupts a dream it is a toss up as to return to the dream or get up in the cold and go fishing … never in doubt – fishing it is.

Fortunately there is a street light at the end of the jetty so Bob pops a juicy live prawn on the hook and casts towards the area where all the flathead were theoretically waiting to pounce. 5 .. 10 .. 15 .. 20 minutes later – not a sausage ! Bob was determined to get a flathead so another 25 minutes go by … without any interest shown by the potential prey.

It is now about 1:30 am and Bob wanders to the end of the jetty and tries casting out for anything that may be around … luckily he manages to bag a feed of River Jewfish – nowhere as exciting as the flathead that was the original potential prize. But hang on a moment … what is that swirl Bob notices immediately below him not 2 metres away ? It can’t be ? Surely not ? There is a school of garfish swimming just off the jetty and a much larger fish is showing interest in them. Could it be ? Maybe a b.b.b.barra?

Quickly Bob chooses the largest, most lively and juiciest live prawn from the bait bucket, mounts it carefully on the hook and lowers it 18 inches in front of the dark shape casually swimming below. The shape shows interest but then backs away. A slight shake of the rod and … WHACK … all hell breaks loose as the barra inhales the prawn amid a huge splash of water.

Bob’s pacemaker works its miracles and manages to keep the heartrate below 250 ! Now the battle begins. The barra knows that salvation lies in the many snags that lie 3 metres below the jetty. Bob knows this also and  panic sets in. Now is not the time to think about the knots that were tied in haste … would they hold ? … nor to worry about not having a landing net to help get the barra to dry land.

After some time, the barra was landed but not before it gave a last jump just as Bob grabbed the nylon fishing line … not the best idea as Bob’s bandaged finger will now bear witness to. But the barra was finally landed successfully and hauled back to the caravan. Siobhan did not know what was happenning when Bob woke her up with the immortal words ‘Come and look what I’ve got’.

After a sleepless night Bob wandered over to the filleting area with the prized barra and may have walked quite slowly passed a few other fishermen just in case they might miss what he was carrying. One of our neighbours, Ray, an experienced barra man, kindly helped Bob with the filleting process and even showed him how to cut the barra ‘wings’ (some people swear they are the beat part of the fish) which were enjoyed for lunch the following day. The rest of the barra is divided up into portions that will give us at least 5 good dinners of the finest eating fish in Queensland.

As a final note to this tale … there was a queue of fishermen who all set their alarms for the high tide the following night – without success !!

   

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More Of Groper Creek

Jul 30 to Aug 7  Groper Creek is so much fun that we change our travel plans to stay for one more week. So after one night at the Home Hill racecourse free camping, it is back to Groper Creek for a week. So … more fishing … crabbing … catching prawns … We play a round of golf at Ayr Golf Club with its famous fairways lined with hundreds of mango trees. One of our fellow campers, Merv, is kind enough to offer Bob a days fishing in his boat – resulting in 3 queensfish and a mudcrab. The mudcrab was delicious cooked as Singaporean Chilli Crab.

        

Groper Creek

Jul 25 to 29  After an overnight free camp at Home Hill it is back to an old favourite – Groper Creek. Steve and Marilyn Redman first introduced this fishing and crabbing haven to us 2 years ago and it is impossible to pass the turn off without wanting to visit again. Groper Creek lies very close to the Burdekin River mouth and offers great opportunities for fishing and crabbing for someone (ie us) who does not have a boat.

After a quick phone call to Steve Redman to remind me how to throw a cast net to catch our shrimp live bait, we start fishing. Some people do not like catching catfish but we were very happy to get one as it is excellent bait for our crab pot. And we were rewarded the following morning with 2 large mudcrabs which were enjoyed immensely fresh for lunch.

The barramundi that Siobhan is holding was not caught by her … but watch this space.

         

 

Lucinda

Jul 18 to 24  Lucinda lies directly opposite the southern tip of World Heritage-listed Hinchinbrook Island. The eye-popping pride of Lucinda is a six kilometre jetty stretching far out into the Coral Sea. The jetty is the world’s largest bulk sugar loading facility and is so long it actually curves with the earth.

When conditions are right, you can sometimes see the dugongs and sea turtles at play. There is also a smaller jetty with ample opportunity to catch Mangrove Jack, Coral Troat, big juicy mud crabs and the fighting Barramundi which are all in plentiful supply. 

All the above fish species are theoretically available but we had to satisfy ourselves with a few bream and whiting which were still very tasty treats.

We have a game of golf at the local 9 hole course and meet one of the locals – a beautiful yellow-bellied black tree snake !

               

 

Cardwell

Jul 15,16  Cardwell is half way between Cairns and Townsville, with Hinchinbrook Island just offshore and a long jetty to wet a line off. Just recently it was badly damaged by Cyclone Yasi which hit the area on Feb 3 2011. A local newspaper reporter described the event :

“I don’t know what to say except that Cardwell is surely ground zero for cyclone Yasi, it has been utterly decimated,” she said. “As we drove in we saw a church where the only thing left standing are church pews, with a few bibles and prayer books strewn around, everything else of the church had been blown away. There are big trees absolutely everywhere, every single tree has been uprooted. You cannot tell that where I am standing there is bitumen on the Bruce Highway, it is now just covered in sand and trees. Many buildings and homes have lost their roofs.”

Take a look at the photograph of the tree snapped in 2 – that is not an actual tree but it was a metal sculpture before it was broken in two by Yasi.

        

Innisfail

Jul 14  A quick overnight stop at Innisfail. Nothing remarkable to speak of … except this is our very first ‘free camp’. These are rest areas with some basic amenities that are designed for short 24-48 hour stays. They are maintained by local councils and are excellent to assist with budgeting on a very long trip with the costs of a powered site in a caravan park rising. We will probably free camp 2 to 3 nights per week.