10 years. One shot. One opportunity…
Since relocating to the Sunshine Coast from the small Queensland town of Kingaroy ten years ago with an extensive freshwater knowledge, I was forced to become a rookie salt and estuary fisherman. With my confidence high and love of being on the water I couldn’t wait to get out there and smash some new species. The first year was a huge wake up call! I mainly spent it chasing flathead in the Maroochy River, supposedly the easiest species to catch on lures, and I’m not even sure I caught a single fish. Assuming the system was overfished and shit, I knew it was going to take a lot more research, time on the water and fresh techniques to catch something… anything! It was the days before social media so you couldn’t just look at everyone’s pictures and videos to find out their spots, techniques and lures used. You had to painstakingly learn, and discover every single thing on your own.
For the next nine years I experienced some unforgettable moments and endured some horrific fishing trips I would love to forget! I taught myself to successfully target and catch most estuary species on lures, except for barramundi! They’re not impossible to catch on the Sunshine Coast, but they are super rare and basically impossible to target. They’re the pinnacle of estuary fishing around here. We often joked about catching a Sunny Coast Barra, we pretended what we’d do if someone actually hooked one and imagined what the end result would be.
After a hectic four week break involving some major upgrades around the house, Christmas and a fourteen day bender, in which, for a second, I thought we were rock stars, I was excited to finally load up the Assassin GT, dust the rod off and catch my first Mangrove Jack for 2016! As the coast is a popular holiday destination and really busy this time of year, I planned to launch at a quiet spot where not many people go, away from the hustle and bustle. I’d only ever caught small jack at this spot but that’s all I was after to kickstart the year.
I had the kayak loaded onto the Lux, rod fully rigged up, alarm set for 4am and all the gear packed ready to go, but seeing as I hadn’t been fishing in so long, when I tried to go to bed my brain went crazy! For hours I planned exactly what I was going do when I got to the fishing spot, which lures to use, where and when to use them, which snags to cast and the sort of fish I would catch. It was enjoyable, but at the same time wished my brain would switch off as I was running out of time to sleep.
Shortly after launching the Assassin GT at first light, I noticed some serious surface action while heading to the spot I’d planned to fish. The water was alive with big swirls and bust ups, everything you’d ever dream about as a fisherman. Using a soft paddling technique, the kayak smoothly and silently cut through the water without alerting the fish to my presence. It had stormed overnight and was drizzling rain but was still really hot and humid. Sneaking up the narrow creek, mainly working the structured edge, I found myself shooting random casts to the big swirls and strange busts up. It appeared whatever was feeding in the area was actually chasing the huge 50cm+ mullet. There was no sign of the small Jacks I was originally targeting, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen on the coast. I had a feeling it was Barra but it was highly unlikely.
I swapped and changed between different types of surface lures attempting get a strike from whatever it was! After casting at the swirls and working the snags for well over an hour I shot a random long cast up the middle of the narrow creek. Starting to lose hope of catching anything, I retrieved my gsplash almost all the way to the kayak and paused. In a split second there was the loudest, most hectic water displacement I had ever seen! I’m almost certain I’d just seen a one metre plus Barra.. it had to be! Heart racing, I shot another cast out in the middle. Pop pop pop, pause, flash! A glimpse of silver about 80cm long, was followed by a really delayed boil due to the speed he was traveling. ‘There’s Barra here’ I thought to myself ‘and more than one!’ I gave the area a thorough workout but the activity had really died down, so I continued on up the creek, working the snags for Jack.
As I continued casting, I replayed what had happened in my head over and over and considered the possibility that I may have just blown my only chance of catching a Sunny Coast Barra. Was it even a barra? Could they have been giant herring? I had so much doubt. All these things were running through my head and it’s the uncertainty of what actually happened that it’s all about! That’s the part I’m addicted to. It’s what I love about being out on the water in my kayak with a fishing rod in my hand, the uncertainty. You can never experience such a feeling if golf is your hobby!
Further up the creek I continued fishing away, pretty content with what had happened earlier in the session. Then, buushh! Right in front of me a 75cm+ Barra jumped clean out of the water, but completely missed my popper. There was no mistaking it was a Barra, it was clear as day. I’d been working over a really good looking snag I’d believed the Barra was sitting under. I didn’t get any hooks on him but I was pretty confident he’d come back, so I just kept casting and casting. After about 20 minutes of working the snag and the general area, I shot a perfect cast into the exact location of the last hit. I concentrated on every pop of the lure, focused on the length of the pause and continued working the lure. On the last pop just before i’d planned to pause again… BANG! I’m on! The moment I’d spent the last 10 years preparing for, dreaming about, going over in my head a thousand times was finally happening! With my drag completely locked, what happened next will be a moment in my life that I’ll never forget!
I could talk you through what happened, explain what I did, my reasons for doing it and what I could have done differently, but at the end of the day I kooked it, and it’s as simple as that! You have to laugh. It just so happens that the Sunshine Coast system is actually quite healthy and fishes really well, you just need to have ten years of knowledge, some patience and be prepared to have a dig!
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