Game Fishing - Victorian Style!
February 10, 2009
Appears courtesy of South East Fishing Magazine
Written by John Cahill
Whilst some regard Victoria as a gamefishing wasteland, Southern Bluefin Tuna have always been caught off Western Victoria and South Australian waters. However, the last two seasonal runs had been nothing short of spectacular, spuring the interest of anglers and with monsters nudging 100 kilograms amongst them – why not?! Towns such as Portland and Port Macdonnell have enjoyed a surge in tourist dollars with Anglers travelling from far and wide to launch their missions and catch one of these barrels with fins.
The journey begins…
With this in mind it was with great anticipation that Brad McDonald and I headed to Avalon Airport to pick up our mate Neil ‘Rolo’ Rowlands from Jervis Bay. We were off to Portland to chase the mighty Bluefin that had been running off the Continental Shelf for the past month or so and the weather report looked awesome! With Rolo and another Sydney lad that needed a lift safely collected we headed off with Brad’s Quintrex 650 Offshore in tow.
Arriving at Portland and staying at the ideally located Henty Bay caravan park, we enjoyed a BBQ with other Vicco and interstate mates gathered for a friendly comp. A comprehensive briefing followed by Marty Ellul and local guru Bob McPherson who detailed the finer tips of chasing Bluefin including info regarding where we were likely to encounter the fish. After the briefing most crews retired to their cabins to rig up and talk tactics before turning in. Rising early on the Friday morning, we saddled up and dragged the 650 to Port MacDonald as rumour had it that most Portland locals were launching there – given the shorter ride to the shelf, it seemed like sound logic! A word of warning to all - be careful travelling between Portland and ‘Port Mac’ after dark as there are kangaroos everywhere!
We were greeted by a brilliant sunrise at Port Mac when we finally found the ramp after ‘Wrong Way MacDonald’ executed a number of u-turns! A local angler [Use first name, first time] ‘Camo’ guided us out from the shelter of the harbour to relatively safe water as it is shallow for a long way when launching at Port Mac with many waves breaking over reefs. Visiting anglers are well advised to have a good look at their charts and seek local advice before launching. It is worth noting that while fishing in South Australian waters there are additional safety requirements which include carrying two parachute flares, a chart and oars regardless of vessel size.
Albies, Albies everywhere!
Punching out to the shelf, our crew set a trolling pattern including a mixture of deep divers and skirts. Tackle-wise, we were going heavy on this trip running a mixture of 37 and 24 kilogram tackle in the event that we were lucky enough to tangle with some of the 90 kg – 100 kg brutes that had been taken and lost in recent years. Our first sign of life came after several hours when we saw a shower of Sauries break the surface, moments later the short corner buckled over and line peeled off at a rapid rate. Our guest, Rolo, was on! After a torrid tussle we had colour down deep and called it for a Bluefin, unfortunately for us, we were wrong, but not disappointed when a very healthy Albacore hit the deck! For the rest of the afternoon this was the pattern as we trolled lures back through the area where we found bait we would invariably hook up and land or lose quality Albies. Without a doubt the lure achieving the most hits were the deep divers and the stand-out being a grey Rapala X – Rap. Many other boats enjoyed the easing conditions and hot bite well into the afternoon. The best memory of that session was a double hook up on 24kg fish – these thing go like crazy and are great on the plate!
A mixed bag
After our triumphant day we headed back to Port Mac on the Sunday, especially given many of the crews who concentrated on Portland had not fared as well. Deciding to start the day differently we commenced setting a burly trail in 500 meters to see if we couldn’t raise one Western Vic’s big Mako’s! After 2 and a bit hours on the pot using our Albie scraps from the day before we managed two decent Blue Sharks which we released boat side. We then rejoined the crews trolling the hot patch from the day before and we were into the action in no time. First of all we scored a single Albie then turning back through the ‘promised land’ we had a five way hook up - boating all fish! This was pure mayhem, game fishing at its best! Rolo, the old hand, was a great source of info in the heat of the battle, keeping the boat slowly moving forward and fighting the fish from the short and long corners before touching the riggers, ensuring we were tangle free. After spending the afternoon setting a cube trail and trying to entice an Albie to take a salt water fly we headed in, not before picking up a couple more Albacore on the troll!. (Expand or remove)
The final leg of the journey
That night we enjoyed a magnificent presentation dinner and the celebrations continued on into the night. The main aim of the next day was to get the boys back to the airport so it didn’t matter too much that we were late out of bed - that was until woke to see flat sea’s! We agreed it was to good to refuse and headed out for one last session. We had the big Quinny in the water by 10:00am and by 10.30 we were setting a burley trail in 60 meters of water off Lawrence Rock. Enjoying the sunshine and flat conditions we bottom bounced pulling in endless reef fish including Morwong, Snapper and Aero Squid. With a midday curfew we were getting ready to pack up when the shark bait screamed off and a solid Mako broke the surface with a classic ‘tail walk’! Brad fought the fish beautifully for 40 minutes on 15 kg tackle and after several more jumps we had our prize secured, this fish later weighed in at 70 kg. Elated, we knew we now had set ourselves a difficult task of getting our guests back to Avalon on time. Some fancy filleting saw us achieve that without a moment to spare. Portland and Port MacDonald had really turned it on for us with some great offshore fishing but the blue fin had eluded us, interestingly they came on the bite that afternoon - there is always the next trip.