Fishing adventures off Mackay
THERE is a superstition among mariners that if you take a banana on to a boat you'll have a disastrous trip.
So, as eight of us stood on the deck of the 41ft gamefishing boat Mako, the boss for Reefari Fishing Charters Greg Reynolds took the banana peel out of a fellow passenger's hand and took it ashore.
That was it: the sure sign we were going to hit some big fish, and we did.
Leaving Mackay marina at 6.30am, I was about to have the fishing adventure of a lifetime.
Like most of the others, it was my first reef fishing trip. It won't be my last.
We were not told the exact location of the reefs we fished.
Those are secrets known only to the Reefari crew.
We were told to watch out for boats which might prey on our reefs and steal the secret spots.
The skipper explained that Reefari regularly scouted for special spots and marked them by GPS and only fished them lightly to ensure fish numbers stayed high.
Just off Bailey Island, we trolled for Spanish mackerel and caught two of them, about 9kg and 10kg, with the skipper yelling out, “Watch out for their teeth” as he gaffed them and hauled them on-board.
Everyone kept well clear.
My first reef fish was a largemouth nannygai.
I've sent the photo all over Australia and to several corners of the globe.
I dropped a 5/0 hook with squid for bait down about 50 metres and, within 30 seconds of hitting the bottom, I'd hooked up. It ran on me at least five times, dragging out metres of line each time.
My arms were aching by the time I got it half-way up.
I fully expected it to be like simply reeling in a line. But it was bloody hard work that hurt.
The skipper kept telling me to keep the tip of the rod up and was yelling: “Don't play with it, Bruce. Get it up.”
Eventually I did, and just as it rolled on the surface, it spat the hook and the skipper had to gaff it quickly to get it in. Great work indeed.
Later at another secret location, my arms still aching, I hauled in a cod of about 9kg which had to be vented and released twice before it swam back to the bottom.
Everyone caught fish that day in perfect conditions ... largemouth nannygai, a coral trout, three Spanish mackerel, grassy sweetlip.
Reefari boasts that guests always catch something.
They weren't wrong.
And the deckie on that trip was the first person I've ever seen cut a 100- pound mono line with his teeth.
On the way back to the marina, one of my fellow passengers reeled in a 10kg Spanish mackerel which was weighed in and released because we already had enough fish.
The Reefari experience was priceless. It's something you must do at least once in your life.
As we headed back in, the skipper operated the Mako from the flybridge.
Up there, confidently sitting quietly in control, you could tell he was the master of his craft.
By the time I got to the yacht club (at the Mackay marina), I barely had the energy to lift up a rum.
But I managed, several times.