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Bream and "The" Jewie


wazatherfisherman
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We'd gone on a Hairtail trip, hiring a Halvorsen cruiser from Bobbin Head for five days, but the weather before we left had been shocking. It had rained pretty heavily for almost two weeks and the water in the Cowan Creek system was really dirty. Normally, due to it's direct proximity to the sea and the fact there are minimal feeder creeks, it clears up fairly quickly from even heavy storms. A few big tides are usually enough to return Cowan to it's normal emerald green colour. Sadly for us, it remained really dirty for the entire trip, which was no good at all for Hairtail fishing, as they prefer clearer water. New tactics were needed if we were going to get any fish on the trip this year.

Generally, the fishing is usually planned around one of the big four spots in Cowan, these being Akuna, Waratah, Yeomans and Jerusalem Bays, as they, along with Smiths Creek, are the traditional Hairtail grounds and we fished them each year- the wind direction often being the deciding factor of which one we went to on the start of the trip. Depending on results each night, we would change bays the next morning as you have to give the motor a decent run to charge the boat's batteries.

After trying Waratah and Jerusalem Bays the first two nights and only getting a couple of Bream and Flathead between the seven on board, we decided to go and have a look at the twin bays of Refuge and America Bay, which are right near the mouth of the Cowan Creek system. Going any further than that would lead to being exposed to the deluge of muddy water which always flows from the Hawkesbury River after continual rain. 

On arriving at the mouth of the two bays, we decided that America Bay, with it's big number of moorings was going to mean easy anchorage and it was well protected from the seemingly never ending southerly wind, that had battered the coast for days. So into America Bay and boat moored securely.

Normally on these trips, a big effort fishing for Yellowtail on the first day provides enough live bait to last for several nights fishing, as they are kept alive in a floating plastic washing basket, sitting inside a bike inner tube, this year however, we'd only managed a couple and had none in reserve, so all hands on deck fishing for "Yakka's". A couple of hours fishing and no Yakka's to be seen, only a few tiny bream, not a good result. We put it down to the dirty colour of the water and again had to rethink strategy, maybe we could find a few closer to shore, as most of the shoreline of Cowan has plenty of them if you sat and used a decent and constant burley trail.

So Steve and I grabbed a couple of Yakka hand-lines, the "Yakka" tackle box (which just had size 14 long shank hooks and various small bits of split shot) some hamburger mince for bait (the best Yakka bait!) and a small bucket of "squished" white bread, which was flavoured with a little bit of whale oil and we hopped in the Halvorsen's dingy and rowed in to the shore, tying the boat's tow rope up to a fallen tree, hanging just over the water. You could just see the bottom through the discoloured water and it was probably about 5 feet deep. 

We got a small continuous burley stream established and sat quietly waiting for the expected (or hoped for!) Yakka's to turn up, it was late afternoon and the tide incoming about two hours from being full high. About twenty minutes after we started putting the burley in, a fish grabbed the bait on the 4 lb Platil Strong mono and after a few seconds, had broken the line pretty easily. Bream for sure, they are always happy to take mince, especially in a nice burley trail. Re rig, another hookup, another bust off. Both of us lost a few fish each, before we decided we were wasting our time using the 4 lb hand-lines and not a Yakka in sight either. They called out from the big boat, moored about a hundred yards away, that dinner was nearly ready, so we left our "Bream spot" and rowed back. Steve was keen to go back and have another go at the Bream, but rain fell constantly for a couple of hours after dinner, making that look like not being much fun in the tiny dingy. Side covers on the Halvorsen clipped down and back to having a drink and playing cards like we'd done for the last couple of days.

As the night went on, three of the crew decided to turn in, too many band hands and a drink or two too many. By midnight, only Steve, Ross and I were still keen to fish on. The poly dingy looked anything other than inviting, with a bit of water on the deck from the rain, plenty on the bottom of the boat and everything pretty wet, so Ross opted to stay and fish from the outer deck of the Halvorsen, while Steve and I got organised to have a proper go at the Bream.

To minimise noise, we cut a heap of nice small baits and put them in an ice cream container on the dingy's middle seat. Pilchard tails and small pieces of Bonito fillet, along with some decent quality frozen Hawkesbury prawns was the bait and we took about 3/4 of a bucket of hand squished bread, soaked in water and added some squashed Pilchard and a little whale oil for the burley. The burley is dispensed with a plastic ladle as the oil makes it slimy and sticky and you just can't fish with a hand-line with oily hands.

Gear this time was a 6 ft light spin rod each, combined with a 2500 size spin reel and 6 lb mono and a hand-line each of 10 lb Tortue. Rig was just a 1/0 suicide hook tied straight on, no leader, swivel or sinker. A container of hooks in the pocket each, pliers, forceps and a knife completed the kit. A small torch each, already weakened from two nights of use and a life-jacket each to sit on, a couple of rags and a towel. So we wouldn't make any noise after landing a fish, we sat a large size fish box on the middle seat and half filled it with water and sat the box lid on top. About as simple as fishing could get. So with very quiet dipping of the dingy's oars, we rowed slowly over to the same tree as earlier and tied the tow rope on the bow to the tree again- these dingy's don't come with any form of anchor. Due to the cloud cover, it was pitch dark in close to the shore also.

It was now nearly 1.30 am, the tide on the rise again and it probably only took about fifteen minutes after we started the burley, for the fish to arrive. At first, the usual tiny, picky bites that timid Bream transmit, followed by sharper bites revealing a fish of decent size was mouthing the bait. Give them some line, then a little more and they'd have the bait down. Very easy on the hand-line to tell exactly what is going on and easy to feed line without any resistance. We started getting them pretty easily and they were nice school sized fish around the pound and a quarter mark. We were fishing the prawns on the rods, casting outwards from the shore where the tree was, but the hand-lines were only thrown parallel to the shore-line about 10 feet away from the boat and these were baited with Pilchard or Bonito and were getting most of the action, only every now and then one of the rods went off and in every case, the fish would have swallowed the bait so far down, you just broke off and tied another hook on.

Four or five times throughout the night, a fish got around one of the tree branches and we had to put the torch on to untangle it, each time, regardless of care to not put the light on the water, the school would spook and no more action for about ten minutes, but by keeping the burley stream going and being really quiet, the fish would be back again.On a couple of occasions a fish also managed to get free before being lifted over the fish box and flapped around on the floor, this too, spooked them away, but they'd come back with the burley. By dawn, we had a pretty impressive box of Bream, with a few nudging around the two pound mark.

As we'd been sitting, straddling the boats bench seats- one leg each side of the seat, with no backrest for about five hours, by dawn, I'd just about had it and when I dropped my last fish on the floor of the dingy before I could subdue it, it jumped around like mad and spooked them off again. No more bites and after about fifteen minutes, I said I'd had enough, and wanted to go and wash the filth of Bonito, Pilchard, Prawns and whale oil burley off my hands and have a nice hot cuppa, after all it was winter, so we rowed back to the Halvorsen to find Ross awake and still fishing. Looking down on the dingy from above, he asked how we'd gone? Real good the reply- what about you? Not a single fish. Before we'd left on the Bream mission, Ross had asked me what he should put out, as there were about fifteen rods rigged up, sitting on the roof (there isn't enough room inside the Halvorsen's as the back section is converted to bunk beds of a night) and my only suggestion had been to make sure he had a whole Pilchard out, for any chance of a Hairtail and of course to keep trying for Yakka's. He'd had Pilchard pieces out all night, but not a whole one. Does this make a difference? Absolutely.

I got out of the dingy and was relieved to stretch my legs. Steve, having just caught the most fish he'd ever caught, enjoyed the session so much, decided to head straight back to see if he could get a few more Bream!

On hearing there hadn't been a whole Pilchard out all night, I grabbed my Hairtail rigged rod off the roof and put a Pilchard on the set of hooks, complete with wire trace and tossed it out the back of the boat, then clicked the ratchet on the Alvey and sat the rod inside next to the stairs that you climb down and into the Halvorsen. Right next to the stairs are two bunk beds and other mate Doug, in the lower one had just woken up. I went to put the kettle on, but before I got to the stove, the ratchet on the Alvey rang out, as a fish had grabbed the Pilchard. A good sized Flattie was reeled in and I lifted it over the back and had to bring it right inside, where it shook itself off the hooks.and lay on the lino floor. Ross was devastated! He'd been there all night and to make matters worse, the Flattie had grabbed the bait on the wire trace- not something you'd recommend when rigging for Flathead.

Another Pilchard on, cast out again- still from the inside of the vessel, ratchet on, rod down, now for the kettle- bang! Ratchet alarm goes again and an identical Flattie is dragged aboard. Again, this one just hooked on one of the hooks of the gang, and it comes off on the floor right next to the first one. Scenario repeated, another Pilchard, cast again, this time though I held the rod and bang! Flathead number three comes aboard to join it's mates. 

As the fish are squirming around on the floor next to Doug's bed, he's now wide awake and makes the "polite" suggestion that I should put the B*@#  fish somewhere else so he can get up, besides I was going to make a cuppa for the three of us. Fair enough! I get a towel and take the three fish into the the shower, where we'd stowed the fish esky overnight, kill them and put them in. Doug tends to the kettle, he doesn't want me touching anything with a whole nights fish-filth on my hands! 

Ross in the mean time, has found a heavy 40 lb hand-line, complete with a set of ganged hooks and throws a whole Pilchard out, it's the last Pilchard within reach, so I climb back up the three stairs onto the outside deck to grab a few more from the bait esky. Ross hooks a Flattie pretty well as soon as his bait hits the bottom. This one's larger than the first three (which were all about two and a half pound- nice eating size!) and as it's Ross's first good fish of the trip, he's playing it gently, regardless of having the "big" line. 

Halvorsen cruisers have a Marlin board at the back of the boat, which is basically a boarding platform about four feet wide, that sits a few inches above waterline, making getting in and out of the dingy an easy process and Ross stepped down on it to bring his Flathead up. Then, calling the fish for a huge one, he says get the gaff, which I do- we usually take a couple of gaffs and leave one at each end of the boat- the one at the stern is a short handle about four feet long, with a wrist lanyard of Venetian blind cord. I put my hand through the lanyard and join Ross on the Marlin board to gaff his huge Flathead (which turns out to be only about three pound!)

Hearing the excitement outside, Doug comes out from inside and stands above us on the deck as the "giant" Flathead comes into view. What happens next, is a sight that the three of us will never forget.

We were looking straight down into the murky water and just below the Flathead, what initially appeared to look like a huge fish with an almost "triangular" shaped head was rising fast, not swimming, but just rising up in the water column. Ross instinctively pulled his Flattie up and simply lifted it out of the water and onto the Marlin board to get it away from it's pursuer. The triangular head however, kept rising up, only revealing it's true identity as it reached the surface. It was an absolutely massive Jewie and it had risen up, virtually motionless, from below and arrived on the surface only inches from the Marlin board.

Still having the gaff in hand, my initial reaction was to gaff it- it was certainly well in range and almost lying still on the surface, but in one of those moments of "self preservation" I only moved the gaff to above the fish, before realising the wrist loop was on. It's pretty amazing the amount of information our brains can process, because all three of us realised in an instant that I had the wrist loop on and that gaffing it would have probably resulted in disaster, as the fish was so massive and totally green, it hadn't done anything bar rise up.  Doug had instinctively moved to grab me and Ross moved to block the attempt, but my brain had already decided not to do it. The huge fish then did a slow roll, it's massive tail breaking the surface and the huge brown-yellow looking eye seeming to stare at us. It then sank, the same way it had appeared, barely seeming to move at all, it certainly wasn't in a hurry.

Ross then said "Do you reckon it was going to eat the Flathead?" Yes the reply- put the Flathead back in! Which he did and let a bit of line out, a sharp tug on the line and the Flathead was gone, with Ross unsure if the Jewie got it or it simply got off.  

The three of us kept looking at the water where the monster fish had been, as if waiting for it to reappear, which of course it didn't. Wow, what a moment, Doug said he was glad to see it and both Ross and I were glad we had a third person see it.

Without exaggeration, the Jewie was as broad as a keg and Sharks,Tuna and Marlin aside, by far the largest fish we'd ever come across. Several years later, while viewing the weigh-in of a spearfishing competition at Little Beach Port Stephens, I saw a Jewie weighed in that went right on 90 lb (40.83 kg). After weighing, the fish was placed on the grass and I walked up to it, standing what I reckoned was the same distance away as our America Bay monster. Our one was much bigger.

I was going to post this story earlier, but was sidetracked and put up a different one, however, Ross who lives at Old Errowal Bay on St Georges Basin these days, sent me a message out of the blue that just said "Thank God you didn't gaff the Jewie" and said I should do the story of it.

The very same afternoon as we experienced the monster, and after moving to Smiths Creek, Ross caught a Jewie barely larger than a Pilchard. We talk about that day whenever we all get together.

 

 

 

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Another terrific yarn Waza.

I remember my dad telling me he and my mum used to spend weekends on Halvorsen cruisers which I assume would have been back in the early '50s. He wrote an article about their adventures that was published in Sydney Afloat about 10 years ago.

 

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2 hours ago, bessell1955 said:

Wow,that Jewie sounds like a Whale.:1yikes:

Hi bessell1955 when I worked at the Australian Fishing Museum, museum director Hank Newman who was South African born, brought some photo's of their "Kob" in to show me. The scientific name for Kob is Argyrosomus hololepidotus and the Australian species Argyrosomus japonicus which look identical.

The South Africans regularly catch them over the old 100 pound mark and fish over 150 lb are caught each year

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2 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

Another terrific yarn Waza.

I remember my dad telling me he and my mum used to spend weekends on Halvorsen cruisers which I assume would have been back in the early '50s. He wrote an article about their adventures that was published in Sydney Afloat about 10 years ago.

 

Hi Pete the old Halvorsen's were the "ducks guts" of recreational hire boats in the 50's, no doubt your folks had some great times on them! They were by today's standards a bit spartan, but had the feel of "a caravan on water" and made overnight stays on the river both possible and fun. Did about trips on them before we discovered houseboats

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1 minute ago, Yowie said:

Another good story, however, I think it's time you headed out fishing again.

You will get brain overload with all these stories.¬†ūü§£ūü§£ūü§£

Hi Yowie I'd like nothing more, but am disabled with a couple of serious medical conditions. Hopefully at some stage I will be able to go again, in the meantime, this is therapy!

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1 hour ago, JAKSShark said:

Awesome story mate, jewies look cool enough in the water as is let alone a monster....ūüėĮ can only imagine what it would look like

Keep the storys coming please

Hi JAKSShark that giant fish is as vivid to me now as when I saw it. Sights like that never leave your memory I guess

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5 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Yowie I'd like nothing more, but am disabled with a couple of serious medical conditions. Hopefully at some stage I will be able to go again, in the meantime, this is therapy!

Hopefully you can  overcome those problems.

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3 minutes ago, GoingFishing said:

Another cracking write up Wazza. I loVe reading your reports. Hope to see you back on the water ASAP

Thanks GF ! I hope so too! Wanted to go to Port Stephens for the meet up but won't make it this time, however definitely something to aim for. 

Probably dream about that Jewie tonight!

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Another great write up Waza, as I was reading about the huge silver ghost I envisaged the gaff shot going horribly wrong thank god for the minds ability to analyse dangerous situations in a blink of an eye for self preservation, what an awesome sight that jewie would’ve  been (so surreal)

good luck with your medical issues, hope you get back out soon ūü§ě

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1 hour ago, 61 crusher said:

Another great write up Waza, as I was reading about the huge silver ghost I envisaged the gaff shot going horribly wrong thank god for the minds ability to analyse dangerous situations in a blink of an eye for self preservation, what an awesome sight that jewie would’ve  been (so surreal)

good luck with your medical issues, hope you get back out soon ūü§ě

Hi Dieter the gaff shot would have been the end of me I reckon, would have pulled me straight in and probably been dragged down while being smashed in the head by the tail! The reactions of Ross and Doug were as quick as mine and I cut the lanyards of all my gaffs and nets after that.

The whole event was surreal as it happened so slowly, normally when you have a fish come after a hooked fish you're landing, it's really fast- like a Kingie chasing something up to the rocks, not so the big Jewie. I didn't know they could just "rise" like that either. The eye looking at us was bigger than a tennis ball I reckon, and in a relatively shallow bay where you'd least expect something like that.

The Flathead were gone too after it left and that also was something I wouldn't have expected- that anything like a Jew would eat a Flathead but I guess it's all food

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