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Shaky


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Like all forms of fishing, part of being a rock fisherman is to always try to keep in touch with what is going on fish-wise. That includes having an idea of what's biting, where they are biting (and on what), what's "due" next and in particular, what the ocean conditions are like. With communication technology being what it is these days, a few clicks of the mouse can show live footage of the ocean to reveal conditions in general and a few more clicks to the right sites can also show the fish people are catching, albeit the "mystery" location or the commonly used term "spot X" leaving something for the viewer to work out.

A far cry from early rock fishing days, when the only genuine way to see the conditions was to actually go and look for yourself before making a decision as to whether it was safe enough/suitable to venture to your actual fishing position. The only available data then was the boating weather forecast, which was very sketchy for land based fishers. There were only two parts to the sea report, the first was the "sea" description and that used wording like "slight seas" or "slight to moderate seas" or "moderate seas" or "rough seas", followed by the swell report which used the same descriptive wording and a typical "good" forecast was something like "slight seas on a low swell"- from experience, if the report stated something like "slight to moderate seas on a low to moderate swell", that meant there was a chance it wouldn't be safe and the long trip from Sydney's western suburbs might not be worth it. An alternative safe plan is always necessary if you are a rock hopper.

In the days before this type of media were available, without actually going out fishing, the great sources of information were "word of mouth". Limited newspaper coverage- including the old weekly fishing paper Fishing News-, fishing clubs, pubs, large workplaces (like big factories) and of course bait and tackle shops. Information from tackle shops was probably the most reliable, especially if they sold bait (and if they liked you!) and the least reliable (for details at least) was the local pub, due mainly to the chain of stories often varying from teller to "tell-ee" etc etc. Fishing clubs were also the other great source of information, as like-minded members are usually only too happy to help with information, tips and techniques.

We heard through the fishing grapevine (a tackle shop owned and operated by one of our club members) that "they" were getting decent numbers of Snapper off the rocks at the entrance to Botany Bay near the spot known as "Shaky"- which derives it's name from the big rock adjacent the spot moving when the swell came in from a particular angle. Having ventured out to Cape Banks a fair few times and always keen to chase the action of something like some Snapper, we decided to head there for a change from our usual eastern suburbs rocks spots. A rough map was drawn for us and the trip hastily planned.

Although we'd fished many of the ledges on Cape Banks, like High Jolong, Dr's Rock, Donkey's, The Trap and so on, none of us had gone right to the entrance where "Shaky" was. Shouldn't be too hard to find though, being right on the tip of the cape and there are tracks everywhere out there. We had a mate who was a member of the Sydney Pistol Club, which had it's shooting range out on the cape behind the NSW Golf Club and he had a key that was needed for the locked gateway out to the pistol club car park, which saved leaving the car in an area known for break-ins. The area was pretty wild, with only the gated fire trail that lead out to the pistol range, which is due east of the golf club, and there were only about 3 or 4 houses before you got to the club.

Once past the club, it was fairly easy to walk due east to the cliff tops and then just follow them south towards Botany Bay's entrance. Much of the area was overgrown with thick scrub and there were small and narrow "trails" heading in different directions, with a fair amount of scrub-free sandstone along the water side edge of the cliffs.

The first and most well known fishing spot you come to is the platform known as "Jolong", it was a popular ledge with washes either side and fairly easy access down a chain, with easy to climb step-holes cut into the cliffside. Due to the easy access and the fact it is one of the only large low platforms in the entire area, it always attracted plenty of fishers. Sadly though, by the very geography of the platform, it is also known as a death trap, due to the way the swell hits the platform, sweeps down and the large volume of water floods off each side at the back, carrying everything with it as it pours back into the sea. Plenty of fishers perished there until the access to the ledge was taken away, pegs cut, chain removed and warning sign placed- I don't know if the access is still blocked, but it's not a safe place to fish- never was and genuinely not much of a spot at any rate, it's only attraction being one of the few locations close to the water.

As you move along the cliffs from Jolong, numerous other cliff-top spots are passed, but that form of fishing never really interested any of us, as it's all heavier line, bobby cork type fishing, with any hooked fish needing to be winched up or cliff-gaffed. There are a couple of other small locations that are closer to the water as you head south, but again, not really as appealing as other coastal rock fishing areas. Along the cliff tops there was plenty of scrub to get past as you moved south and some of the "tracks" were nothing more than water runs that became either dead ends or finished on the cliff edge.

As with most rock fishing trips, the pre-dawn time is generally the most productive, so you need to be travelling to the location while it's dark, especially if after Snapper. Sea unseen until you arrive on the actual spot, often leads to danger, due to all the effort required just getting there and the idea of "we'll just have a few casts because it's pretty bumpy" should be reinterpreted to "it's no good today-too rough, there's always next week, have to go to plan B". Using this philosophy will save your own and your mates lives.

After accessing the gate, parking the car near the pistol range and walking east towards the ocean, then passing the Jolong platform we found what we thought was the right way. A narrow, but definite track going south towards the mouth of Botany Bay. We could see the ocean, dark and not too noisy, with no visible white foam, which was encouraging. Initially, the "track" was along the cliffs, quite close to the edge, but after a few minutes, it moved away from the cliff-side a bit and into the thick vegetation.

When walking with 12 and 13 ft one piece rods and navigating narrow trails through ceiling height scrub, there's no way to walk with your rods pointing up, rather, you have them pointing along the track by your side. This of course means staying a reasonable distance apart while walking, so you don't bump into your companions rod tips in the darkness.

We walked for about 10 minutes, Ross D in front, myself next, then Tim W and Fraser L and our progress wasn't exactly speedy. Head torches back in the late 70's early 80's were cumbersome and had battery packs that were worn on your belt. Most of the better ones were powered by 4 "D" sized batteries and were pretty heavy also, if you weren't wearing a belt they'd drag your shorts down pretty quickly and weren't popular with my fishing mates, I however had one and was wearing it. Ross in the front had a pretty small hand torch, as did Tim and Fraser, and we wound our way slowly through the overgrown vegetation, which had started to enclose around us and covered the track completely.

The footing under us had become a mass of tangled roots and the "track" was no longer straight. Progress slowed to a crawl, as you had to maneuver your rods through the thickening bush, being careful to prevent your rod tips from becoming entangled. Then, suddenly, without warning, Ross crashed down through the ground underneath him and disappeared from sight, only about 1/3rd of his rods were visible. I couldn't see him but heard him cursing, so knew he was OK, albeit shocked. He'd broken through the roots we were walking over and there was nothing underneath him! Instead of solid ground, there was a crevasse-like gully going down towards the sea.

 It was lucky we weren't any further east, as the crevasse dropped sharply and there were plenty of nasty bits to land on only a few steps away from where we were. Both Ross and I had nothing solid under us and I was pretty lucky I hadn't gone through the "ground" as well and wasn't really in much of a position to render any help other than pull the rods back up. Tim and Fraser had stopped a few yards back and weren't sure whether to keep coming or not. Ross had a heap of scratches, a couple bleeding, but was otherwise just stuck in the hole about 7 or 8 feet down and we had to work out how he could get back up without using the new hole he'd created to come back through.

It was still really dark, about 3/4's of an hour until sun up, so a bit of searching with the lights was needed to find Ross a way back up, but he managed to climb up the other side of the crevasse and was out. Of course when a "safe" accident happens- one that doesn't cause any serious injury, the natural thing for Aussies to do is laugh- and we did. In fact on recall, it was one of the funniest things ever- would have been a completely different story if it had happened a few yards to the left, as that probably would have done a decent type of injury, but luckily, he was OK. No mobile phones to call for help back in those days.

What to do next? We weren't lost, as we knew roughly where we were and where we were heading. Obviously our "track" wasn't actually a track at all, but after crashing through the scrub and undergrowth for a while, we were reluctant to head back the same way, so it was decided to move on slowly and take any way we could to go further to the right and find the higher ground, regardless it was further away from the ocean. This strategy worked and within a few minutes were all standing on a large open patch with views opening up of Botany Heads. Probably should have turned right and come a bit inland earlier on, but that wasn't on the map we'd been given and it was part of the adventure until Ross went through the hole.

From where we came out of the scrub, to the open ground we were now on was really only about 50 or so yards and it made all the difference, in only a couple more minutes we were on the coastal fire trail, which lead down towards where the land finished and the water was. Success at last.

The rest of the way out to Shaky was uneventful and we arrived just as the darkness was starting to recede, finding ourselves at the spot we'd been told to fish. Unfortunately though, regardless that the sea had looked quite OK on the way there, the small southerly swell made it a bit dicey and very splashy and after only having a single cast each, were sent running for safety when a bigger swell rolled in. Sadly, time to enact a plan B and go into the more protected waters of the first bay inside. No Snapper would be in any danger on this trip.

We found a spot that although comfortable, produced only 2 Bream and we went home with nothing to talk about, bar the adventure and the "disappearing" fisherman

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Another great story Wazza!

Waiting to hear when your ‘Fishing Tales of Years Gone By’ comes out.

I’ll be at the front of the queue.

cheers,  stu.

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Back in the 1980s me and my two mates fished out there regularly. It was not really a good spot but we fished there nontheless. Shakey is actually a large boulder at the tip of Cape Banks. I was told it was called Shakey because in a decent swell, if you were standing on it, it would shake from the waves hitting it. We never fished off Shakey, it was just too difficult and not productive. We fished on the ledge at the point, to the south of Shakey, or if that was too rough, back inside where it was quite shallow. There used to be a shipwreck inside the point. When we started fishing there you could step off the cliff onto the side of the ship but now days it completely rusted away. We never did catch many fish there but sometimes we could rustle up a snapper from inside in the shallows. One night I fished there with my mate. We were fishing from right back in the corner near the footbridge. My mate caught this huge snapper, it was too big to lift so he made me jump in the water to grab it. The water was only waist deep and quite safe. The snapper went 17 pounds, the biggest any of us caught there.

One night the three of us fished well into the night. We used to park our cars near the houses up on the road and walk across the golf course. The houses belonged to the army. This particular night we arrived back at the cars at about 1am. We were met by the military police who had come all the way from Victoria Barracks. The people in one of the houses called them about our cars being there. These cops were not happy, having to drive all the way out there in the middle of the night. My mate, Wally, decided to take them on, saying that we were entitled to go fishing on public land. However I knew that we had parked on army land and were in no position to argue so I quickly defused the situation with lots of apologies. They let us go with a warning.

Waz, you mentioned Jolong. One night we fished there and I saw a penguin asleep on the ledge. You are right, it was a dangerous spot; on the cliff at the top of Jolong there used to be a stone memorial plaque for some unfortunate fisherman who drowned there. It told the story of the guy who loved rock fishing, with his name and at the the end it said simply "So long Jolong". It was very sad seeing that and I always remember it.

Another time we walked across the golf course at night, this is the NSW Golf Club, one of the top courses in Australia and we saw people on horses galloping across the greens!

There were so many stories about that place. Thanks for bringing it up Waz.

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Hi Couta glad you enjoyed it, yes army housing, hence needing the key to the pistol range. The one time we parked outside dogs came from all the houses and bailed us up until a lady came out and asked what we were doing, told her fishing and she said to park outside. No warning signs anywhere there to say it was army land.

Going to the Trap ledge one morning one of the guys got hit by a golf ball in the dark. Another dicey spot just to get out there.

Fished Julianne a lot, mainly spinning for Bonito and Luderick fishing around the corner at Donkey's, another good but dicey spot Donkey's.

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I also almost got hit a golf ball fishing neat the footbridge out at Cape Banks, the ball hit the rock right beside me.

I practically lived at Julianne I fished it so much. I've got a great story about catching a bonito there, I might post it some time. I also used to fish the Trap a lot in winter. There was usually no swell when the westerlies blew so it was safe but you could still catch trevally. I saw a bloke get swept off it once when I was over at Julianne. Saw some great fish taken at Julianne, mainly Kings and bonito. In those days I lived at Maroubra so all these spots were close. I love your stories Waz, keep them coming, they bring back so many memories. 

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I lived opposite the entrance to Prince Henry Hospital so it was a short walk to several spots around Little Bay.

A group of us who went to Matraville High school Mid 1970's managed to "make" fishing a sport so that was our Wed afternoon activity.

Those were the days.

Little Bay area was an area you could go to in any sort of weather and find somewhere to fish and catch fish. Even in a huge easterly swell from an east coast low you could fish from the "diving board" which was a rock shelf in the middle of Little Bay and catch bream and snapper aas well as salmon and tailor as the fish came into the beach as it was protected by a reef which connects the north and south headlands. When it's dead calm and a zero tide you can almost walk across.

Jim

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