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Fog


wazatherfisherman
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I'm sure everybody's had 'fog experiences' at some point in life, some are eerie, some almost magical and some end up being downright dangerous. Most fishers would have had trips to the water that involved the fog, whether in a boat or shore based, the quiet, smoky stillness is well remembered. I've been on a few trips where fog has played a big part in what's happened.

After leaving Drummoyne ramp one morning in a decent fog, by the time we made it down past Cockatoo Island the fog started to really drop to water level and pretty quickly, visibility was down to only about 10 meters. The skipper had organised to meet a mate at Sow and Pigs Reef, so he decided to keep on going, but the visibility was so bad we could only just putt along at walking pace.

After about 5 minutes we got sight of some shoreline and started moving closer in to look for something familiar. On the shore we heard a voice and it ended up being a guy walking his dog. We yelled out and he came a bit closer, when we asked him where we were he said Berry's Bay- we'd done a 90 degree left turn from the western side of Blues Pt and were heading into the bay. We turned around and it was OK travelling along the shoreline, but as we rounded the head and turned towards the Harbour Bridge, again it was too foggy to see very far. I wasn't keen to keep going and insisted to stay along the shoreline if we were going to keep moving, but instead, he motored out into the fog and kept going. Bloody stupid idea.

Crawling along blind in a pea-soup fog wasn't safe- regardless of only going walking speed and once again you couldn't see any land. My argument was that we would soon be in the major traffic area adjacent the bridge, with ferries moving around and we wouldn't have a clue where we'd be after passing there anyway. Then we heard the unmistakable sound of something coming towards us- it was one of the big Rivercat's and it was right in front of us. Luckily for us the captain had seen us and slowed right down before yelling a few choice words. He had every right to be angry as we just shouldn't have been out there moving along blindly. The Cat skipper told us to go hard left so we'd be close to Lavender Bay and out of the way, which we did. Once we sighted the shore again I felt a bit better and we stayed in there until the fog started to lift about an hour later.

Once we started moving again you could see well enough forward, but I'll never forget going under the 'invisible' Harbour Bridge and hearing a train up above us- surreal stuff! As we passed through the 'washing-machine' area (so-called because all the boat traffic from Circular Quay makes it turbulent) just past the bridge, the sun started appearing and the fog began to break up. It ended up being a top day, but it could have been disastrous.

Up in Cowan Creek during winter it's pretty common for the fog to descend right down to water level and it's almost a certainty if it's rained earlier and there's little wind. Some nights it comes not too long after dark and others it isn't until the really late hours.

Four of us had gone Hairtail fishing in our mate Ross D's boat, my brother, mates Fraser and Ross and myself. We were fishing on a midweek night during May and as it was early season, Ross wanted to give the boat it's first decent run for a while, so we headed to Flint and Steel near the junction of the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay. More renown as a Mulloway hot spot, the 'Flint' is also on the migrating Hairtail's route to Cowan Creek, where they are head to spawn. 

The spot we fish at the 'Flint' sits on the upriver side of the point and due to the really strong tidal flow coming out of the Hawkesbury River, we only ever fish there on smaller run-in tides, which can be really good for the incoming Hairtail. This night, we arrived before low tide and had a couple of goes at anchoring before we were happy with where we were. There can be a lot of undesirable species there if you end up too close in to the hard reef, but as we were fishing whole Pilchards on ganged hooks without lead, your bait rarely gets anywhere near the bottom.

When the tide turned and started to run in, we had the best night's Hairtail fishing we'd had for years as there seemed to be endless Hairtail coming past. The Pilchards, pinned on ganged hooks -which were attached to a wire trace- rarely sank out of sight of the cyalume light-sticks that we place on the wire, before another fish would take the bait. It was a windless cold night, and we had a ball catching plenty of fish, everyone swapping rods and constantly catching them until the rain came down.

For about threequarters of an hour and we crammed in the cabin, drinking soup and eating our sandwiches while we waited for the rain to stop. We had so many fish (there were no bag limits and Hairtail are highly prized by all on board) that there wasn't anywhere to put another fish and we still had to gut the lot, so we decided to call it a night. Due to the weight of all the fish, after hauling the anchor, I volunteered to stay up in the nose of the cabin to 'balance out the load' (in reality I was pretty cold and tired that night!) so I curled up in the cabin and was quickly asleep.

When I nodded off, we probably hadn't been underway for more than a few minutes and the boys were just cruising along slowly towards the mouth of Cowan on the way back to Coal and Candle Creek, with Akuna Bay boat ramp the destination. Shortly after passing Hallet's Beach, which isn't that far inside Cowan, the fog had  come down and by the time they rounded Cowan Point and headed towards Cottage Point it was really thick and low over the water. There's a really bright fog light at Cottage Point that penetrates even heavy fog- it's necessary because there are a lot of moored boats out off Cottage Point- the only waterside development in Cowan. The boys had no problem seeing the glow from the light and turned into Coal and Candle, following the the shoreline while there was light until the glow of Cottage Point and it's fog light were out of sight.

If I live to a hundred I'll never forget what happened next. I was woken from my warm and now comfortable spot, with three concerned faces looking at me and I'd barely opened my eyes when they almost said in unison "where the hell are we???" How on earth was I supposed to know-I'd been sound asleep for about 20 minutes!! Having been there plenty of times and having a bit more knowledge of the river than all of them, it normally would have been a fair question. However I'd been sound asleep and even snoring, so how on earth would I know? You couldn't see 2 meters through the fog, it was so thick.

I couldn't see anything except fog all around us, it was like smoke, and it was cold and wet when I left the cabin to try and see something. I asked what the last thing they'd seen was and Ross explained how they'd come into the fog as soon as they came inside Cowan and had only made it as far as they had because of the big fog light's glow. We were in Coal and Candle, but where? There was no sign of the fog light behind us and you just couldn't see a thing, so I said we'll just have to drop the anchor and wait it out.

That went down like a lead balloon, everyone was cold and we'd eaten everything already, but there was no choice, so over went the anchor and we crammed into the small cabin once again. It was around 1am and I thought we could be there for many hours.

Around 4.30am a freezing breeze started up and the fog lifted a couple of feet above the water, Ross decided that he could see enough if he put his head over the side and we pulled the anchor and just crawled back to Akuna Bay- which also had a fog light on at the marina. By the time we idled into the ramp, due to sitting still for so long, we were absolutely freezing, so no fish were cleaned there and we got the boat on the trailer and the heater going in the car.

For the record, we caught 56 Hairtail that night and they were real good fish, all around five foot and above- no small ones that night. The four of us haven't been in the same room together for many years now, but I still remind them of being woken up to the cry of "where are we?" -still the most unbelievable question I ever been asked!

 

 

 

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Fun stuff......we got caught in a real thick fog one morning out of Shellharbour, we were only going to "the Church Ground" which was very close to the Harbour, we decided "sh'll be right" and headed out, as we cleared the harbour, you couldn't see even a couple of feet in front on the boat, so we decided to just drift until it lifted. We could hear boats running fast through the fog, but had no idea how close or what direction they were going, fogs like that, it kind of confuses your senses, anyway, after a couple of hours, it cleared a bit and we could just make out some land, Bass Point my mate said, so we motored a bit closer and anchored just to be safe, as it cleared more and more. It wasn't Bass Point, it was Minnamurra, somehow we had drifted straight out, maybe got caught in the south bound current that kind if swirls around Bass Point and heads west in a big eddy, and ended up miles away from our starting point, how we didn't drift onto the rocks is just a miracle, because we had drifted around a long headland, (Bass Point) from one side and down the other side, spooky indeed.

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Another great read Waza, thanks.

I think we've all got a few fog stories. One of mine was back in the days long before GPS, a mate and I were surfing during a heavy fog when we heard the dull "thump" of a motor approaching. We sat there on alert until out of the murk appeared a trawler heading straight for us and we had to paddle as fast as we could to avoid being keel hauled.

Also the St Georges Basin flats really fire on those foggy mornings and its a great time to throw a surface lure right up in the shallows from the Hobie. It never ceases to amaze me though how many boats you hear, but cannot see, zooming past well out over the drop off at full throttle. Just an accident waiting to happen.

IMG_0792.jpg

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Thanks for the foggy story Waza. It can be really dangerous in many places due to fog. I remember heading North from Greenwell Point in the fog...couldn't see much above 10mtrs. I was in the brand new car and towing the boat. Couldn't see the cats' eyes or line markings so naturally I was going quite slow. Suddenly here's this massive buck kangaroo standing perfectly still in the middle of the lane. To this day I have no idea how I missed hitting it, but I did.

Another time I became disoriented when a light mist turned into a heavy fog at Blowering Dam. I had no idea where I was in relation to the boat ramp and had to wait quite a while for it to lift sufficiently for me to get off the water.

Keep the stories coming Waza, they're full of wonderful recollections of days gone by. Cheers, bn

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9 hours ago, noelm said:

Fun stuff......we got caught in a real thick fog one morning out of Shellharbour, we were only going to "the Church Ground" which was very close to the Harbour, we decided "sh'll be right" and headed out, as we cleared the harbour, you couldn't see even a couple of feet in front on the boat, so we decided to just drift until it lifted. We could hear boats running fast through the fog, but had no idea how close or what direction they were going, fogs like that, it kind of confuses your senses, anyway, after a couple of hours, it cleared a bit and we could just make out some land, Bass Point my mate said, so we motored a bit closer and anchored just to be safe, as it cleared more and more. It wasn't Bass Point, it was Minnamurra, somehow we had drifted straight out, maybe got caught in the south bound current that kind if swirls around Bass Point and heads west in a big eddy, and ended up miles away from our starting point, how we didn't drift onto the rocks is just a miracle, because we had drifted around a long headland, (Bass Point) from one side and down the other side, spooky indeed.

Hi Noel it's amazing how far off course you can get without realising! Scary when you're outside

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4 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

Another great read Waza, thanks.

I think we've all got a few fog stories. One of mine was back in the days long before GPS, a mate and I were surfing during a heavy fog when we heard the dull "thump" of a motor approaching. We sat there on alert until out of the murk appeared a trawler heading straight for us and we had to paddle as fast as we could to avoid being keel hauled.

Also the St Georges Basin flats really fire on those foggy mornings and its a great time to throw a surface lure right up in the shallows from the Hobie. It never ceases to amaze me though how many boats you hear, but cannot see, zooming past well out over the drop off at full throttle. Just an accident waiting to happen.

IMG_0792.jpg

Hi Pete I reckon many trawlers just aren't watching out for small craft and assume you'll get out of their way! Always enjoy fishing the fog, especially in Cowan where it's so often foggy in the night/early morning

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25 minutes ago, big Neil said:

Thanks for the foggy story Waza. It can be really dangerous in many places due to fog. I remember heading North from Greenwell Point in the fog...couldn't see much above 10mtrs. I was in the brand new car and towing the boat. Couldn't see the cats' eyes or line markings so naturally I was going quite slow. Suddenly here's this massive buck kangaroo standing perfectly still in the middle of the lane. To this day I have no idea how I missed hitting it, but I did.

Another time I became disoriented when a light mist turned into a heavy fog at Blowering Dam. I had no idea where I was in relation to the boat ramp and had to wait quite a while for it to lift sufficiently for me to get off the water.

Keep the stories coming Waza, they're full of wonderful recollections of days gone by. Cheers, bn

Hi Neil lucky you missed the roo! The Cowan fog is often 'impenetrable'! 

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Wazza, this story remind me of fishing in the upper Hawkesbury during the winters months.  Fog, well there was fog most nights.  One particular evening sticks in my memory.  The fog rolled in and it was so thick that we became totally disorientated.  We headed off home and during the trip it became apparent that we were lost. The 20 minuet trip had stretched to 40 and this was pre mobile phone days.  We pulled into the bank and looked for some house lights.  We saw that one house had their lights on and we went to them and asked the dumb questions, "Where are we ?" 

The owners told us the location and it turned out that we had become so disorientated that we had turned around and were heading in the wrong direction.  This occurred in a point in the river  that was only  50 metres wide.  To this day we still do not know how we did this.  This highlights how your sense of direction can be thrown out of kilter.   :depression:

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2 hours ago, bessell1955 said:

Wazza, this story remind me of fishing in the upper Hawkesbury during the winters months.  Fog, well there was fog most nights.  One particular evening sticks in my memory.  The fog rolled in and it was so thick that we became totally disorientated.  We headed off home and during the trip it became apparent that we were lost. The 20 minuet trip had stretched to 40 and this was pre mobile phone days.  We pulled into the bank and looked for some house lights.  We saw that one house had their lights on and we went to them and asked the dumb questions, "Where are we ?" 

The owners told us the location and it turned out that we had become so disorientated that we had turned around and were heading in the wrong direction.  This occurred in a point in the river  that was only  50 metres wide.  To this day we still do not know how we did this.  This highlights how your sense of direction can be thrown out of kilter.   :depression:

Hi Bessell1955 that story would apply to plenty of river users I reckon. One of my other mates took his boat up one year when we were on a houseboat trip so we would have a sounder and the ability to quickly pick up/drop off other mates.

We left the houseboat with three on board and headed up Smiths Creek to have a look around and were gone for about 2hrs, in which time the fog descended, so we decided to return before it was too low over the water. Too late! Before we were out of Smiths it was virtually water level, so we stayed close to the shore and putted along until we saw the sign at the mouth of Smiths marked "Bobbin Head" and an arrow pointing to the right.

Craig who owned the boat said "no problem- we just go in a straight line to Waratah Bay once we're past the point" and proceeded to move out into the fog away from the identifiable shoreline. I immediately objected to leaving the shore, but he was adamant he could drive a straight course back.

About 20 minutes later, he said "see I told you we were OK, there's the other Bobbin Head sign"- I started laughing uncontrollably and shaking my head and he asked what the hell was so funny? I told him there is only ONE sign pointing to Bobbin Head, which he steadfastly refused to believe.

We had done an entire circle and ended up back at the sign after 20 minutes! He of course argued that there were two signs- there had to be, I was wrong.

We eventually found the houseboat and the next morning we set out to find the other sign. There is of course only one sign, but he still refused to accept we'd done a perfect circle when he was going 'straight'. It was hard to believe, but there is only one sign and that's what we saw both times.

We've laughed about that for years and he still reckons there MUST be another sign.

Foggy fun!

Regards Waza

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