This is where things can go pear shaped. You get over excited as you can see the treasure swimming below and get a rush of blood to the brain. Don’t push the shot, drop short in the clear water or just basically stuff it up you tell yourself.
You are either one or the other. The adventurer who wants to strive to find new exciting places, to dive and hunt seemingly unachievable species or, you are just happy poking around your usual haunts scaring the bejesus out of the local fish population. Humpa (Tony Humphries) and myself (Michael de Rooy) tend to lean to the former (we are converting a few as well). We had set a goal to do it doggie on a day trip, covering mile upon nautical mile of ocean in a quest for our holy grail. The quest had started a year or four ago. We would study the charts for Nannygai humps, shoals or reefs for what we thought may hold Dogtooth tuna and any other elusive species on our hit list. We would head North from Townsville to Lucinda, Mission
Beach or Caldwell or to Bowen and the Burdekin in the South, leaving at some ungodly hour to punch 70 to 100 plus kilometres out to sea. We always had amazing dives and caught quality fish, just not our elusive Doggie. Back to the drawing board we went, trying to find that special reef where the dogs may lie. Humpa would ring me at any time of day while he was studying the map source program we have on our laptops saying “have a look at this one”, “what do you reckon about that one?” We would further discuss our options, then make our decision. We just needed the right boat to assist us in this quest. We couldn’t believe our luck. Doigy (Andrew Doig) had just legally acquired a twenty three foot
by Mick de Rooy
Trophy, fibreglass boat with twin 135’s on the back for two parts of bugger all. This was the boat for this kind of diving I was sure. All we had to do was convince Doigy. This was going to be hard as he had his buxom beauty Nic over from WA. Go diving with the boys in unchartered waters or chill out with the chick watching love movies at home??? You guessed it he came diving and Nic came as well. It was the best of both worlds. It was one of those days you dream of. The sea was a shimmer of glass without a cloud in the sky. We were able to sit on a super comfortable 27 knots all the way. Hence we arrived at our destination in about two hours. The place was alive with birds working it in every direction. Schools of Rainbow runners were feeding, amongst them Frigate mackerel and Mack tuna darting everywhere, and to top it off we could see the bottom in 140 feet of water. Holy shit this is awesome. After a brief discussion we dropped in the water where the birds were most active and began our drift. Humpa and I slowly floated along in the current, leaving Doigy on the boat, mainly to ensure the foundation had been set for an uninhibited day of diving for him (snag he is). The water was 200 plus feet of pure clarity. The current was slowly pushing us on to the edge of the shoal in no time. We warmed up on this dive and just watched how the bait was working. As you would expect in this type of country a 15kg Spanish mackerel came and checked us out. He didn’t come too close, maybe feeling a bit insecure in such unbelievable visibility. Doigy came and picked us up and we moved up to the spot where we stopped when we first arrived. We now knew how hard the current was running and in which direction we would travel. This time we got the burley going. Using finely chopped pillies the fish started turning up, first the baitfish were into it so I thought I would have a drop and try and spot the bottom as we were in that deep stuff again. I did not see him coming, but there right in my face was a crackin’ Green jobby filling his guts with a free feed. Humpa was watching and thought I hadn’t seen it. That all changed when he was shishkebabbed. I had just got my hands in his gills when Humpa nailed a nice average sized Spanish. “Bloody hell mate”. I yelled “how good is this boys?” Our gorgeous boat driver was right there to drop the fish in the esky for us. We continued on our current drift. By this stage we were on the shoal proper with a couple of humps and a nice gutter forming below us. There they were. The Holy Grail was shimmering in the sunlight, beckoning us below. Well not really, we could make out the dark shapes blending into the reef a little with the bright white telltale sign of the DOGGIE tail flukes. This is where things can go pear shaped. You get over excited as you can see the treasure swimming below and get a rush of blood to the brain. Don’t push the shot, drop short in the clear water or just basically stuff it up you tell yourself. With all this clouding my mind I dropped to 22 odd metres on a path to cut off the Doggies. There were four in the school with the one I was targeting out in front. The current was
pushing hard with the Doggie moving quicker. I swam about 20m in pursuit, I thought he had evaded me when at the last moment he turned and broadsided. I put a few hard kicks in so I could see the whites of his eyes before I squeezed the trigger. BANG, YEEEEHAAAA! I scream for the surface, bust through and yell out to Humpa , Doigy and Nic, “I’m on and it is a Doggie, WoooHoo”. The bloody thing was trying it’s darnest to brick me on the reef below. So I put the stops on as best I could and got him up off the bottom enough to be confident of a result. Doigy came over to give a hand and keep any sharks at bay that may turn up. After a few more anxious minutes of too and fro, I slipped the hand into its gills and gave it the touch of death. That is when we all went off YaaaaF@@$%%nWhooo. The culmination of a lot of work and miles. DAY TRIPPIN DOGGIES. But wait, there’s more – a lot, lot more. After the excitement of the first Doggie, caught by team perseverance, we ran back upstream to try and do it all again. Doigy I must say was diving well, especially after getting over a Dengue and Glandular fever combination. This had floored him for a few months so he wasn’t expecting to pull his deepest dives of all time - up to 24m. Awesome to see such great improvement in his diving. With his improvement came results. The burley was slowly drifting down and in came the Spaniards. A school of four fish of about the 10 to 14kg size with a smart bigger fish evacuating before the Doigmeister dropped on him. This left the others to fend for themselves and look death in the face. Doigy hovered at that 20 odd metres, Remaining calm, he lulled one into a false sense of security, planting him with a strong holding shot. All over red rover and Doigie got a PB Spanish mack OOHH Yeah! We moved on from this little oasis on the continental shelf to another a bit further North, unsure of what this area would produce, but sure we were on the pressure point of the lump. The drift began and so did the most amazing sequence of events. We drifted onto the reef from super deep water. I dived and speared a 16.5kg Spanish. As soon as this Spanish started its high speed evacuation a Dogtooth between 45kg and 60kg flew in trying to attack the Mackerel. It shadowed the Mackie for as far as I could see. I popped my head out of the water yelling at Humpa, who was in the water with me, “Did you see the size of that Doggie? He was freakin’ huge”. Humpa hadn’t seen it so off I went chasing my float. As I caught up I noticed a sizeable Black V coming. I started pulling the Mackerel in. The Doggie was still there and Humpa was 30m away from me. I started frantically yelling at Humpa to get his arse over to me. It looked like he was being attacked by a shark with the amount of water being thrashed about as he raced over. I kept reefing the rigline in and as we got about 15 metres from the Mackerel the Doggie pulled off the side of the Mack and charged up at Humpa and I. He came in that fast Humpa had to pull the gun back to pull off a shot at point blank range. The shot looked perfect and exited the other side engaging the flopper. The Doggie paused for a moment; hit the after burners, running into the strong current. Doigy, lucky for us was in the boat. He came and picked
me and the Mackerel up and then dropped me upcurrent of Humpa about 300 metres. I was trying to pick his line and cut the Doggie off so as to maybe plant a second shot into this once in a lifetime fish. I was looking at Humpa and saw the first buoy pop back up to the surface. Thinking the fish had changed direction I high tailed it over to see Humpa with spear and no fish. AAAARRRGGGGHHH NNNNOOOO. What can you say to someone after losing a fish of such magnitude? Letâ€™s get another one. We scouted the area for a bit longer to no avail. Humpa jumped back into the boat. Head hung in sorrow, unsure of what could have gone wrong here with such a perfect shot. I stayed in the water still hoping the fish would miraculously turn up again. I was coming back up from a 25m dive when the sun seemed to disappear. In front of me was a black grey wall. I soiled myself for a moment, but soon realised I was about to have an amazing experience with some Minke whales. This guy and girl hung
around for ages giving us all a chance for spectacular photos and a humbling experience. Back up to the front of this lump and Doigy, myself and Humpa jumped in with baited breath. Especially with what had just transpired. More bloody Mackerel. After what happened when I shot the last one I thought I would do it again, in the hope the event would repeat itself. This Mackerel was a lot larger than the previous specimen. The spear had busted the spine; here I am thinking I nailed it, when the spear fell out. I looked up at Humpa and Doigy frantically pointing at the Spanish as it quivered into the now raging current, never to be seen again. The team had crossed a large portion of the reef, when out of the blue came the mother of all Tiger sharks. Her head looked two metres wide. Its stomach, abnormal (most likely just finished a 60kg Doggie and a 25kg Spanish). Overall the beast was deformed. The front end resembling a
landcruiser. The back, a half dozen four wheelers glued end to end as a tail. We were all yelling to Nic to throw the camera in so we could get a shot of this thing. She just kept swimming and missed out on her modelling career or one of us for a snack, who knows. Maybe itâ€™s just coincidence, but with the departure of the Tiger in came our Minke friends for an hour of interaction and photos. What a once in a lifetime experience! They even hung around the boat while we were packing to go home. I think they were just checking Nic out. Must have been boy whales. Thanks to Nic for driving us boys home, we were able to sit up the back of the boat drinking rum, bagging Humpa for losing a massive Doggie and talking shit about one of the most unbelievable days any of us have experienced in all the years of diving. AAAAWWWWEEESSSOOOMMEEEE. Day Tripping for Doggies will be on again soon.