MAHI GOLD STARLOâ€™S
RIGGING FOR VICTORIAN
Our Cover... Richard Webb landed this superb mulloway on a surf beach on the Great Australian Bight. (See story page 44)
4 8 20
SPRING INTO ACTION
RIGGING FOR VICTORIAN SNAPPER
SOUTH OZ MULLOWAY MUSINGS
BOAT TEST â€“ YELLOWFIN 6500 FOLDING HARD TOP
BOAT PROJECT OLD SCHOOL ARMOUR
WINTER REDS www.spooledmagazine.com.au
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From the Editor
From The Editor
THE PERILS OF ROCK FISHING
Back in September a good friend of mine, Sean Mielnik, was washed from the rocks and drowned near Cape Nelson in western Victoria. His body was found by a commercial fisherman and brought into Portland for formal identification. Sean was just 46 years old, and one of most knowledgeable anglers I’ve ever known. He was also a great bloke, who will be sorely missed by all who knew him well. Sean had been an avid rock fisher for many years, mainly chasing snapper, but he gradually moved on to bigger, more challenging opponents like sharks and mega kingfish. Just recently he shifted his focus further to bluefin tuna, and decided that catching a ‘barrel’ from the rocks would be the ultimate angling accomplishment. This quickly became an obsession, and after doing a lot of research, opted for Cape Nelson as the most likely location for the job. To increase the challenge, Sean preferred to fish alone, which is right up there at the top of rock fishing ‘no-nos’ list. He had all the gear to land a decent tuna solo if he hooked one, as well as plenty of experience on the ocean rocks, but in the end none of this mattered. He went in on a day when conditions were marginal and it cost him his life.
w w w. l o n e s t a r m a r i n e. c o m . au
Rock fishing claims more lives in this country than any other sport. 160 anglers have died in the past 13 years after being swept from the rocks, and I’d say there are plenty more who have gone in and been fortunate enough to climb back out again. The old adage of “no fish is worth risking your life for” certainly rings true, and should never be ignored when planning a rock fishing expedition. Due to his solo fishing pursuits, the exact circumstances of Sean Mielnik’s drowning are unclear. In fact, police had to work backwards after the discovery of his body to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together. There was no boat found in the general area, so they quickly assumed he had been washed from the rocks. When his empty car was found in the Cape Nelson car park, this theory was confirmed. All we really know is sea conditions on the day were far from ideal, and for some reason Sean must have decided to give the tuna fishing a try anyway.
There has been plenty written about rock fishing safety in recent times; in fact, it’s probably had more publicity than ever before, so why do anglers keep dying? I think we all agree with the assertion that no fish is worth risking your life over, but somehow the temptation to hook that big tuna, mackerel or kingy from the stones keeps drawing adventurous anglers back. Common sense, of course, should always be the number one factor in the rock fisher’s code of conduct. Selecting the right conditions is naturally essential, as is wearing the correct footwear and an automatic PFD. It’s imperative to have an exit strategy should you get washed in and, of course, the big one is to never fish a potentially hazardous location alone. Scattering Sean Mielnik’s ashes over the water on Adelaide’s Port River recently was among the saddest things I’ve ever been involved in. Hundreds turned out for the occasion, and there were plenty of tears shed during the ceremony. Sean’s father touched on the perils of rock fishing while committing his son’s ashes to the River, delivering a timely and heart-felt message during what must have been the most difficult time of his life. 160 Aussie rock fishing deaths in the last 13 years is way too many. Those who venture to the ocean rocks need to keep that statistic firmly in mind!
SPOOLED COMPETITION WINNERS Congratulations to Darren Fletcher (NSW), Roberta Pearce (NSW), and Howard Ryan (VIC), the three winners of our competition from Issue #3. Each will receive a pack of four Bassman Spinnerbaits. Don’t forget to enter the comp in this issue! See details here. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
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Spring Into Action
SPRING INTO ACTION
JAMIE CRAWFORD IS LOOKING FORWARD TO THE REST OF SPRING, AND OFFERS SOME SUGGESTIONS ON WHAT TO TARGE T AS THE WEATHER WARMS UP.
Spring is a great time of year to be hitting the water. At this time of year we have officially left the doldrums of winter behind us as we start entering into warmer, longer days. The new sunshine and bursts of warmth encourage a lot of seasonal fishers to pull the boat out of the shed and dust off the tackle. The changing of the season kicks the water temperature up a notch or two, and this can be a catalyst to move winter species along, to be replaced by a new wave of spring species. The weather isn’t always seamless in spring, as we often get a bit of wind in some locations at this time of year. But by keeping a close eye on the forecast, it’s possible to pick some good windows of weather to get amongst it. Regardless of where you live around Australia, there will be some good spring fishing options to pursue. Let’s take a look at several spring scenarios from around our country. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Spending a day or two on a surf beach is an enjoyable way to spend time in spring. //SPRING SPECIES At this time of year the water in our southern estuaries is starting to clear after winter rains, and the fishing for black bream starts to heat up. Bream are a great species, and accessible to virtually everyone. The lower salinity of winter has usually encouraged bream to push upstream in preparation for their spawning activity.
When targeting black bream in spring, we usually concentrate on areas further upstream away from the estuary or river mouth. These small waterways can be relatively narrow and shallow away from the mouth, so it pays to hit the water around the low light periods. Both bait and lures work effectively at this time of year, but for the fun factor, casting small soft plastics or hard body lures works a treat. On the East Coast spring denotes the opening of the bass season, with September to November arguably the best time of year to chase bass. Mixed with the wild bass in the rivers will be a few estuary perch. Both species offer great fishing in the spring, whether on hard body lures or vibes. The top water action is often a bit slow at this time of year, and you are better off going with sub-water presentations. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Spring Into Action
A bass caught from Lake Somerset in QLD.
A nice bream caught on a Squidgie Bio Tough 65mm twin tail grub.
For inshore bread and butter species, southern calamari and King George whiting are good spring targets. Our southern bays generally produce good numbers of calamari around weed beds and scattered reef at this time of year. We concentrate around the shallow fringes of the bay for our spring squid, with size 3.0 and 3.5 jigs doing the damage. There are plenty of good jigs on the market, but the Shimano Sephia Egixile in Keimura White and King George, together with DTD Real Fish in Sugarello Green, are a couple of our go-to jigs down south.
A southern calamari caught on a Sephia Egixile squid jig.
Casting squid jigs for southern calamari.
King George whiting are a good spring target in our southern bays in WA, SA and Victoria, and represent one of our finest table fish. It’s at this time of year the fish move from their traditional winter grounds and are transitioning onto hard bottom. Early spring can be a bit fickle, as the fish are often still in this transition, but once they’re over the hard bottom, the fishing can be fantastic. Springtime King George are generally good fish too, and on light tackle they’re a heap of fun. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Spring has traditionally been a good time of year to target snapper across our southern states, with good fish moving into inshore locations throughout Victoria, SA and WA in preparation for spawning. November 1, 2019 will signify the commencement of a three-year hiatus on targeting snapper in most of South Australiaâ€™s state waters, with an annual spawning closure in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in Western Australia from September 1 until January 31. Outside of these areas though, you can expect some good snapper fishing.
Gummy sharks increase in activity along our southern surf beaches in spring.
13 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
For the surf fishoâ€™ spring represents a change of season, where schools of salmon Peter Crawford with a snapper start to taper off, but are replaced by some caught from a 50m reef. nice gummy sharks and mulloway. From the end of September onwards, mulloway catches are generally on the increase, which is always an exciting time of year. There is something special about seeing a silver-slabbed mulloway pulled from a clean surf beach.
Spring Into Action
Fresh baits, including squid, fillets of salmon, tailor, silver trevally and whole mullet all work well, especially fished over the building tide. During spring we see our large daytime high tide switch, with the bigger tide generally peaking in the middle of the night.
But with the increasing air temperature, spending a few nights soaking a bait along your favourite surf beach is a lot more comfortable in spring â€“ compared to the icy nights of winter. And even if a mulloway doesnâ€™t hit the sand, taking a nice gummy shark home for the table is a good consolation prize. Breakwalls are another good spring option for mulloway along the East Coast, especially after a good downpour.
Dragging a mulloway from the surf in Spring. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Moving away from the salt water and into the fresh, native fish activity is on the increase in spring as water temperatures start to climb. Golden perch are a prime candidate for spring fishing, as their metabolism and appetites increase with the rising temperatures. This includes fishing in our main catchment rivers, as well as our impoundments along the eastern states.
Golden perch increase in feeding activity from spring onwards as the water temps start to increase.
The water clarity is often still poor at this time of year, especially in our rivers, but the visibility starts to improve as spring pushes on. If the clarity is okay, fishing hard body lures in amongst the timber and lipless crankbaits down deep seems to get results. For those who enjoy bobbing baits, spring is a prime time of year to drop a yabby, shrimp or bundle of earth worms next to a snag. Shrimps and yabbies are harder to catch at this time of year, so it pays to take some back-up bait. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Spring Into Action
Casting at bankside structure in the NT.
Pushing into our tropical climes, the barra fishing in the north can run hot during the build-up to the wet season. It can be an uncomfortable time of year to be in the Top End with afternoon storms and humidity, but the spikes in temperature can often trigger a good bite in the tidal river systems of the NT and QLD. Weâ€™ve had some good barra fishing in the Top End in spring, mainly fishing in the smaller tidal rivers and creek systems. These waterways can run quite clean at this time of year, and the barra are beautiful chrome fish. While there isnâ€™t a closed season in the NT, there is in QLD from November 1onwards.
A nice saltwater barra from a tidal creek in the NT during spring.
A wild river bass caught in spring.
Our native fish in impoundments such as bass and golden perch become more active during Spring.
Spring Into Action
A spring sunset over the southern ocean. //SAFETY CHECKS A lot of boats get pulled out of the shed in spring after months of inactivity. There are a few safety checks you should make on your vessel and trailer if it’s been sitting dormant during the winter months. Firstly, throw your battery on charge, and replace fuel that’s been sitting around for too long. It’s a good idea to go through the required safety gear to make sure the flare kit, para rockets and EPRIB are all within date. It’s a good habit to check the first aid kit, PFD’s and torch while you’re at it, and renew bottled water. The trailer should be checked thoroughly as well, making sure the brake calipers aren’t seized, the bearings and bearing buddies are in good order, and the tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure – including the spare. I generally give my trailer a coating of CRC Soft Seal in spring, which is a spray-on protection film that coats the trailer to protect from corrosion. Spring is the end of hibernation and the start of fishing for many southerners. With our better weather just around the corner, it’s time to gear up for some spring fishing. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
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STEVE ‘STARLO’ STARLING
SNEAKY STAND-UP SPOOLED MAGAZINE
AS STEVE STARLING EXPL AINS IN THIS PIECE, THE USE OF A STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD HAS ADDED A WHOLE NEW ELEMENT OF “SNEAKINESS” TO HIS ESTUARY FISHING – WITH BOTH LURES AND FLIES. THE RESULTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
I stepped off the board, stowed my paddle, deployed the small anchor and extracted the â€œswitchâ€? fly rod from its holder on the back of the storage crate that doubles as a seat on my stand-up paddleboard or SUP. The sandflat here was hardly more than ankle deep, and the greenish-tinged water felt warm around my bare feet as the very first lick of a newly making tide pushed previously-discharged river water back in through the narrow estuary entrance, just a few hundred metres downstream. I knew I only had a small window of opportunity before much cooler, clearer ocean water began to flood in and effectively shut everything down. You need to grab your opportunities when you can in the springtime.
An Ammo Flies’ Game Changer, looking a little chewed and worse for wear after a string of captures, but still pinning fish like a demon! From where I’d anchored the board, the sandflat dropped gently away to the south for roughly the length of a cricket pitch, then stepped down fairly suddenly into about 70 or 80cm of water on this state of the tide. That’s exactly the zone where I began directing the articulated Game Changer fly tied to the end of a very long, tapered leader attached to my floating fly line.
These articulated Game Changers from Ammo Flies have literally done that — changed the game for Starlo! Flatties, in particular, can’t get enough of them. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Within half a dozen casts the fly was violently attacked and I connected to what turned out to be a barely-legal dusky flathead of perhaps 36 or 37cm. Smiling, I shook the flathead off and continued working the drop off. A few casts later I felt another light rattle that failed to convert. Hoping the fish might still be following the fly, I altered my standard strip-pause-strip retrieve to a series of short, staccato twitches intended to imitate a badly wounded baitfish… and CRUNCH! Everything came to a dead stop that felt for all the world like a snag… except I knew there were no snags on that particular stretch of sand. I firmly stripstruck, lifting the long rod at the same time, and everything came to life.
My knees were shaking and there was a lump in my throat. I was all-but certain this was the beast I’d been looking for: the same ambush hunter that had left impressions the size and shape of ironing boards in the soft sand of this flat on the previous day’s tide. But I wasn’t going to blow it by panicking or going too light and unnecessarily extending the fight time. I had a fresh 5kg leader with a short length of 12kg fluorocarbon tied in at the business end to act as a bite tippet. I knew I could pull reasonably hard, and I did. Walking backwards with the rod surging and bucking in my hands, I kept as much pressure as I dared on the powerful fish and soon led it up over the small drop-off, where its struggles began to create some sizeable swirls on the calm surface. Because of a heavily overcast sky and the resulting silvery glare on the water, I still couldn’t see my opponent at this stage. But when I finally did a few seconds later, that lump in my throat doubled in size! The monster flathead wasn’t at all happy about being in such shallow water and angrily threw its head around to face the drop-off before engaging that garden spade tail and surging away. Thick fly line peeled smoothly from the reel and out through the flattened rod until the last of it rattled up into the snake guides just before the run stopped. Once again, I began cranking and walking backwards. Big flathead tend to save their best until last and aren’t caught until they’re high and dry. I’ve had them escape in water not even deep enough to cover their backs. As I approached that nervous stage with this darkly-hued crocodile, I was involuntarily making plans in my head about what I’d do if the hook pulled or the leader parted at this critical point. Mostly they involved dropping the rod and reel, running forward and diving headlong on top of the fish! Happily, it didn’t come to that. My goal had been to lift my ‘PB’ mark for a flathead on fly above the 68 cm point where it previously stood… and I’d done that in spades. At a whisker over 90 cm, this was the second longest flathead I’d ever caught on any form of tackle, and quite possibly the heaviest. I was in a kind of delirious daze as I unhooked, www.spooledmagazine.com.au
23 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
My unseen opponent was ominously heavy and quite quick off the mark. Within seconds, all of the loose line had come up from around my feet and I was back onto the reel. The fish propped briefly, gave a couple of mighty head shakes, then ran again, taking me almost into the backing this time.
measured, tagged and quickly photographed the beast. I’m pretty sure I was talking out loud the whole time, urging myself to hurry up. The imperative now was to release this vitally important big breeder in the best condition possible. Watching her swim strongly away was the icing on the cake, and I was so ecstatic, I forgot to turn my iPhone on its side as I videoed her departure, so I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with watching it in that annoying, upright mode in the accompanying short video clip. Sorry about that!
Starlo was on cloud nine when he nailed this new fly rod ‘PB’ dusky flathead of 90 cm late last spring. He reached the spot using his SUP and doesn’t believe he’d have caught this amazing fish without the board. The fish was tagged and released.
An average “eating size” dusky taken on the Game Changer fly cast off a switch rod using a floating line and very long leader… Deadly!
//STAND UP DREAMING The first time I ever saw a stand-up paddle board or SUP on the water I remember thinking to myself: “Wow, that looks fantastic! I’d really love to try it!” However, almost immediately the more pragmatic side of my brain responded with: “Don’t be a complete idiot! You’re the best part of 120 kilos, have two left feet and absolutely no sense of balance. If you could stand up on one at all, it’d only be for long enough to fall off again.” Sadly, I had to agree with my rational self, especially in light of abundant memories of earlier spectacular failures on skateboards, roller skates and wind surfers. I’m even a bit of a worry on a pushbike, and seem to have an involuntary attraction to trees and fences when riding one. So, for a long time I didn’t get around to trying an SUP. Later, stories began to filter through of people fishing — apparently with some success — from these boards, and I even found a model in a South African fly fishing magazine that was designed primarily with fishing in mind. Still tempted, and despite my self-confessed shortcomings, I exchanged a few emails with the manufacturers in South Africa, but it was all too hard. The boards were expensive, too heavy and too large to have shipped, at least without taking out a second mortgage. Once more the SUP idea found itself shelved in the back corners of my mind. Occasionally, however, shreds of those old daydreams would flit into my imaginings. How good would it be to stand up on something that drew scant centimetres of water while paddling quietly across the estuary flats, eyeballing the fish I was about to cast a lure or fly at? But each time these dreams took wings, my rational self slapped them down. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
NATIVE WATERCRAFT VERSA BOARD Length: 3.73 m (12’ 3”) Width: 0.84 m (33”) Weight: 25 kg (55lb) Depth: 0.18 m (7”) Load Capacity: 136 kg (300lb) Dealer: Capacity Sports, 146 Cochranes Road, Moorabbin, VIC Phone: (03) 9532 3882 On-Line: capacitysports.com.au and on Facebook at Native Watercraft Australia 27 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
//A CHANCE EVENT This situation would probably have prevailed, if not for a chance event in 2014. On a visit to Capacity Sports’ showroom in Melbourne to pick up Jo’s Native Watercraft Slayer 13 kayak, my eyes spied an unusual looking craft perched high on the storage racks in their warehouse. “What’s that?” I exclaimed, pointing excitedly at the vessel. “Oh,” Capacity Sport’s owner, Natalie Joffe, replied, “it’s a Native Watercraft Versa Board. Basically, it’s a stand-up paddle board designed for fishing. That’s the demo model… Would you like to borrow it and give it a try?” “You bet!” I heard my inner dreamer blurt out, while good old Mr Rational smacked his brow with the palm of his hand, moaned loudly and shook his head in total dismay. “You idiot!” But it was done… I was now the temporary owner of an SUP!
The Native Watercraft Versa Board is a big, stable SUP that’s well-suited to fishing. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
A stand-up paddle board or SUP allows the author unprecedented access to secretive estuary backwaters. //SUCK IT AND SEE In retrospect, the depths of a NSW south coast winter probably wasn’t the ideal time to agree to an extended field test of a craft like the Versa Board, and for the first few weeks after coming home, the SUP sat under the house gathering dust and spider webs as we were flogged by one stormy cold front after another. Eventually, one of those big, fat high pressure systems that often characterise our southern winters slid in from the west and parked its 1030-plus millibar butt firmly over us. Nights became especially chilly, but the short days were crisp, sunny, bright and welcoming. In short, I’d run out of excuses! Accepting the fact that my first effort was likely to end badly, I took absolutely nothing but a paddle with me on that shake-down cruise, working on the theory that if I didn’t want to lose it or at least get it wet, I shouldn’t carry it. I started in very shallow water, and sitting on the board, with my ample rear end parked in the appropriately shaped and thinly padded seat depression. I immediately noticed two things. Firstly, the board was more stable than I’d dared to expect. Secondly, I already had a wet bum! Next I climbed off, stood in the shallows beside the board… and then stepped gingerly up onto it. When I opened my eyes, I was amazed to find I www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Kneeling works as well. was still upright, albeit with slightly quivering knees. Tentatively, I poked my paddle into the water and gave a gentle push. Still I remained upright! Within a few minutes I was laughing and shouting excitedly to Jo in her kayak: “Look! Look at me! I’m doing it!” Remarkably, I got through that entire first session without taking a dunking and I even left the jelly knees behind after a while. I paddled the Versa Board sitting, kneeling and standing and also poled it with the 5m fibreglass flats pole I’ve had for many years . Everything worked! In fact, I was already kicking myself for not bringing a fishing rod. This was a hoot!
The author was surprised at just how easy this stand-up lark really is, at least on a big, stable craft like the Versa Board. But expect to get wet!
//BLOODING THE BOARD
A week or two later, and with a Scotty rod holder now fitted to the board’s forward accessory track, I set out for my first halfway serious SUP fishing foray. I chose an older rod and reel and carried the minimal spare tackle I’d need — a spool of leader material, braid scissors, half a dozen jig heads and some soft plastic tails 30 — all stashed safely in my shirt pockets. I was still getting used to the whole concept of casting from the SUP when the first fish nailed my soft plastic. I called it for a keeper flathead, but it actually turned out to be a nice, plate-sized flounder. Sliding it onto the board was a breeze and I quickly found that one of the foot well depressions ahead of the seating position made a perfect “flounder well”. In fact, by pulling out the drain bungs, it even had flow-through circulation!
An early success for Starlo from the Versa Board in the form of a 40 cm tailor.
Ten minutes later my plastic was nailed by a much more spirited opponent. After a thrilling tussle, I knelt and comfort-lifted a 40 cm tailor onto the Versa Board. Deciding to add it to dinner, my only option was to break the fish’s neck, bleed it out immediately and then place the paddle blade across it in the opposite “wet well” to the flounder while I continued to fish. A couple more good hits failed to connect and by then my cramping thighs were starting to tell me it was time to bring the session to an end, so I paddled back towards the ramp, smiling from ear to ear. This was fun!
//FIRST IMPRESSIONS My first impressions of the Native Watercraft Versa Board SUP were, for the most part, incredibly positive, and nothing much has changed over the following years (yes, I decided to keep it). However, these days I’m far more likely to use it to access shallow, wade-able flats rather than actually fish from it, as I’ll explain later. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
The Versa Board is much easier to operate than I’d expected, and surprisingly stable on flat water. I coped with a few modest boat wakes on those early forays while standing, but for any bigger stuff or chop, I prefer to quickly drop into the kneeling or seated positions. Transitioning from sitting or kneeling to standing was a little heart-in-mouth at first, but eventually becomes something close to second nature. In the early days, kneeling was my favourite position for covering longer distances and, in that mode, I found a standard, double-ended canoe blade better than the specialised stand-up single paddle. Poling is also a dream, although a shorter, lighter pole would probably be better than my big beast of a thing. Using the pole (and with the board’s retractable keel skeg in its fully raised position) I was able to easily traverse water that was literally ankle deep or even less.
On the downside, everything on board (including me) gets wet to some extent. Even sitting in the forward rod holder, the rod and reel is frequently dribbled with water as you swing the paddle or pole across above it. In reality, this is also the case in most kayaks and canoes, of course, but it’s exaggerated on a low, open SUP. Any additional gear you carry needs to be stowed in a watertight container or dry bag and firmly secured under the elasticised cargo straps. I’ve now taken this a step further by strapping a simple plastic crate to the sitting area, stowing my dry bag in this and placing a board across the top as a rudimentary raised seat. This works quite well, and you can see my fairly basic set-up in some of the accompanying images and video.
Poling the board is also a viable option in shallower waters.
31 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Best of all, visibility from the standing position is superb (very nearly as good as from the casting deck of my boat) and the Versa Board seems to have a negligible “signature” or presence in the water. I can honestly say I have never been able to move as close to wary fish like whiting, bream and flathead in any other style of craft, nor while wading. It’s nothing short of amazing.
Zip-tying lengths of pool noodle to the crate ensures it will float, even if it were to somehow become detached from the board.
The Versa Board isn’t an especially light craft at 25 kg. I can certainly handle it on and off the roof racks and in and out of the water on my own, but a young person or a lightly-built woman might struggle — perhaps more with the unwieldy bulk than 32 the actual weight. Fortunately, there’s a permanently fitted wheel under the tail of the board, which makes travel across firmer land surfaces much easier.
The SUP is also great for reaching those hard-toaccess whiting flats… and yes, retro-fitting assist hooks to surface stick baits makes a big difference.
Finally, there’s no denying that operating an SUP is a bit of a workout, especially for an unfit desk jockey like me. Your ankles, thighs and stomach muscles will certainly let you know you’ve done it, at least for the first few outings of the season. No wonder they reckon these things are good for your core fitness levels!
//MAGIC CARPET RIDE Fishing off the board is great fun, but it isn’t especially easy, nor overly practical. When casting, working a lure or fighting a fish, you’re constantly at the mercy of tide, current and any breeze. You can beat this to some extent by anchoring or staking out with a pole but, to be honest, I enjoy fishing from my Native Watercraft Ultimate Propel ’yak a whole lot more. However, where the Versa Board really comes into its own is as a form of transportation, allowing me to sneakily access parts of estuaries that are otherwise out of reach or virtually impossible to get to without spooking lots of fish on the way in. Even in the early days, I quickly began to see applications for the SUP in reaching these distant and largely inaccessible back flats to chase whiting, flathead and bream on poppers and flies, and this is very much where the journey has taken me in more recent times. There are quite a few flats in my local estuaries that are either impossible to reach by boat or kayak on the low tides that often produce the best fishing, or would demand an approach right over the heads of the very fish you plan to chase. However, on the SUP I can sneak in from the shallow side, traversing a mix of narrow channels www.spooledmagazine.com.au
and ultra-skinny water while paddling or dragging the board. I arrive at my chosen destination completely unseen and un-sensed by my targets… which is where the “sneaky” part of the process comes from! Usually, once there, I end up beaching or anchoring the board, then wading to fish, but the SUP my magic carpet ride for getting there and coming back. Many of these places would be virtually inaccessible by any other means. The spot where I caught that stunning PB flattie on fly is just one such example.
Big, blue-nosed bream are another back flats’ special when using the switch rod and long leader combo’. //STAND UP & FLY I love fly fishing in just about any aquatic environment — fresh or salt — and it’s especially fun and challenging in our tidal estuaries. Note, however, that I didn’t describe it as easy! That’s because it’s not. I know I could almost always catch more fish on lures or baits, but somehow the ones fooled with fur and feathers seem a little more “worthy” and make for longerlasting memories. I don’t expect everyone to agree, nor to enjoy the same level of satisfaction at tricking a few fish with the long wand that I do. Different strokes… For me, one of the turning points that has helped to transform estuary fly rodding from an often-frustrating struggle into a more viable proposition has been my increasing use of much longer fly rods. In particular, I’m now regularly using what are described as “switch” rods. These are mid-way between conventional, singlewww.spooledmagazine.com.au
handed fly rods and the true double-handers used by spey casters and others. As their name implies, switch rods can be cast either single- or double-handed. You can literally switch back and forth between both styles. I’m yet to master double-handed fly casting, so I use mine in the conventional, single-handed, overhead mode.
The two switch rods in my current arsenal are both from the G. Loomis stable. One is an 11-foot (3.4m) 5-weight and the other a 12-foot (3.6m) 6-weight. By the way, those line weight ratings are a little misleading for anyone who’s only familiar with conventional, single-handed fly rods. You can effectively add two line weights to most switch rods when attempting to equate them with single34 handers, although that’s actually a little like comparing apples and oranges. What are the advantages of these longer rods? For me, the benefits can best be summed up as longer casts with less false casts, and the ability to effectively use much longer leaders without too many hassles. These days, I typically employ leaders from 5 to as much as 7m in length on my switch rods. That means I can stick with floating or intermediate lines in waters up to 3m deep and simply use a weighted fly to get my offering down. Keeping the fly line well separated from the fly, and high up in the surface layer away from sharp-eyed fish, seems to make a dramatic difference to my results. It has been nothing short of a revelation on big bream, and also has a noticeable impact on my strike rate with flathead and whiting. Seriously, you need to give it a go! The other thing you should consider trying — especially if you’ve thought about it but put it off — is stand-up paddle boarding! After all, if an overweight, 60-plus tangle-foot like myself can do it, so can you!
A flathead as long as the bottom section of your 4-piece, 12-foot fly rod is nothing to scoff at!
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Rigging For Victorian Snapper
RIGGING FOR victorian SPOOLED MAGAZINE
JARROD DAY IS A SNAPPER EXPERT WHO RELIES HEAVILY ON CONSTRUCTING THE RIGHT RIGS TO MAINTAIN A STEADY CATCH RATE. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
September 1 might be the official day of the beginning of spring, but for anglers it is as soon as the wattle begins to flower. Unfortunate for those that suffer from hay fever, for anglers this time of the year is when we get the jitters as snapper season is just around the corner. I’ve said time and time again that a successful snapper season is dictated by the springtime rainfall, and while there’s no scientific facts to back that theory up, my own experience from the past three decades leads me to believe that this is true. In those seasons when the fishing has been slow we have had little rainfall in September, and those that have been great have seen significant rainfall. Nevertheless, spring is the kick-off to snapper season, and with the first sign of good weather the boat ramps quickly become overcrowded.
With all this going on, anglers need to adapt accordingly, not just with baits and location, but also the rigs and tackle they are using. Rigs used for catching snapper can vary differently, depending on whether you’re fishing Western Port or Port Phillip Bay,
Finding snapper is one thing, using the right tackle to secure you’re catch is vital.
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Once the season kicks off, anglers very carefully keep their eyes peeled on social media fishing report pages to get an idea of where to head. Finding fish is not always that easy, mainly due to the feeding characteristics of snapper. During September, cooler water temperatures have snapper schooling on the reefs, as this is where baitfish are also hold up – easy pickings when you’re lethargic in cold water. As the months wear on and the water temperature increases, the snappers’ metabolism accelerates, and they begin to venture onto the mud and move around more frequently in search of food.
Rigging For Victorian Snapper
Traditionally, snapper season begins in either of two locations – the Top End of Western Port, comprising Bouchier or Boultins Channels, or off Spit Point and Lang Lang. The main reason is that during the early season the fish make their way up to the shallower areas of Western Port to search for food. As the season progresses, more fish begin to be caught around Joes Island, The North 38 Arm and Corinella until November, December and January where Rhyll, The Corals and McHaffies Reef are where the bulk of the fish are caught. Throughout the season, anglers searching for snapper tend to use a variety of rigs, and with the strength of Western Port’s tidal fluctuation, the rig and bait set-up is vital. Should both be incorrect, the challenge will be getting a snapper to take the bait. If you do hook one and the rig is not up to spec, there could be a very high chance of losing that fish. Paternoster rigs are usually a safe bet when it comes to rigging up for most fish, but for snapper in Western Port a paternoster rig is not viable. This is mainly due to the strength of the current, which
In Western Port, circle hooks are a must however you only need to just pin baits leaving as much hook point exposure as possible.
can force a sinker off the bottom and cause it to almost float at mid water. Should you increase the sinker weight so it does hold bottom, you could face becoming snagged, as the water pressure causes it to roll along the bottom and possibly into a reef. If this occurs, because you have direct contact with the rig at the moment you get a hook set, the fish may not be able to run with the bait and the snagged sinker could cause the rig to bust off. On the other hand, because a paternoster has short dropper arms, the fish could cause one of those arms to bust off or the weight of the sinker could aid in having the hook fall out of the fish’s mouth due to the limited amount of give in the line. Due to these scenarios, those fishing Western Port use a running sinker rig. This is constructed by connecting a length of 60 pound nylon leader (around 2-3m) to the mainline, in this case 50 pound braid, and threading on an Ezy-rig sinker clip followed by a crane swivel. As vital as the entire set-up is, so is the importance of a crane swivel. This is because brass swivels cannot spin fast enough in the current and you are more likely to get line twist and tangles than if you were using a crane. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Attached to the opposite end of the crane swivel is the bite leader, which tends to be 80 pound and only a metre or less in length. At the end of the 80 pound leader the hook set-up is usually either a single in-line circle hook or a snelled pair of octopus suicide hooks. The hook set-up depends on how you want to fish. For instance, if you like fishing with your reel with a fairly tight drag, a circle hook will set really well when the fish takes the bait and tries to move off. Using snelled octopus hooks, the fish can run a little before increasing the drag to set the hook. While either way works, in fast tidal water it is sometimes hard to strike to set the hook due to the amount of line you have out on the water. Using a circle hook, you donâ€™t have to strike, allowing the fish to take the bait and hooking itself without angler interaction.
When you use the right setup you can be confident; youâ€™ll land the fish you hook.
Rigging For Victorian Snapper
Throughout the season these two rigs serve anglers well, and it doesn’t matter if you’re fishing a shallow mud flat or a deep channel – both are just as good. Along with the rig set-up, bait presentation is also vital. In high current situations the pressure of the water will catch on any floppy part of the bait and cause it to spin in the current. This makes it extremely difficult for fish to grab the bait and could cause them to move off to find something easier to eat. Using a single circle hook, baits can be threaded on by pinning the very end of a bait, such as a fillet. The hook can be placed in the very tip of the tail end. If using a snelled set of suicide hooks with a calamari ring, the bait can hang with both hooks holding the bait in line. Bait preparation is vital, and before casting the bait out, it is good practice to lower it next to the bait in the water to see how it preforms in the current. If it spins, re-thread it on the hooks until it sits right without spinning and then cast it out. All these one percenters play a huge roll when fishing the Port.
Snelled 5/0 suicide hooks are recommended when rigging calamari rings, whole pilchards, silver whiting and garfish.
Pre-tied rigs such as the Mustad Fastach rigs can be used to have more baits spread out under the boat. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
//PORT PHILLIP BAY Snapper fishing in Port Phillip Bay can be segregated into two main sections. If you draw a line on a map of the Bay from Mount Martha to Indented Head, you have the southern end of the Bay to the south and the northern end to the north. The southern end of the Bay doesn’t seem to get much snapper action, while the north is where most of the action happens. In saying that, throughout spring anglers focus their fishing around mount Martha, Mornington and Frankston. As the season progresses into October through to December, most of the fishing is done from Mornington through to St Kilda and Williamston.
Due to the minimal current pressure, anglers can also fish for snapper using light tackle. A 6-8kg rod with 4000 size reel rounds it out, and while braided lines are all the rage today, in Port Phillip Bay it is best to use monofilament. This is because braid floats, and the while the weight of the sinker and bait will cause the line to be pulled under the water, it does not always stay tight to the rod tip. This means you can often miss a lot of bites. Snapper are well known for picking up a bait and dropping it, and you don’t get to see this when using braided lines. Mono, on the other hand, is denser, allowing it to sinker quicker and thus allowing even the smallest of inquiries on the bait be seen through the rod tip. Early in the season snapper have quite sharp teeth until they begin to graze on the scallop beds and reef in November/December. Early season rigs should be tied from a minimum of 50 pound nylon, but you can go as low as 30 as the season progresses. The running sinker rig can be set up by having a size 1 or 2 ball sinker running on the mainline to a swivel, then a 1m length of 30-50 pound nylon trace from the swivel to the
Whole baits fished on snelled hooks are the best way to present the bait to snapper.
41 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Apart from the southern end of the bay and out in 21m of water near the shipping channel from mount Martha, running sinker rigs, similar to those you’d use in Western Port, are recommended due to the tidal fluctuation. In the northern part of the Bay where the current is a lot less, you can fish almost unweighted baits. I say “almost unweighted” because you still do require a size 1 or 2 ball sinker to freely run on the mainline or leader. If a sinker is not used, the bait will take too long to sink to the bottom on its own, whereas with a small sinker the bait can begin to sink more quickly and get down to the berley trail where the fish would be actively feeding.
Rigging For Victorian Snapper
hook set-up. The hook set-up tends to consist of a snelled pair of 5/0 suicide hooks and in some cases a single circle hook, but the snelled hook rig is more common.
Snapper don’t tend to be fussy feeders, however whole pilchards and silver whiting are the most common baits to use, followed by sauries and garfish. These are all fished as whole baits and sometimes with just the head removed, which is why the snelled hook set is so important. This is due to the hooks being able to hold the bait straight 42 without having it bunch up as it softens onto a single hook. Another rig that is very useful in Port Phillip Bay is a paternoster, however this tends to be in the form of a prepurchased product such as the Mustad Fastach. While you have cast your baits out the back, paternoster rigs can be lowered to the bottom with a cube or half a pilchard on them. Because you’re berleying, the snapper move right into the trail, and with extra baits lowered right next to the boat, any snapper looking for an easy feed won’t hesitate to take a cube that’s sitting in the berley trail. Having the right rig set-up is vital in any waterway, and with snapper even more so due to the locations being fished.
Snapper have sharp teeth and can sever light leader. it is recommended using a minimum of 30lb and a maximum of 50lb nylon.
Snapper can be temperamental at times, and while you might only get one chance at hook one, you want to ensure you’ve got the right setup to ensure the hook up is effective and you land your catch.
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South Oz Mulloway Musings
SOUTH OZ SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Richard Webb with an ‘average’ 44 pounder from SA’s Far West Coast.
MULLOWAY MUSINGS www.spooledmagazine.com.au
SHANE MENSFORTH RECKONS HE’S LUCKY TO HAVE ACCESS TO SOME OF THE COUNTRY’S BIGGEST MULLOWAY. AND WITH SNAPPER NOW OFF THE ELIGIBLE SPECIES LIST IN SA, HE’LL BE BACK SPENDING MORE TIME ON THE BEACHES AND IN THE ESTUARIES SEEKING OUT ‘OLD GOLDEN SIDES’.
South Oz Mulloway Musings
Regardless of where you fish, how experienced you are or how good your tackle is, chasing big mulloway will always be an exercise in persistence and dedication. I’ll admit to slackening off a bit in recent times, but back in the days when catching mulloway was my major angling focus, I put in countless hours in dozens of locations to achieve results. Generally speaking, I was well rewarded for effort, and probably deserved what I caught out of sheer will and determination.
Most of the guys I shared the beach or boat with had a similar passion for what is truly a magnificent inshore fish. Chasing big mulloway can easily become an obsession, drawing you in, pushing you to the limit on occasion, and flatly refusing to let go. 46 Landing a 50 pounder on a wild surf beach or pinning a big one on a soft plastic within the confines of a shallow estuary system are angling experiences rarely forgotten. I’m fortunate to live about ten minutes from some of the best capital city mulloway fishing in the country. Adelaide’s Port River continues to produce trophy-sized fish year-round, and although the action isn’t now as hectic as it was 20 years ago, there are still some really big ones available for those who put in the time. The same applies to many of our surf beaches, and particularly those along the Coorong, on lower Yorke Peninsula and on the Far West Coast beyond Ceduna. Most Adelaide-based mulloway enthusiasts tend to begin their apprenticeship chasing the school-sized fish that are often in good supply around town. Suburban venues like West Lakes, Port Adelaide and the Onkaparinga River regularly produce schoolies in the 4-6kg class, and catching them on both lures and live baits isn’t too difficult for those who know a bit about it. You generally don’t need a boat to join the game, but a small tinny will definitely increase your chances in the Port River. Aiming a little higher, most mulloway ‘apprentices’ will eventually broaden their horizons and think about travelling away from town. It’s a three-hour drive from Adelaide to the Coorong surf beaches, about the same to Lower Yorke Peninsula and, for those up to the challenge, a ten-hour drive westward to access the magnificent beaches fronting the Great Australian Bight. I’ve done many trips all three areas, hooking some truly amazing mulloway that made all the time and effort worthwhile. I’m not sure if I prefer chasing mulloway from the beach or in the estuary. Both demand very different tackle and techniques and, generally speaking, the estuary option is far less taxing in terms of time and physical effort. One of my most memorable catches came a few years back, when I had a very limited fishing window and desperately needed a big mulloway for the front cover of my magazine, South Australian Angler. This was a milestone issue, our 200th, and it demanded a special fish for the front page. South Aussies love reading about big mulloway, particularly those caught in metro waters, so I decided to head out and pin a 50 pounder specifically for the occasion. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Now, as most mulloway specialists will know, you don’t simply head out to catch a fish of this size, get the job done and then head home for a beer – particularly during the daytime in a busy port with only a few hours to fish. Son Brett and I launched the boat at the local ramp just after lunch on a sunny day in March, and within half an hour of leaving home were anchored just off the edge of the Port River shipping channel. There had been no time to catch live bait, so we opted to cast soft plastics around the Pelican Point power station hot water outlet – a location that had been pretty kind to us over the previous two months.
The Squidgies Flick Bait in pillie colour is a deadly plastic on big estuary mulloway.
The tide had just bottomed out as I delivered my second cast and, quite unbelievably, the Squidgy Flick Bait was stopped in its tracks after just three or four twitches of the rod tip. Brett and I looked at each other in absolute disbelief as line began pouring from my reel, and without saying a word, the young bloke quickly pulled the pick to give chase. About 20 minutes later he slipped the big landing net under a no-risk 50 pounder – precisely the fish required for the cover job. It took a further ten minutes to shoot the necessary pictures, revive and release the big golden mulloway and be on our way back to the ramp – mission completed. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
South Oz Mulloway Musings
It should be noted, however, that we tried the same location four times over the ensuing week for not another sniff, so the fishing gods were definitely on my side that afternoon when I absolutely needed them to be!
The author with a 58 pounder from the Port River, ten minutes from home!
The surf fishing mulloway option is close to the ultimate land-based challenge. Regardless of which area you choose to try, it’s far removed from the relative ease and comfort of the estuary, generally requiring more planning, more time and a whole lot more effort. Without doubt, SA’s very best surf mulloway action comes from the remote beaches of the Far West Coast – an area that, for decades, saw relatively few anglers. These days, however, you’ve got to book a camping area well in advance or you’ll miss out on a decent fishing spot!
You need decent 4WD vehicles and proper recovery equipment to fish the Far West Coast.
Surf fishing along the FWC beaches is exclusively a bait fishing exercise. Most anglers will take in a good supply of frozen bait like squid heads, fish fillets or small whole fish, which can be supplemented with some of the salmon that often roam the inshore surf line. My favourite bait is a slab of freshly-caught salmon about 20cm long and 2cm thick, presented on twin 8/0 hooks. Trace material can be nylon or fluorocarbon of between 60-80 pound, and you’ll need a surf sinker of at least 180g to get the rig out into the strike zone and hold it there. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
49 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Because the most productive beaches along this stretch of coast are situated on traditional aboriginal land, securing the appropriate permit is mandatory. Designated campsites are limited, and are allocated on a first in, best dressed basis. As this whole area is remote and can be quite hostile in summer weather, visiting anglers need to be impeccably prepared. Vital components of a Far West Coast adventure include a capable four wheel drive vehicle, a quad bike, full camping equipment, plenty of food and water and, of course, the right fishing tackle for the job. The nearest settlement might be as much as three hours away from the nominated fishing/camping area, so being totally self sufficient is essential.
South Oz Mulloway Musings
A fresh slab of salmon rigged correctly on twin hooks. 50 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Make sure the hook points and barbs are well exposed on big, whole baits.
Live salmon with a single Mustad Hoodlum 9/0. Perfect for the estuary.
Alvey sidecasts and 4-4.5m rods were once the combination of choice for most surf fishers, but just lately 8000-10 000 size threadlines and shorter rods seem to have taken over. I’ve always enjoyed using overhead tackle when the wind is down, but these days I’ll pack a decent threadline outfit in case I have to throw bulky baits into a stiff onshore breeze.
Larger threadlines are now a popular choice with many surf fishers.
As far as average fish size is concerned, our Far West Coast beaches have no par. I’m yet to catch a mulloway over 70 pounds, but just about all of the guys I fish with have landed several each, including a few in the 80s and a couple of genuine 90 pounders. These are the mulloway of a lifetime that make all the driving, money and time worthwhile – and the fish that keep us coming back, year after year. This is a spring/summer fishery that is extremely dependent on tides and weather. As the beaches are open to the wrath of the Southern Ocean, choosing the right conditions is absolutely essential. I like to fish the bigger tides around the full or new moon, and if you can time your arrival to coincide with the tail end of a southerly blow, chances of good fishing are excellent. I’ve been lucky on the FWC beaches over many years of fishing, rarely copping unfavourable conditions and nearly always catching a decent mulloway or two. And while I’ve never landed one of the true 70-plus giants, my record with 50-60 pounders is pretty impressive. These are great fish to hook and fight in heavy surf, often making long, powerful runs and regularly taking 15 minutes or longer to subdue. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
South Oz Mulloway Musings
Itâ€™s a 24-hour fishery, providing consistent action both day and night. The two hour period around high tide has always been the most reliable time 52 to expect a bite, as the inshore gutters are full and baitfish activity is at its peak. Mullet and salmon are the most common inshore prey items for big marauding mulloway, and if you can manage to catch one of appropriate size and send it out as a live bait, chances of a hook up increase dramatically. By far my most memorable session on the FWC beaches involved good mates, Tom Tierney and Richard Webb. Conditions were perfect for our three-day expedition and we had our favourite stretch of beach to ourselves, so everything pointed
to happiness. The late morning high tide period on day one produced four mulloway to 60 pounds, then Richard landed a 75 pounder mid afternoon. Anything from that point onward would be a definite bonus. The next high water period was due at around 11 o’clock that evening, so we opted to have a break for a few hours after a barbecue tea and resume fishing at 10pm. My first bait of the night session lasted all of a minute, and from that moment onward it was multiple hook-ups and virtually no waiting time between bites. I’d expected the action to slow down after 1am as our inshore gutter drained, but the mulloway were still on the job at three o’clock as we pulled the pin through sheer exhaustion. We had landed over a dozen 30-50 pounders between us, all of which were unhooked and released in good condition. Never before nor since have any of us experienced a mulloway bite as hectic as this one.
Richard Webb hooked up to a Far West Coast 75 pounder (inset)
South Oz Mulloway Musings
There’s nearly always a fair amount of by-catch when targeting mulloway on the FWC beaches. Gummy, school and whaler sharks can be a regular nuisance, and then there’s the inevitable squadron of rays that destroy tackle and waste fishing time during the peak bite periods. On the positive side of the by-catch ledger, big snapper often grab mulloway baits, although 54 of course they now have to go back under SA’s new fishing regulations. The beaches of Lower Yorke Peninsula and the Coorong are far more accessible than those out west and also turn on some first class mulloway action at times, but not with the same consistency. These are convenient weekend surf fishing locations that can be fished comfortably without the logistical issues of a FWC expedition, and for this reason they remain very popular. So, with snapper fishing off the agenda in SA until the end of 2023, I guess many of us will be turning our attention to the surf and estuaries for a big fish fix. In fact, the snapper issue just might be the catalyst needed to get me back out there again in the hunt for Australia’s biggest mulloway. Now, will it be beach or estuary first?
SA mulloway guru, Tom Tierney, looking pretty pleased with a nice fish from Yalata Beach. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
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Boat Project - Old School Armour
OLD SCHOOL ARMOUR –
BUTT UGLY! JOHN WILLIS LEADS THE SPOOLED PROJECT BOAT TEAM TO FULLY RESTORE A LEGENDARY STABICRAF T 490. KEEP TABS ON THE BOAT’S PROGRESS OVER COMING ISSUES. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
It took a while for Stabicraft to gain acceptance in Australia. These gutsy Kiwi armour-plated warriors were undoubtedly strong and built with a safety factor far exceeding any other production alloy boat with their fully compartmentalised pontoon flotation. The ride was pretty good and stability excellent. The internal layouts were reasonably good for the time and the dealerships were strong. So, what was the problem? They were butt ugly, that’s what!
Stabicraft were first developed in Invercargill, NZ, in 1987 for commercial abalone (paua) divers, and they soon built a great reputation in hard working environments where beach launching is the norm. The hull and deck designs have progressed throughout 58 the years – Generation 1 and 2 – with their first fully recreationally-based model, the 550XC, developed in 1996. Growth exceeded the production facility, hence Stabicraft built a second factory and service centre in 2008. At the same time they developed external markets in Alaska amongst others, and produced the Generation 3 hulls.
Here’s where we started - Great little boat but let’s face it, it’s butt ugly! www.spooledmagazine.com.au
In Australia, Victoria-based dealership MY Marine Dromana took on the Stabicraft challenge with gusto. You’ve got to give them great credit. I mean, how many times can you hear those words, “great boat mate, but it’s an ugly duckling” and maintain strong enthusiasm? Yet, with their faith in the Stabicraft ideals, plus a whole bunch of downright tenacity, MY’s Michael and Theo Rozakis introduced the range to Australian boating that would go on to become a leading product in a very competitive field.
Stabicraft worked hard at it, too! It’s fair to say there has been strong development throughout the years, refining the ride, design, aesthetics and finish to their current
Stabicraft got the shell right but the ergonomics were far from suitable
59 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Australian commercial operators saw the benefits of safety and stability immediately, while the recreational sector chose to argue the construction theory on early on-line chat rooms such as Fishnet. Slowly, but surely, the coin dropped, with many hardened sea-dogs finally accepting the brand.
Boat Project - Old School Armour
There’s nothing inviting about fishing with this layout, and nowhere for the spare fuel tank.
First stage is to strip the entire boat industry-leading levels. The hulls developed their current “Arrow Pontoons” and “Game Chaser” transoms in 2011, with the outward appeal, paint jobs, cabin shapes and decals transforming from the ugly stepsister to nautical nymphs. Complementing this, internal fit-outs now offer attractive creature comforts combined with solid workability. By 2016 Stabicraft were producing around 600 boats annually, employing 70 skilled peopled and servicing a large dealership base in NZ, Australia, USA, Canada and New Caledonia. Back in the early years of the Stabicraft/MY Marine relationship, Michael and Theo got their father, a very keen local angler, into possibly the ugliest www.spooledmagazine.com.au
of all Stabicraft – a 490 cuddy cabin. In fact, it was so ugly that when they went to display it at the boat show, the guy on the gate said, “This is the boat show mate. The freak show at the circus is up the road!” But we fisho’s are used to looking through surface layers to the depth below. This little craft was actually built with some very worthy credentials, providing a muchloved workhorse that has led an all-out assault on the indigenous squid, whiting and snapper population of Port Phillip and Western Port for the last 19 years.
So, the challenge began, not only to fully restore this battle-weary weapon of fish destruction, but to repair some corrosion, convert the inefficient internals, update the fittings, electronics and accessories, and perhaps the outboard as well. The biggest challenge, however, is to convert butt ugly to glamor, and we needed some skilled alloy surgeons and artisans for the task!
//OZSEA TO THE RESCUE The boys at Ozsea Plate Boats in Seaford, Victoria, aren’t new to building tough custom boats, and they’re certainly not scared of aluminium repairs. Their long boat building experience includes extensive construction of commercial and charter vessels for ex Melbourne-based Pro Marine, where they worked hand in hand with respected marine architect Denis Pratt, as well as a number of years with recreational leader, Bar Crusher Boats.
61 SPOOLED MAGAZINE
Our team at Spooled was looking for a project at the same time as the 490 eventually hit the market. The original Mercury 60HP 4-stroke “Big Foot” was replaced by a later model Yamaha 60HP, but we knew we’d have to transform the package considerably if we ever wanted to catch the local fish from her, as the current population has been solely depleted by her continual presence. What fish are left slink off into hiding on her morbid approach. It’s a bit like the eerie presence of Voldemort’s dementors really!
Boat Project - Old School Armour
After being fully striped down, the ugly duckling is given a bead blast to reveal any corrosion.
A raised battery tray and box as well as an inbuilt fuel tank is a safe and efficient use of limited space – plus its easier to fish around. Ozsea’s Brendon and Barry are great blokes who could also see the potential in the little Stabicraft 490 Cuddy and, thankfully, volunteered their services for the rebuild and repair. Quick as a flash we stripped the little duckling down to a bare shell and as we did, we found more and more misdemeanours, mainly due to non-conducive metals and fittings creating pockets of corrosion. Most people commonly call aluminium corrosion “electrolysis”, but in fact that is part of the process used to create aluminium, not eat it! So, our project timing was terrific for this little warrior. The hull was completely bead blasted, and we found that damage wasn’t too widespread. With the aluminium completely bare of paint and corrosion, we could truly start the project!
THE WISH LIST ON THE HULL INCLUDES: * Repair all corrosion to start with a fresh, clean hull * Remove the weak and ugly old windscreen and replace with a tough wavebreaker * Rework the cabin storage to something more practical, improving storage, but still allowing bow access through the hatch * Remodel the seat supports * Eliminate the portable fuel tank and fit a permanent aluminium replacement * Replace all of the rod holders and fittings * Replace the bait board and cutting table * Remodel the anchor well for new Lone Star drum winch and bow sprit * Remodel the gunwale * Paint with non-reactive surface suitable for a wrap www.spooledmagazine.com.au
Boat Project - Old School Armour
THE WISH LIST FOR ACCESSORIES AND FITTINGS INCLUDES: * Hydraulic steering * Water separating fuel filter * New electronics package * New flooring and non-skid trim * New fishing rod holders and accessories * New fittings throughout * New canopies * Whilst the current units are still serviceable and in good condition, perhaps a new trailer and outboard So, stay tuned for the progress, along with hints and videos along the way! Then we’ll take it fishing…
Spooled Magazine would like to thank the following partners involved with this boat project. PTY LTD
Over 40 years of experience in building Aluminium Plate Boats
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Boat Test - Yellowfin 6500 Folding Hard Top
SHANE MENSFORTH TAKES ONE OF TELWATERâ€™S NEW GENERATION YELLOWFINS FOR A TEST RUN.
FOLDING HARD TOP www.spooledmagazine.com.au
The Yellowfins have been around now for something like 35 years, during which time their presence has waxed and waned. Todayâ€™s models, of course, are considerably different from the originals, but still retain the same level of build and toughness as their predecessors. Telwater is obviously keen to push Yellowfin into all popular sectors of the fishing market, as it now offers the range as hard tops, centre cabs, soft tops, centre consoles, rear consoles, and now folding hard tops. Few, if any other plate boat manufacturers can match a stable as comprehensive as that.
Boat Test - Yellowfin 6500 Folding Hard Top
As plate boats continue to grow in popularity, Yellowfin’s market share is heading the same way. This appears to be one section of the new boat market that is heading in the right direction while some others falter. In mid August I was invited aboard the new 6500 Folding Hard Top – a configuration that quite obviously suits offshore fisho’s who don’t have oversized sheds for storage. 6.5m is an ideal size for those looking to chase tuna or billfish out wide. It’s a big boat that offers a high level of comfort and safety out on the blue water – without a ridiculous price tag.
Although many lovers of permanent hard top boats scoff at the idea of a fold-down top, it makes a lot of sense in the storage department. No collapsible top will ever 68 be as watertight as what Yellowfin calls its ‘Southerner Hard Top’ models, but it’s a fair compromise for those who insist on protecting their investment by keeping it
SPECIFICATIONS under cover and out of the weather. Most of us don’t have a 3.2m high garage opening (the equivalent Yellowfin Southerner Hard Top stands 2.96m tall on the trailer), and this figure will often determine which model is purchased.
HOW MUCH? Prices start from around $80,500 (with 150hp motor). As tested – $99,410 GENERAL INFO’ Length – 6.55m Beam – 2.40m Dry weight – 1017kg
Length on trailer – 8m CAPACITIES HP range – 150-200 Fuel – 260 litres SUPPLIED BY Yamaha Pitmans Marine 420 Main North Road, Blair Athol Ph: (08) 83497599 firstname.lastname@example.org www.yamahapitmansmarine.com.au www.sports-marine.com.au
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Aluminium gauge – 4mm topsides, 6mm bottom and transom
Boat Test - Yellowfin 6500 Folding Hard Top
The Yellowfin fold-down top is dead easy to erect or retract. Without any clears to remove, the process takes about ten seconds, but as the top is relatively heavy, it’s a two-person operation. Once it’s up and the clears attached, waterproofing is about as good as you can expect when there are clips and zips involved.
The test boat, provided by Yamaha Pitmans in Adelaide, was presented in what I’d call battleship grey. It’s not what I’d choose as primary colour, but I understand it sells particularly well in the eastern states, so this is obviously a matter of personal taste. Pitmans had added quite a few desirable accessories to the base package to make the whole rig more appealing and angler friendly, including 70 a deck wash system, Lowrance HDS12 Live sonar/GPS, berley bucket, anchor winch, bait board and VHF radio. There’s certainly not a lot else you’d need to think about before hooking up and towing to your favourite fishing location. There’s not a whole lot different in the way the new Yellowfin 6500 is configured or equipped, and everything seems to be well positioned and work nicely. You get a good-sized cockpit with full-length side storage shelves, a 135 litre live bait tank, electric bilge pump with float switch, hydraulic steering and QL BTS trim tabs. These tabs are a significant inclusion, as they help keep things nice and level when you’re carrying a lot of gear and several bodies. They are also useful when travelling across the sea, as most hard tops (fold-down or permanent) like to lean into the wind, which can be quite annoying.
Telwater recommends 200 as maximum power for the Yellowfin 6500 hull, which appears about right. Pitmans had installed a 175hp Yamaha four stroke on the test boat, and I suspect you could drop down to 150 to save a few bucks if necessary. Interestingly, this rig is fitted with a massive 260 litre fuel tank â€“ something our offshore die-hards will really appreciate when planning long-range trips.
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Also of interest to the offshore boys is a self-draining hull with non-return scupper system. This is always a boost to safety when youâ€™re a long way from home and conditions get ugly in a hurry. Dual batteries with isolation facility come as standard, as does a checker plate alloy cockpit floor for easy wash down.
Boat Test - Yellowfin 6500 Folding Hard Top
As anticipated, the big Yammie 175 gets the 6500 hull up and planing in the blink of an eye. This engine is incredibly quiet – probably quieter than any other of comparable horse power – and acceleration through the rev range is smooth and consistent. Unfortunately, we could only max out at 5400rpm, indicating the need for a smaller propeller, but still approached a top speed of 74kph (about 40 knots) 72 over flat water. At a cruise speed of 53kph (28 knots) the fuel burn was 29 litres an hour, which extrapolates to less than a litre per nautical mile – pretty damn impressive for a big engine on a big boat. There’s no doubt Telwater has done its due diligence well where Yellowfin is concerned. The 6500 with folding top fits nicely into a popular market niche, and I’m sure Pitmans will have little trouble selling it as our offshore season approaches. It’s a hell of a boat for the money.
“In terms of safety, vision and looks, it’s hard to go past Clearview Powerfold Mirrors.” Pat Callinan
Clearview Towing Mirrors now include the following options* • Black or chrome • Manual or electric • With or without indicators • Power-Fold • Blind spot monitoring • Heated glass *selected models only
MAHI GOLD SPOOLED MAGAZINE
THE ARRIVAL OF GOOD NUMBERS OF MAHI MAHI OR DOLPHIN FISH ON THE EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA SIGNIFIES THE WARMER MONTHS HAVE ARRIVED. THEYâ€™RE ACCESSIBLE, FUN TO CATCH AND TASTE GREAT, AS GLEN BOOTH EXPL AINS.
Male mahi mahi, known as bulls, have a square head profile.
Mahi mahi are a species that tick all the boxes. Acrobatic: tick. Colourful: tick. Widely available: tick. Good eating: tick. In addition to all that, they pull pretty well too. As the old saying goes, if they grew to 200 pounds, you’d struggle to find tackle capable of stopping them! Blue and silver with yellow tails when in the water, they miraculously transform to green and yellow when out of it, so they’re as vibrant as they are spectacular. Males have a blocky, square head, and the females a more curved profile, with the guys occasionally topping the 50 pound mark — in other words, a real trophy catch.
Mahis represent the perfect light tackle target, so it’s unfortunate that many get muscled to the boat on heavier tackle when marlin are the intended targets. If you can engineer a situation where the big guns are retired, or are light tackle billfishing inshore, they are one hell of a fun fish. Still, even on 24 and 37 kilo tackle, the bigger ones can put up spirited 75 resistance, and nobody is sorry about taking home a feed of primo sport fish either.
Welcome almost everywhere, in southern Queensland they’re tagged with the ‘golden sea carp’ moniker, as they can run through a tank full of often hardearned live baits intended for black marlin in next to no time. The first couple are fun and everyone on board gets a fish or two to keep, but after that they become downright annoying. Still, they do take the sting out of a day that might otherwise be 76 lacking in billfish encounters, and in tag and release tournaments a single fish may be the tag point buffer necessary to get a team over the line come trophy time. Ideal conditions for mahi mahi call for warm, blue water around the mid 20 degree mark, flowing down from the north. Green water with current running from the south — or none at all — can shut the bite down virtually overnight. They are true oceanic wanderers, harvesting whatever they can find hugging the current lines and temperature FADs (whether official or private), wave breaks, but a potentially fatal flaw in their buoys like this one, fish trap floats and flotsam are mahi high-rise, but anglers makeup is a propensity for gathering and spearos need to observe the correct around fixed and drifting objects etiquette to give everyone a crack. like marine debris, trap floats, wave buoys and channel markers. This has been exploited over the years by the construction of fish aggregating devices or FAD’s. FAD’s certainly don’t have to be anything flash either: a couple of plastic drums, some rope, chain and an anchor will get the ball rolling, and in many tropical island nations a bunch of palm fronds tied together makes a short-lived, but nonetheless successful FAD. NSW Fisheries get beaten up over a lot of things, but like the game fish tagging program, the FAD program is one of the DPI’s real success stories. Financed by fishing licence fees, a chain of 30 FAD’s stretches from the Tweed in the north all the way down to the far south coast during the warmer months. These attract mahi in great numbers, as well as other pelagic species and larger predators that feed on them. www.spooledmagazine.com.au
They’re removed for cleaning and to limit whale interactions in winter months, but when they go back in, it’s amazing how quickly they attract tenants — sometimes in just a matter of days. Then, as the warmer weather arrives and the East Australian Current really starts pumping, the party gets cranked up. On the back of this on-going success, South East Queensland anglers are getting nine FAD’s installed between Double Island Point and the Tweed this summer, including one out in deep water. While it in no way compensates for the ridiculous snapper and pearl perch closure being inflicted upon them next year, it will liven the summer game fishing season up.
With such sexually proclivity you’d think it would be a green and yellow carpet out there every year, but numbers can fluctuate dramatically, which might be current related.
Green and yellow out of the water, mahi are usually blue on the back with silver flanks and belly and a yellow tail when in it.
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The mahi’s phenomenal growth rate is a key to this expansion. A kilo in weight after six months and 10kg after 12, they’re all done and dusted at just three years of age. If conditions are right, they can grow 7cm in a week! They’re also sexually mature at just four months, so when they breed, they breed up big. Later in summer there can be plagues of 30-40cm mahis wherever the water is blue and warm — trailing lures, harassing live baits, and generally being bad ass.
Their diet can consist of anything from boxfish to squid, yellowtail, slimy mackerel, flying fish, baby eels, juvenile billfish, small tuna, and the big prize for the amateur stomach analyst, the fragile paper nautilus.
Lures of choice can be Christmas trees, bibbed and bibless minnows, slow jigs, poppers and stickbaits, and skirted marlin lures. Size is no deterrent, with tiny fish often 78 attacking the biggest lure in the spread. A check of their stomach contents reveals an amazing mish-mash of sea creatures, but anything live will get smashed, with yellowtail and slimy mackerel being the most easily procured baits. Whether it’s around a FAD, trap float or flotsam, a pilchard cube trail will liven things up, and then it’s a matter of feeding back a whole pillie or live bait for an almost certain hookup. Leader doesn’t have to be particularly heavy, as their teeth aren’t anything to fear, and may be off-putting to pressured fish that have seen a lot lures and baits. A metre and a half of 40-50 pound fluorocarbon is plenty, perhaps going a touch lighter if the fish are looking but not eating. Mahis are notoriously hook shy after 50 boats and droning outboards have been turning the water to foam, so being first
The stomach fossicker’s ultimate prize — the fragile paper nautilus shell from a mahi’s gullet. But as you can see here, if they can swallow it, they’ll eat it!
at the FAD or traps with a tank full of livies at sun-up can really pay off. Livies are also more likely to pluck the larger fish from the school. Jigging bait the day before means you can be off chasing something else or heading back to the ramp just as the hordes arrive, safe in the knowledge that dinner is sorted. There’s a procedure for fishing FAD’s and the like so everyone gets an equal crack at the fish. As the mahis will be facing into the current most of the time, cast up current so the bait or lure spends maximum time in the hot zone. Drift through, hook-up (hopefully) and fight the fish down current until it’s boated.
If there’s more then one boat on the FAD or buoy, holding position on spot lock with the bow-mount electric is not acceptable behaviour. A jig or sinker bouncing off the hull often modifies that sort of conduct… The Holy Grail of mahi fishing though, is to find a free-ranging log, fishing float, in fact any sort of flotsam, out in the big blue, with the more growth on it, the better. Wahoo, yellowfin tuna and marlin will also join the party under these circumstances. And you’ve got it all to yourself!
Wahoo are also likely to be found in the company of mahis loitering beneath floating objects, and aren’t bad chewing either.
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Travel back out wide so as not to spook the remaining residents (with a couple of lures or even bridled live baits out the back, as bigger fish sometimes hunt wide of the float), and then re-join the queue. This etiquette applies to spearos as well, who should also be flying a dive flag.
Mahi of any size are a whirling dervish when they come aboard, so keep the decks well clear of bystanders. Pics are best taken after a pacifier has been employed and the hook or hooks removed. If the kill tank is big enough, just unclip the leader and throw the lure and fish in and close the lid until the din has subsided. An alternate way of restraining them is to use a length of stretchy cord with a stainless double hook tied to the other end. A loop around the tail, the hook in the mouth, and you now have a very fashionable mahi handbag. A deep pocket landing net is also a good way of confining them.
Of course, mahi are a great tagging option as well (just be carful when unhooking, as we want them returned to the water in tip-top condition). They have been a massive target since the program’s inception, with 27,175 being tagged and 255 recaptured. The greatest distance travelled was 1700nm, from Port Stephens to Fiji in just 241 days. The longest time at liberty was 499 days, tagged off Sydney and recaptured of New Caledonia, some 1135nm from the release point. Aside from their other endearing personality traits, mahis are a standout table fish. Their leathery skin means they can be skinned on the frame easily enough, and then filleted with zero wastage. If switch bait fishing for marlin is part of the plan at some stage, the belly region makes a tough teaser bait when stitched up and tucked into a skirted lure. They can be cooked in a multitude of ways, but mahi burgers are hard to beat. Soft hamburger buns, with lettuce, avocado and Kewpie mayonnaise, maybe a dash of sweet chilli sauce, and a chunk of Panko crumbed dollie in the middle makes a first class meal. Very occasionally, however, you’ll come across one that is infected with a protozoan that renders the flesh totally inedible. Unfortunately though, it’s impossible to tell the good from the bad until after the fish comes out of the frypan. For those that have experienced it, it’s a culinary experience not soon forgotten. Fortunately it’s pretty rare — certainly less common than mushy kingfish encountered in northern NSW and southern Queensland, but the end result is still the same. Ugh.
Mahi burgers — so delish! www.spooledmagazine.com.au
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Our Spring issue features a broad range of topics by some of the country’s most respected fishing writers. Steve Starling has recently disco...
Published on Oct 17, 2019
Our Spring issue features a broad range of topics by some of the country’s most respected fishing writers. Steve Starling has recently disco...