Rolling waves and lizards gizzards….

If it seems like it has been quite a while since I have written a ‘yakking report… well.. you would be absolutely correct. It has been well over two months now since I have been out on the water, and there are a couple of good reasons for the delay.

Firstly.. there seems to have been something planned for every day that has gone by recently. A collection of visitors, a number of family commitments, and a pinch of laziness on my behalf. And at the times where there hasn’t been a reasonable excuse, the weather has been just plain awful.

And secondly… my confidence was given quite a bit of a kick in the pants on my last ‘yakking trip, which I haven’t actually written about up until this point. So before I go any further and give a report of my latest yakking trip, I had better give you an account of what occurred to make my trips few and far between.

As you may recall, my previous trips have seen me venturing off of the beach on the eastern side of Bribie Island in search of the ever enticing snapper, which had been showing up in relatively good numbers of late. My next trip should have been just another day on the water, but alas, things did not turn out quite as expected. I arrived at the usual launch site.. same bat channel, same bat time. However, instead of being greeted by the predictable small swell from previous adventures, I was greeted with a sizable shore break, with winds thrown in as an after effect. That’s okay… I will just follow all of the correct procedures. Watch the waves… count the sets… and launch safely into the big blue. Shouldn’t be too hard.. should it? The launch was all sweet, there were no real problems to report, and all of the prior learning had paid off well. All too easy. The launch is out of the way, lets head directly for the beacon.

On this particular day the swell was far from ordinary. The wind was blowing around 15 knots.. perhaps even closer to 20 knots… not quite the ideal conditions which I would have normally even bothered to venture out in. But the stubborn ‘I am hunter’ voices kept assuring me that “she’ll be right”. The paddle out was harmless… a little bit lumpy.. a little bit choppy.. and a touch harder than the usual easy going pace. A few rolls here, and a few rolls there… but nothing extraordinary to start sending warning signals out about. It was at this early stage however that a quick look around revealed what should have been enough of a sign that the day might have been better spent mowing the lawn, tending to the chores, or simply lazing on the couch watching some mind numbing show. There were no boats… no kayaks.. and not even any shore fishermen pacing up and down waiting for ‘that’ bite. Pfft… pussies i thought to myself.. they must have been put off by the slightly off colour weather conditions.

A few drifts backwards and forwards, and there wasn’t really any decent hookups to bother writing about. Backwards.. forwards.. backwards.. forwards, and it’s all starting to get a little repetitive at this stage. Perhaps it is just one of those days where you are not meant to disrupt the ecology of the sea. But wait a minute! What is this?! Are those birds I can see working just a little bit further out towards the horizon?! Is that a boat I see out there?! Could it be that there was some action to be had on this seemingly foolish trip?! Could the tuna which have been haunting me since taking up this ridiculously crazy sport be out there calling me?! Damn right! A quick scurry, and the rods are in their holders, the paddle is unclipped and loaded for action, and a quick reposition of my posterior before it goes numb sees me off once again chasing the sleek torpedoes which tease me, just as they have done on every other trip prior. But surely today will be different? Of course it will! I’ll hook up! I’ll fight the fish until it cannot fight my far superior bravado any longer! And I will be crowned King of the Sea and ruler of all the tuna which call Moreton Bay home! …. ahem… hmmm… at least that’s how the story goes when I’m asleep at night and curled up in the safety of my warm bed.

Slug after slug.. metal after metal… and dream after dream. I cast in vein, and retrieve my line furiously trying to attract the attention of these egotistical, slim lined ‘fish from a can’. Ascending and descending the waves… with a slight jolt to the right… and a more formidable jolt to the left…. I am toyed with by the waves which are lapping up the conditions provided by mother nature. Should I really be out here? Have I made the right decision to go out onto the water alone? Well… if you ask any sane person with their feet planted firmly on the ground, the answer would be a resounding no.

There is a very simple rule which you should abide by when you are on the water, and I have heard it over and over again. Whether you are in a ‘yak.. a tinnie.. or even a “I have so much money I don’t know what to do with it” cruiser…. Never… and I mean never…. be caught out positioned sideways on a wave!

This was the moment which would reduce my yak trips dramatically. The wave rose ahead of me, smiled at me momentarily showing it’s power with a display of breaking foam at it’s peak. There was no way of ignoring it’s beauty.. and no way of shunning it’s muscle flexing display. Despite all of my best efforts to turn the yak directly into it’s ever increasing snare, this was one wave which was about to teach me a lesson and pummel my pride in it’s wake. As happy hooker heaved to one side, and bellowed to the aft, I thrust the blade of my paddle into the belly of the beast. It was far too late, and I was destined to become a puppet of the ocean. In a whisper of a moment I was heaved from the safety of my yak, and thrust effortlessly into the awaiting sea.

It was at this stage that everything which had occurred moments before would become a small part of an adventure which I would not forget. The wave had past, and happy hooker stood proudly upright. She had not been defeated. She glistened in all of her glory, with rods in place, storage in stow, and minimal water gracing her deck. One arm over her waist, the other clutching her side, I began to move my legs perpendicular to enable a well rehearsed re-entry. And then it struck. At this exact point in time I felt the pain in my lower back which I have felt many times before in the past. It’s an excruciating pain, very similar to what I image a dagger being thrust into your spine must feel like. I had pinched a nerve in my back, and there was no way I was going to be able to get back aboard my ‘yak. I am over a kilometre from the safety of the shore, in conditions fit for Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and foolishly fishing alone.

Rather than turning my ‘blog’ into somewhat of a novella, I will summarize what occurred next. The boat which was out chasing the tuna noticed the drama which unfolded. I’m sure there was quite a chuckle amongst the fishermen at the time, however once they had realised that I was in a spot of bother, the skipper, Josh, immediately tracked directly for me. The lads pulled me to the safety of their boat, hauled happy hooker and all of my gear onto the deck, and proceeded to make me comfortable. A couple of pain killers, some cold water, and a gentle ride back to my launch spot… and the day was going to end slightly red-faced, with a bit of pain as a ‘told you so’ punishment. If I was ‘that way’ inclined I would say “the Knights in Shining Armour helped me back to my car”… but as I am not, I will rephrase it to “the lads helped me back to my car”. They proceeded to load the yak and all of my equipment.. double check that I was going to be okay… and with my head bowed… pride in tatters… and a few hand shakes later, I was sitting rather uncomfortably in my car, on the safety of terra firma. The entire exercise was foolish. I knew at that start of the journey that conditions did not look right, I had those ‘butterflies’ racing to and fro trying to warn me, however I was too stubborn to pack my gear and wait for another day. In a way I am glad that I had to learn my lesson this way…. things could have turned out a lot worse. However I did not realise exactly what impact this would have on any ‘adventures’ I would undertake in the very near future.

Up until today, happy hooker has rested silently under her dust covered shelter. She has not moved, and I have not graced her with my presence. My confidence was in tatters, my fishing mojo was nowhere to be found, and I had begun to create a nice comfortable indent in one of our lounges. It was time to grow some balls and get back out on the water.

A few of the lads from AKFF had decided to launch from Point Cartright on the Sunshine Coast, in search of some sweetlip which have been caught in the general area. This is exactly the form of trip I needed. Plenty of other ‘yakkers around, and the good chance of bringing home some fish for tea. A quick message to the lads, and I’ve committed myself to going back out onto the water.

The night before had me checking the local weather reports and forecasts every 20 minutes or so. 15-20 knot northerly winds, increasing to 20-25 knot northerlies in the afternoon. This can’t be happening! Check again… report is still the same. Refresh the page. Report has been updated, and the conditions have not changed. There goes those bloody butterflies again. The beauty of this spot however is that we were launching from within the harbour, which is well sheltered from the outside conditions. It will all be fine.. what could go wrong. Worst case scenario the outside would be too rough, and the harbour would be a great plan B.

It’s 0300hrs in the morning. My alarm has gone off, and I have managed to bash it to death and rise from my slumber without waking anyone else in the house. Our plans were to launch from the harbour at 0500hrs, and I have guessed the trip up there should take around one and a quarter hours. I had my usual eye-opening coffee… a cigarette or two… and generally pottered around prior to leaving. All of my gear was sorted out the night before, and loaded into the car. A quiet exit from the house, and I am on my way.

It is now 0400hrs and I am at the launch. It only took one hr. There was a slight breeze already on the water, probably only around 10 knots. The harbour looked peaceful, the lights from the trawlers were all starting to be turned off, and the sun was starting to bring a refreshing glow to the horizon. The weather gurus have got the forecast all wrong I thought to myself, and it’s going to be a cracker of a day. I grabbed one of my lighter rods and decided to throw one of the 4″ minnows in nuclear chook colour around a pontoon at the launch site. One pike… two pike… three pike four. What a lot of fun on light gear. I returned all of the pike, however later on it would be revealed that one of the other chaps would have liked the pike for bait as he left his at home in the fridge. Oh well.. I will have to remember that next time.

Over the next hour the lads started to show up. ‘Yaks were displayed proudly on the beach ready for launch, and all accompanying gear was tied, re-tied, and set ready for what should be a great trip. A couple of handshakes and greetings, and the plan was solidly in place. A trip through the harbour mouth, and we will head a few hundred meters east/south-east in search of the sweetlip, or any other fish which may grace us with their presence. A backup plan was hatched, and in the worst case scenario we’ll retreat back to the harbour and fish the rock ledges, jetties, and any other structure in the local area. Good stuff…


As we paddled towards the mouth, we were greeted by many trawlers returning home from a nights work in the deep blue. A few smaller boats were heading out, and the odd dive and fishing charter vessels were making their way towards the money grounds. We can see the mouth of the harbour, and it doesn’t look too crash hot. There are no white caps, but a good solid swell was pushing in towards the west. A quick chat with Steve, and we decided that we would ‘take a look’. It was at this stage that a tinnie with a couple of likely lads pottered past us straight for the mouth. Let’s see how he copes and use him as a general indication of the conditions. Up… down… up.. down. It is not looking too good so far. Within the space of a minute, that same tinnie, with the same likely lads, was returning back into the harbour. That’s okay… let’s just ‘take a look’. As we descended upon the mouth, the conditions became blatantly obvious. There was a decent swell, and the chop was all over the shop. It’s okay… let’s just ‘take a bit more of a look’. We headed directly into the waves… and all the time my gut was churning with the all familiar site of a swell which wasn’t designed to be overcome by Happy Hooker and myself. We’ll push just a little bit further.. surely once we pass the initial sets it will all be clear. Not a chance in hell. I stopped, and decided immediately that this was too much for me. I cannot do it. I had been in this situation before, and I had no confidence in my ability to safely push through the swell. I have to turn back.. I just cannot do it.

Two of the other lads persisted forwards. I turned to the chap behind me and let him know that I can’t go on any further. I asked him to let the other boys know that I have retreated back to the shelter of the habour. I turned the yak to her side, being ever so mindful of the golden rule, and started the short trip back into safety’s arms. One of the pilot boats from the harbour was on it’s way out and powered past me with a great roar of it’s diesel thirsty motors. Just bloody wonderful. If the waves aren’t enough to have me turning white, I now have to deal with the wash from this awesome vessel. Left.. right.. up.. down… Happy Hooker turns her nose directly into the base of the wave in front and I’m leaning back with all of my might to keep her steady. I have become an insignificant plastic bathtub bobbing from side to side at the entrance to the harbour. I’m paddling furiously, cursing myself for even heading around the corner of the rockwalls, and wondering if this water in my kayak which I was sitting in was from the ocean, or the produce of an involuntary action. I’m through the mouth! The water is calm, and I am safe! I keep paddling at an even pace, and maneuver as far away from the entrance as possible. I look over my shoulder… and there is the familiar site of the other ‘yaks making their way back into the harbour.

Now… I have tackled waves like that before.. and I am sure it’s not as bad as it felt on this day. Perhaps I am a coward? Perhaps I just don’t have the confidence anymore? Whatever the case, I am glad that I didn’t venture out any further. I had learnt the hard way on my previous trip that the biggest mistake I made was not listening to my gut instinct, which in turn landed me in a not so ideal situation. I took my own advice, and pulled the plug before I became unstuck. I just need some time I keep telling myself, and just need to keep listening to my gut instinct. Slowly, but surely I will work my confidence levels back up to ‘common sense’ level.

Let’s wet some lines! In the space of 5 minutes Steve is hooked onto a nice fish. He’s sitting in the middle of the harbour entrance, and there is still boat traffic heading in and out. I am watching him fight the fish, and keeping a close eye on a trawler 100 yards or so away coming straight towards him. He’s still fighting the fish and the trawler is coming closer. He’s on a bright orange kayak, surely the trawler skipper can see him? More line is taken from his reel, and fish is still giving him a hard time. One of the other lads has seen the trawler also, and positioned himself next to Steve. He begins to move both kayaks backwards towards the rocks to get him out of harms way. Why the hell am I so nervous? What has gotten into me? He was never in any danger? A couple of deep breathes, and it’s all starting to become fun again. Steve has landed his fish, and it’s a cracker of a Golden Trevally. The smile on his face said it all. Good stuff.

We drifted and paddled up and down the entrance to the harbour. I managed a few small hits on my gulps, but no hookups so far. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…. you bloody beauty! I quickly tightened my drag to set it at the correct weight, and I started to gain some ground on this fish. It didn’t feel like it had too much weight… but hey… it’s a fish! A grassy sweetlip.. how bloody ironic. It’s the exact species which I wanted to chase out from the harbour. :-) A quick measure and it came in at 34cm. Only small.. but a lot of fun on 6lb line none the less. A quick shout out to Lee regarding the legal limit, and he was pretty sure that it was 35cm. Bugger. Back in the water it goes, and I get ready for the next drift. As a quick detour and note, I found out later on that the legal limit for grassies is 30cm in Queensland. One to remember next time. :-)

A small number of touring kayaks were making their way from the harbour, out to the beaches off of Mooloolaba. One after the other they pushed their way out to sea. I continued my well rehearsed action. Cast up current, let the jighead slowly sink, and work the jig towards the ‘yak. My next cast would see the line bellow on the surface, and a young paddler make his way straight over the line. You have to be bloody kidding me… it’s caught on his rudder! The young fellow started his “I’m so sorry” routine, and I replied with an insincere “no problems mate”. The quiet spot inside my head was actually saying “you little bastard”, but I’m glad those words stayed silently within me. “Hold still mate and I’ll come over to you and untie the line”. “Hold still mate.. you’re taking my line”. “Mate!” With a big sigh I realise that I have a good fish on the other end of the line. This cannot be happening! I move over to this kids kayak, release my line, and that wonderful ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ sound screams from my reel. On your bike buddy..!!! I have a fish on here!

How much damage could that rudder have done to my line? Is it all going to hold together? Can I at least get the damaged line back onto my spool? Lift.. wind… ZZZZZZZ… lift… wind… ZZZZZ. Whatever it is, it has a bit of weight! A couple of minutes of sweat beading nervousness, and I have the fish to the side of the ‘yak. It’s a flathead… and it’s a bloody big flathead! This will be my personal best flattie for sure, and well over my previous best of 46cm! I hope it’s not longer then 70cm.. please don’t be longer. She tossed and turned on the surface, trying her hardest to dislodge the hook which were stopping her from retreating to the depths of the harbour. I grab my lip grips, and get ready to position them to ensure she doesn’t get away until I have measured her. Don’t break the leader… do this right.. don’t break the leader. With a quick action I have her in the safety of my lip grips. Two of the other lads have moved in to give me a hand, and a number of onlookers from the shore were waiting eagerly to see what I had caught. Steve has pulled his larger fish measuring stick out, and we proceed to get her measured. “72cm mate.. bad luck”. It can’t be! “Let’s measure it again”. “Put her up here.. let’s get her flat”. Okay.. the head is in the right spot. “You were right mate. 69cm!” . You bloody beauty! Exactly what I needed to recover some of my lost mojo, and exactly what I needed to encourage me to get out on the water again. A quick knock on the noggin, and she’s in the hatch ready to be taken home. I am hunter gatherer!!!! Hear me roar!!!




Thankyou to nodds for the above pictures.

For the next hour or so, there were no more bites to be had, or any further action. I decided that I had achieved what I needed for one morning, and headed back to the launch to make my way home. 0815hrs and my gear is locked and loaded. I still have a hell of a smile on my face, and I say “ciao” to the lads.

I cannot wait to hit the harbour again, and hopefully venture outside to some of the local reefs. It was great to meet up again with some familiar faces, and great to meet a handful of new ones.

Until the next trip, stay safe and tight lines.