Joining that Elusive Club

Went to Melville Island to visit some friends for a long weekend of fishing

Except after launching on Friday it was discovered that the boat wouldn’t start… so no fishing for the friday, and the trip was looking less than ideal.

But land based fishing is still fun, so that was Saturday’s plan. Tom had heard of a place that had big barra at this time of year. But doesn’t everyone say that. If I was to describe it I would say that it looked a lot like buffalo creek.

We got there at first light, but we expected the fishing to heat up each side of the 10.30am low. A little bit of action here and there in the morning showed there was a fish around, so that was good. With no fish after an hour, Tom decided to live bait. It wasn’t long before he caught a monster black tipped reef shark. He went back to live baiting and soon hooked and dropped a barra, estimated at 60cm. So that was a good sign. Not too long afterwards he hooked another barra around 70cm and got it the bank before he lost it in the worst way possible – his knot undid.

He was pretty annoyed, but finally the third bit of livebait hooked up and he got our first barra of the day, 61cm, and we had dinner for everyone. A funny moment in that fight was when the barra hooked up, it instantly ran across my line, we crossed back right away and I was going to wind up but, I could feel his fishing fighting, even though they appear uncrossed. I didn’t wind it up not wanting to cost him a barra… It took us a while to figure out that were NOT tangled, actually, I had a 35cm Jack on!

 

Meanwhile I had been swapping my lures with regularity with one or two strikes, but overall not doing well. Soon my blue barra classic was called for, and around an hour before the low, BANG.

What followed was one of the worst performances in angling history.

My drag was way too loose, WAY too loose, so it took my line and bolted against the current and away from the snags. I couldn’t tell at first what it was, I said to Tom “It might be a shark”, Tom said “No, way it’s a barra”. Actually I thought so, I just didn’t want to jinx it.

It came back and went again and it was obvious it was a barra and my drag was too loose. Tom told me to tighten it, I hate doing it on the run, but he was right, so I did. As it charged around upstream, I was dumbfounded at how big it was and how lucky I was it didn’t go charging for the snags. Predictably enough, it came towards me, then decided to head straight for the snags. I tightened the drag again on the run, but it wasn’t enough, it went straight under one dead tree so I could see the line against it, through some more branches and onwards.

I held him firm for a bit, and Tom said he could see it in a far off drain. I thought about for a bit and decided to freespool him to see if he would sort himself out. When I tightened it again, the lure was stuck on something, but there was no action with the fish. I freespool again for a while in hope… but when I tightened it again, it was the same. It seemed the lure was caught on a snag and the fish was gone. Not wanting to lose my lure, I tightened up the drag and slowly pulled… yay! I was lucky enough to break the branch off, but it was fairly big. ‘At least I get the lure’ I thought. So I slowly heaved my stick-fish in. It got past the branches, but got caught on the second snag. It was then I could see it was a metre by a metre of tangled branches… and the giant barra still there, being dragged sideways!

“He’s still on!” yelled Tom. Yes he was.

 


 

Soon the snag was hooked on another snag, so I had to go slack again, and luckily the current sorted everything out, and I was able to slowly pull both of them in.

We measured her at 96cm before putting her in the esky, my first legal saltwater barra since March. I was utterly stoked. Tom asked me if I wished it was a metre, yeah I guess, but who can complain with 96cm and also, my performance meant I really didn’t deserve it anyway.

 


It was only 20 minutes after that that Tom hooked another barra on a lure, this one loved jumping, he got it in, and it measured 83cm. When it came up the bank it really rolled itself in mud and Tom walked across to the ocean to clean it for the photo. (Interestingly we later found the barra was absolutely full of parasites and had to be thrown out)

I also caught a small cod, because that’s what I do. It was actually hard to release. There was a well known large croc who lived there, and the banks had about a metre of mud. I tried to throw him back but he landed in the mud with a plop. I had to fetch a stick from the trees behind us to poke him back in the water, and he swam away.

I had been cycling my lures regularly as I wasn’t getting any action, and Tom was getting some bites. We saw some large threadies swim by, but they were uninterested in our lures.

About 30 minutes after the water came pouring in, I was back on the same blue barra classic and bam! I was on again. This time I didn’t make any mistakes. My drag was exactly as it should be. As she came from the snag and hit the lure she followed the water away from the snags, as I expected. I held on for grim death, even with a tight drag she was peeling it off. But I also started walking up the bank, knowing if she charged back towards them, she it would be extra distance she’d have to make up against against the rod. Walking in sand and not allowing slack required two hands on the rod! At one point she jumped in the air, and got her whole body a foot out, and you had to marvel at such a sight. Tom wanted to know if it was a big as last time, it was hard to tell because the spool was so different, though I did think she was bigger, but I denied it… I didn’t want to jinx it. In the interest of honesty I will confess to thinking “4cm bigger, please please just 4cm bigger”.

She made two runs away from me, when I got her to the bank she made one last charge for the snags, but couldn’t get there, I had added an extra 15 metres that she had to swim. And so we dragged her up the bank, put the tape measure and 100cm! It was an easy decision to release her given we had a feed and then some. Tom ran to get the camera, and I thought she was actually 101cm. I called to him to witness and he said “are you really worried about the extra cm?” which was a good point so I lugged her up with great care and posed for the photo.

 


After that was was done I was ready to release her, but suddenly I remembered the cod and realised how difficult that was going to be. No way I was wading in knee deep mud in that river. Tom’s previous idea of washing the barra in the ocean suddenly came to me, so cuddling her gently I sprinted off to towards the sea. The visibility was really good and it was only a foot or two for a while, so I felt safe and able to revive her there. She tried to play dead but with a single slight squeeze of the tail she roared to life, and powered away.

From there we had a few more red hot goes on our lures, but nothing hooked up. Things died off as the water continued to come in, so we decided to call it and head home.

 

Got:
Me: 96cm & 100cm barra… and a mangrove jack, cod
Tom: 61cm, 83cm barra… and a large shark

One thought on “Joining that Elusive Club

  1. Stu
    good effort mate – like all fisherman bit of luck is needed and that is what you had re snags
    but joining the 1m club is awesome well done
    Fishing in Melb will be a struggle but some good gummy sharks, flathead and whiting spots in Westernport bay will help pass the time.
    Also get the Suzi fixed trout streams await plus trips to the high country – perhaps a visit to Nick …. good rivers and reservoirs near him.
    Plus our area for all of the above plus bream.
    Wattsy has bought a cabin at Cape Conron – we need to go.
    Right now a large whale has washed up and every shark along the eastern seaboard is paying Cape Conron a visit.
    The fisheries and wildlife bloke says some of the 5m plus white pointers are frightening – not unsurprisingly the abalone divers have relocated a bit north to Mallacoota – also a top spot that Ken, Tony and Lee fish at.

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