Hooked, line & sinker: sport fishing in far north Queensland
Gary Allen heads to Far North Queensland with friends in search of the ultimate catch.
By Gary Allen | Published #69, Autumn 2017
“See that commotion on the water at about two o’clock? I reckon you throw it in over there.”
I can just see where my guide is pointing. I draw my lure back over my shoulder and load up for a big cast. Whoosh! Off it goes, high and far, and lands with a big splash right where he’d said. Two turns of the reel and bam. “I’m on,” I yell, and so it begins. This is man versus fish, and it comes with an incredible adrenaline rush. At almost the same time, my boat mate Gary’s rod flexes and we are each fighting a beast of a fish – the giant trevally – and it’s guaranteed to be a serious fight.
I’m on a fishing trip with a few friends and their sons, operated by Far North Sport Fishing. We’re here to share a few beers, laughs and fishing stories. We depart Cairns on a 7am flight to Lizard Island, 240 kilometres to the north, where our limousine lies in wait off the beach. The Black Magic is a 40-foot game fishing boat that will take us to the “mothership”, the 70-foot Blue Martini, awaiting us anchored in Princess Charlotte Bay.
It’s going to take us most of the day to get to the Blue Martini and we’ll be making a few designated fishing stops along the way. Adam and Sam are our crew and guides for this leg of the voyage and the boys run a tight boat, encouraging us and correcting our technique when needed. They’re quick to re-bait our lines or get a fish off our line and back in the water. We have a great first day of fishing with catches ranging from three to 15 kilograms. We’re rewarded with red emperors, queen fish, cobia and a few sharks. We only keep what we’ll be eating; everything else is catch and release.
The Blue Martini is ultra-comfortable, and with six of us, plus the crew, there is plenty of room to move around. Large covered decks and a very comfortable air-conditioned common area with an open-plan kitchen make it seem like a floating apartment. It has two suites with full-size beds and shower ensuites, and two other rooms with twin beds sharing a bathroom and shower.
After a delicious dinner on our first evening on board, complete with wine and an amazing chocolate rum cake, everyone heads to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s 6am start. We wake up to a beautiful calm morning with the sun just showing some light and have a quick breakfast – it’s time for barramundi.
With cool temperatures and the sun just up, it’s incredibly peaceful and serene, perfect fishing weather. The golden reflection off the water is beautiful. The Blue Martini slowly meanders up the 20-metre wide, mangrove-lined river. Dave points out the barra hiding spots: “If I were a big barra, that’s where I’d hide.” Two lures quickly splash next to where he points. No hits. They are elusive and not an easy catch, but that’s why people want to hook them.
The mud crabs up here are a special treat. We set the traps from the tenders and drive around to drop them off in the murky shallows. The first day we catch 12 big angry crabs – thankfully, our guides do the tying up once the crabs are shaken out of the nets. A different Dave, our chef, makes up a chilli sauce and cooks the crabs for us before serving them on a big platter. We strip down into our swimmers and stand on the deck with the warm water running over our feet as we devour the succulent crustaceans.
Chef Dave continues his streak of amazing meals. Everyone asks for a fish dinner and he kindly obliges. He makes us gourmet canapes, a cheese and prosciutto platter, ceviche with coconut milk, lime and coriander, and a sashimi platter of fresh mackerel. A small spaghetti dish follows with smoked salmon, garlic and chilli. It’s all delicious. Next comes the three different types of fish we had caught, served with three different Asian dipping sauces and accompanied by fresh steamed vegetables. Dessert is poached pears and salted caramel ice cream drizzled with more caramel. These meals are on par with some of the best restaurants in Sydney.
One day, we head out to the continental shelf. It’s an hour’s drive for us out to the deep blue abyss where the waters run 1500 metres deep. The fish are bigger and ‘badder’ out here. We have perfect weather, a calm ocean and everyone is feeling good. We’ve just put four lines out and within 10 minutes one of them starts singing. Then bang, another goes, and then another. “Good morning guys, who wants to fish? Let’s go!!” Adam exclaims, and it’s game on. The grunting and pulling begins. It’s me against whatever beast of a fish is on the other end of my line. Everyone on board is fired up, cheering each other on, hoping to bring in the catch of the day.
Each day on board the Blue Martini we head out for an early morning fish, then back for a second breakfast and a break before lunch. Then we head back out again in the afternoon for more fishing. Russ, the captain, is always flexible so if we want to go out earlier or later, it can be accommodated. The guides are incredible. They’re real professionals and are constantly working whether it’s cleaning up, straightening up or gearing up. They truly want us to catch fish and are sincerely disappointed when a fish gets away. They are patient and always ready to teach and answer our questions.
This is a truly luxurious fishing trip. The gear is exceptional, from the reels and rods to the boats. By the trip’s end we’ve all caught so many different fish, and it really is something special to be up in this beautiful part of Australia. It feels so wild, with not another person or boat in sight, and being able to share it with a group of friends is especially memorable. Each of us gets sent home with a vacuum-sealed packet of our beautifully filleted fish, frozen and ready to treat our families. My family enjoyed the take-aways as much as I enjoyed catching them.
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The climate of Queensland varies across the state, however the majority of regions experience two weather seasons; hot, humid summers with higher levels of rainfall and mild winters with minimal rains. In winter the temperature of cities in the south-east inland (Toowoomba, Warwick) drop well below freezing.
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