April 2015

Blood Moon Battle Tactics

Saturday the 8th of April this year produced an extraordinary meteorological phenomenon known as a blood moon. This occurs when the earth’s shadow is cast onto the moon’s surface resulting in a total eclipse of the moon. Not only was this a visually spectacular sight but it also sent the fish absolutely wild for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

After discussing the local weather patterns with a couple of mates a decision was made to head north to Port Gregory and do battle with some of the larger species of beach fish the region had to offer. Upon arrival we were faced with absolutely ideal conditions, the swell was down and so was the wind and as we scanned our way along this pristine beach our fishing possibilities were simply endless. Being the Easter long weekend, we were amazed to find only a few seasoned anglers about leaving us with our pick of many fishy looking haunts. There was a long fringing reef running parallel to the beach with a break at the end leading into deep, foamy looking water but unfortunately was unfishable due to a massive weed build up so we headed further south along the beach to the Hutt river mouth. This spot looked great with many deep, clean looking gutters and churning sand banks.

The idea was to set up camp on the beach and fish through the night until high tide using a variety of techniques from complicated slide baiting to standard beach fishing. The sun was setting and the blood moon was about to rise as we excitedly made our way down to the water’s edge to send out the first few baits for the evening. The water was abnormally warm and there were blue bottles lining the tide line everywhere signifying the presence of an inshore, warm water current. I remember thinking “this could be either a really good thing or a really bad thing?” It only took a few casts for the tailor to move in and begin feeding on the fresh mullie baits, this produced not only some red hot action but also some great burley and highly valued fresh bait for later. We were fishing with standard sweeper, running sinker and Paternoster rigs made from 50lb fluoro carbon leader materials with 4 ganged 4/0 tarpon hooks attached. Sinkers varied from 4 – 6 ounces in both star and grapnel styles. Our main lines were a variety of both braided and nylon 20 – 30lb and had full rod lengths of 40 – 50lb shock leaders attached, these lines were fished over both spin and low mount overhead outfits with typically braided line on spin reels and nylon on the overheads.

As the blood coloured moon began to rise into the darkening sky the tailor bite began to slow leaving the area littered with burley scraps for larger predators to now come sniffing around for. We decided to continue fishing with the light mullie rigs we had been previously using with such success in the hope that they would produce some school sized mulloway. We also covered our heavier options by slide baiting some larger baits out on heavier outfits just in case. These heavier outfits were rigged with 80 – 100lb fluoro carbon leaders and 80 – 250lb wire with 8/0 – 12/0 sized hooks. Baits varied from live tailor to fillets and heads.

The scene was now set and as we sat there remarking on how stunning the moon looked and how perfect the weather was we knew it was only a matter of time before something really happened. Dave’s rod was the first to go and as he comfortably sat back into a decent fish those all too familiar charges of excitement began rushing through our bodies. Our feelings of excitement were soon realized by the glimmering, silver body and bright red, glowing eyes of a nice school sized mulloway flapping around in the light at the water’s edge. Not a bad start at all and as the night progressed we managed to hook, loose, land and get absolutely destroyed by some very nasty fish indeed. The warm water current had brought some very unusual and unlikely species very close to shore spoiling us with the sight of large 30kg Spanish mackerel biting us off after long battles as we tried to land them in the shore break thinking they were sharks. The blood moon had produced more than we could have ever possibly hoped for with the only question left now being would the fishing be just as good the next night on the bright moon?

The weather remained perfect as we fished throughout the next morning and afternoon catching a few more nice fish and simply enjoying life. We found the fishing slow during the daylight hours around the full moon and that bait cotton was a must to prevent soft baits from being torn apart by the dreaded pickers. The slide baiting technique again proved its worth and really came into its own when targeting larger species such as sharks and big mulloway from the shore. It really is the ultimate method of delivering large, live baits out into deep, clean water without causing injury or damaging the bait. The Richter brand of slide bait clips are made in South Africa by a South African gentleman named Doug Swanell and are in my opinion the best available. They are produced from top quality, high tensile materials that will last the distance and not let you down on that fish of a lifetime. The powerful low mount, overhead outfits used to cast the heavy grapnel sinkers far out into the ocean were also brilliant, these outfits were originally designed by South African surf fisherman to achieve maximum casting distances due to their multi sectional surf breaks and are not only more powerful and easier to cast but also much more comfortable to battle large fish for long periods of time. For more details on the slide baiting process or any rigs and fishing outfits described above visit www.fish-on.com.au .

At 2pm on Sunday afternoon something swallowed the 1kg live tailor that I had slide baited on my 30lb overhead outfit and took off for the horizon, the solid head shakes and shear speed of the brute leaving me convinced I was hooked up to a decent sort of shark. Thankfully I was prepared and confident the heavy 100lb fluoro carbon leader and 150lb wire trace would all hold up. The battle ensued for an hour and a half leaving both the fish and I completely exhausted. For those of you that have been fortunate enough to battle large fish on long rods for extended periods of time you’ll know exactly what I mean. Eventually I had over 100kg’s of shovel nosed shark beached and beaten. After managing to find the strength to lift her for a quick photo the fish was released back into the ocean where all sharks belong. Rather than have to go through the truly enjoyable but physically brutal punishment of battling another large species on my heavy outfit I decided to fish with my lighter 30lb braided, spin outfit and recover over a beer or two. This was always fraught with danger and as the rod was pulled flat and line began to scream from the spool I knew I was in for another torrid battle. The fish had taken over 200 meters of line in a few minutes and didn’t look like stopping any time soon, “this is not good!” I thought and began to place some more pressure on the spool with my fingers. The added pressure just upset the fish more and after a series of violent head shakes took off even faster. I was in some serious trouble here and looked like losing everything including $120.00 worth of braid. Something had to be done but what? I was now well into my nylon backing and was contemplating clamping down on the spool and hoping the line would break up at the fish end and not at the join knot precariously joining my braid to the mono. I eventually decided against plan A = losing $120.00 and the fish, and decided to back as far up the beach as I could whilst Dave brought my 30lb overhead outfit to me. The idea was to pull some line from the rod tip of the overhead outfit and as the line ran out on my spin outfit I would try to join the two lines together and continue the battle with the secondary outfit. At least worth a try right? I handed Dave the screaming spin outfit with a dozen or so wraps of line left on the spool and grabbed the end of the 30lb nylon dangling from the rod tip of the overhead outfit and gritted my teeth. CRACK! Went the nylon backing as the spool to line connection knot let go, the overhead outfit was in free spool with the ratchet on and was now howling as I took off running down towards the water with both lines in trembling hands. The knot was fumbled but it was good, no time to trim tag ends just get back up the beach to the second screaming outfit and settle back into the battle. The fish managed to rip another 150 plus meters of 30lb nylon line from the overhead outfit before finally slowing to a complete stop. “Maybe another big shovel nose gone to ground?” I thought. Whatever it was it had either died, become tail wrapped, or was just simply very stubborn. After an hour or so of dragging the thing back across the sea floor we finally caught a glimpse of a huge 200kg plus sting ray. A truly poor result by most anglers fishing standards but at least I got my braid back and most importantly saw what it was.

The sun began to sink lower into the ocean as the tailor bite began; we all fished hard to procure our all-important fresh bait for the night ahead. The bite only lasted for an hour or so before darkness fell and the big fish came out to play. Again the importance of the feeding tailor creating all that commotion and burley proved to be crucial as we battled away into the night against some truly sizeable opponents. The bright moon seemed to shut the fishing down a couple of hours after dark and compared to the previous night was merely average. We turned in for a few hours’ sleep before waking in the morning to yet another glorious day; the weather had turned and was now producing overcast conditions and light easterly winds. We decided to fish throughout the morning’s high tide before packing up and heading off during the low. This session proved to be our least productive of all probably due to the combination of a daylight full moon and easterly winds, it did however allow us to get rid of all our unwanted bait and produced a couple more decent fish.

Geraldton and its surrounding areas are home to an endless variety of outstanding fishing locations for both boat and shore based anglers alike. From Kalbarri to Jurien Bay lay some sleepy little towns full of great people and sensational fishing. These areas are sure to receive more and more fishing pressure as the years pass and should be treated with respect by all who visit ensuring they remain the treasures they truly are for many generations to come.

Calm seas, clear skies…

Nick Hocking

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