We could not have asked for better conditions to go forth in pursuit of fish from our kayaks at Woody Head today, especially in light of the fact that Jay hasn't done a whole lot of kayak fishing off shore. That's partly why we decided to launch from Woody Head - it's lack of surf break makes it such a fabulous launching spot for those just wetting their feet in the world of yak fishing offshore.
I was quietly confident we'd get into the fish today but didn't make much of a point of saying so, not wanting to build expectations. Good thing I didn't to because it turned out to be a relatively quiet day. We didn't see much in the way of surface action (we were expecting to see loads of mack tuna, but conversly saw few) nor did we sight much in the way of sonar activity, or get many bites. Aside from one tiny tailor (quickly released by Jay) there was really only one other bite to speak of. As it turns out, it was a bite worthy of much speaking.
While trolling along leisurely to pedal power my Nitro Viper rod - armed with an Okuma Salina 2 reel, spooled with 30lb Sufix Ultra Supreme tied onto a Williamson Banjo Eye bucktail Jig - bucked lightly at first, then as I pulled the rod from it's holder and set the hook I felt more weight than I was expecting. It wasn't long into this fight that I said to Jay that I thought I'd hooked a snapper... but easily the biggest I'd ever hooked. 10 minutes of methodical, almost gruelling reeling later I knew that whatever I'd hooked was bigger than a snapper - even the largest of them. At this point I'd also discounted tuna, shark, or cobia - it just didn't feel like any of the above. I could feel the fish as its shook its head, later when it beat it's tail, but it moved in such a way as to keep me guessing the entire fight through, unlike anything I'd caught here before. As it tended to dive down deep as I fought it I was wondering perhaps if I'd caught my first Woody Head kingy, though eventually discounted that also because despite how hard it pulled, I'd have expected a kingy of this weight to pull harder. There wre even moments where I wondered momentarily if I'd inadvertantly hooked a ray or turtle.... but it felt decidely more fishy than that.
It took another 10 minutes of careful lifting and winding before sighting colour, most of that time spent steadily pulling it up from the bottom. It didn't try to swim away so much as it tried to swim back downwards, likely seeking out a hole with which to bust me off on. The IGFA approved Sufix Ultra Supreme I'd recently spooled performing to perfection as I babied it in. When the fish showed colour I called it for a jewfish immediately, though when it came to fully surface - even after looking at it clearly - I started doubting my catch, wondering if perhaps it might be a Trag. But with Jay pedaling past beside me he got a whiff of it's scent, confirming it's jewie status. If its good enough for Jewie Jay, its good enough for me.
Hauling this fish - all 127cm of it - aboard was almost a surreal experience, even for me, despite having caught longer and even heavier fish in the past. I've never before caught a single solitary jewfish on a kayak before, so to establish such a specimen as my first was a milestone that just didn't quite seem real as it went down. Hooked on a Williamson Banjo Eye Bucktail Jig on an ultra-slow trolling speed, the hook up occurred when everyone least expected it. We'd been at sea for almost 3 hours, narry-a-bite. Then this.
And it was enough. Jay's stomach started turning and was starting to look a little green so we made our way back in, our minds now focused on preservation of the catch above all else. Stored on the tramp - and coming close to equalling it's length - we navigated the prize fish and our kayaks back through the passage between the heads and the bommies, touching upon land to a frenzy of observer curiosity. Holger landed first, clearing his yak of the ramp and then returned to hold mine so I could remove the 30 or so kg of extra jewfish-flavoured weight off the tramp before dragging it up the ramp. By the time both yak and fish were clear of the ramp, along with my good and humble self we were pretty much surrounded, cameras clicking and flashes flashing. I suppose it's not every day you see a kayak fisherman catch a fish that weights half as much as the fisherman!
Myself, Holger, Jay, Doug and their families, not to mention Col, his cat and his favourite neighbours will all be eating well this week, that much is assured. The video footage I shot from todays excursion was awesome, so look out for the video report on this in the next episode (6) of Yakass Coastal kayak Fishing Show.