Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Ozzie Kings, John Stephenson

Before the "main course" a brief factfile about myself would seem to be appropriate.   I am a 61 years young Geordie living in Whitley Bay on the Northumberland coast.    I come from a scientific background   and was lucky enough to be able to take early retirement at the age of 57.   My main interests are angling , photography and following Newcastle United FC and also my local team Whitley Bay FC.
My good lady and myself spend most of the summer over in our static caravan in Drummore, Mull of Galloway, Scotland.   The scenery there is amazing and the wildlife is quite varied.   From our caravan veranda we have seen basking sharks and otters out in Luce Bay.   The shore fishing can be very good at times with bass, pollack, wrasse, conger and mullet being my normal targets.   The area is also a mecca for tope fishermen.
My given name is John Stephenson but the angling nickname I acquired at an early age was "Snatcher".   In my youth I did take salmon/seatrout out of the river by fair means and foul including "tickling fish" - a dying art today !!!   Nowadays I am too old to outrun bailiffs and even buy permits and licences.
Well thats enough drivel about me so lets head towards the main event.   Back in 2008 the wife and I headed out to Australia to visit our daughter in Sydney.   Being a keen angler I intended trying to catch a few Australian species whilst there.   With this in mind I took over a fair amount of terminal tackle and once in Sydney bought a spinning rod and reel .   I was not expecting or intending to target big fish so I loaded the fixed spool reel with 15lb mono.
We travelled quite extensively during this 2 month trip.   Hugging the coast we had a slow drive down to Melbourne and then onto Adelaide.   From there we flew to Ayres Rock and then onto Cairns and finally had a few weeks staying at Port Douglas.   My trusty fishing gear went with me and I managed to catch 20 species during that time.
Whilst on my 2008 trip I struck up a friendship with a few Australian anglers.   Chris Tyler was my main mentor in Sydney and what he did not know about the fishing in the harbour was not worth knowing about.   He had us fishing from ferry landings that were off limits to anglers and also had me fishing from the Opera Bar of all places.   We managed about 5 minutes fishing there before security spotted us and asked us to leave.
Oops - starting to digress a little but getting there I assure you.  On my last fishing trip with Chris back in 2008 he tried his best to get me a kingfish from Sydney harbour.   On that occasion Chris managed to catch one but I got busted off by a good kingie.   He promised to get me one on my next visit.
Sadly Chris very suddenly passed away last year.   It really knocked me for six I can tell you. I was determined to catch a kingfish during my 2012 trip in his memory.   Through a Sydney Fishing Forum I had struck up another friendship with Ollie who was to be my main fishing mentor on this trip.   What an expert he proved to be - a fish magician if there is such a thing.

On this trip out Ollie told me that kingfish would be the main target.  We set out in Ollies tinny from Sydney North Harbour and rowed the short distance out to where we were hoping to catch some squid.  Live squid is the optimum kingfish bait.  We set up shrimp rigs on our rods and drifted close inshore by Forty Baskets Beach.   Ollie really is a top angler and managed to get six squid to the boat.   All I managed to catch was one!!!!!   I blame being put off by the bikini clad paddle boarders that frequently passed the boat.
The squid were carefully popped into a large bucket which had a portable aerator clamped to it.   Ollie rowed us a bit further out and we tied up to a buoy.   Ollie showed me how to rig up a live squid and we cast them out a short distance, hoping for some kingfish action.

While the kingfish rods were out we tried to catch some yellowtail, also to use as livebait for the kingfish.  Ollie crumbed some bread into the water and soon a shoal of yellowtail were under the boat.  We baited up some very small hooks with pilchard and dropped them over the side.  True to form Ollie caught five and I caught one.  These also went into the aerated bucket.   I was well chuffed as the yellowtail was a new species for me.

After a wait of about an hour a kingfish finally grabbed Ollies squid.   What a scrap it gave Ollie, making several good runs before I managed to net it for him.   After a couple of photos the fish was carefully returned to fight another day.
The next two kingfish also fell to Ollies rod and these were also released.   I was beginning to give up hope of getting my fish when a kingie eventually took my squid.   The fish was not big but what a scrap it gave me on light gear.   I had caught my kingfish  and was well pleased.   A quick photo and back it went.
Ollie suggested trying livebaiting with yellowtail next and no sooner had he cast out then a bonito grabbed it.  Once again another great scrap.  He kept this fish as he was going to use it for shark at a later date.
Before the end of the session he managed to catch another 3 bonito which he also kept for shark bait.   For good measure he also caught two tailor which were returned.  During this period I did not have a single bite !!!!  Ollie is simply a top angler and knows the harbour like the back of his hand.
Well what a great day it had been.   Fishing in a great location with a top angler/mate and catching that elusive kingfish.  That one was for you Chris Tyler, I hope you enjoyed it.   On the way back in we saw a hammerhead shark being caught by another boat.   It looked about four feet long and what problems they had trying to unhook it.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and the supporting pictures.  Did my mate Ollie manage to catch that shark from the shore?   I will stay tight lipped on that one as there may be a follow up article.   I will say that I caught 13 new species during this current trip, one of the captures making the headlines in the local paper.   I also struck up a friendship with Steve Pope whilst in Sydney.   I believe Steve is quite famous in the UK as a top barbel angler.   We also had a few fishing trips together in the harbour,  including one that saw me get totally spooled.
We are now looking at a 3 month return trip to Australia in January 2013 to see our daughter and grandson.   Bring it on and I will be hoping to add to my 33 species tally.   If anyone wants any information/advice on fishing in Australia feel free to get in touch.   This also includes fishing around the Mull of Galloway.
John Stephenson aka Snatcher

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