Since we picked up the thumper bluebone off the loading dock of the Salt mines here at Shark Bay, we did a couple of subsequent trips to see if we could find the snapper and cobia Pete remembered catching in the years of his yoof.


Snapper city, what better place to load up Hamachi’s new jigging range

Well, once we went around the back of the jetty inside the ship loading channel, we found them. Schooling wide of the superstructure, we drifted big baits back into the shadows under the pylons, and bang! There they were, big snapper, hitting hard. No poncing around with nibbles and taps, these fish just came in and yaffled them, the first was a sweet hump headed girl of 21 lbs, not a bad way to break the snapper duck over there. What followed was a ripper of an hours fishing before we had caught and kept our limit, putting back several ten pound “tiddlers” in order to maximise our fillet weight…..the bag limit here is only 2 snapper each so it pays to be pretty careful which fish you choose to keep.


Solid pink snapper, awesome fun in the shallows on light gear

Without a doubt, though the best fish caught in those couple of trips was a beaut big Malabar Cod (so similar to an Estuary Cod as to be indistinguishable, just a bit dottier) that was within a centimetre of being too large to keep, maximum size limit being 1m long. It was a very very very carefully and repeatedly measured 99.a whisker cms. Keepable, just!


Thumping Malabar Cod pulled from the pylons with

Hamachi’s XOS GT’n’Doggie PE2-4 loaded with 20lb braid

With the three of us, coming home with six big 15-20lb fish was not a bad result, and even better it was only a short 12 mile haul across the choppy Shark Bay, not like the one to Peron Point, which is a a coupla hours of banging. I like short trips.
Next day we were back again, doing the same, this time with Noel and Andrew in their respective boats. The Same result really, although a jumbo cobia was lost boatside due to a knot failure sadly on one of the other boats. Maaannnn….I still got to get one of them big bad boys, I did my trophy sized Bluebone this trip, maybe with luck next trip will be cobia time.


Hamachi’s newly released XOS GT’n’Doggie PE2-4 overhead, one sweet rod!

Well, after sorting out the snapper situation, it was time to head for a long haul trip again, shooting up to Turtle Bay and the top end of Dirk Hartog Island. 50nm across the lumpy, choppy water that typifies Shark Bay. They tell me it glasses off here regularly. Yeah, right, yet to see it. The expression involving Rocking Horse Poo springs to mind.
So, weather forecasts here thoroughly review, the decision was made to make at least a day trip of it, and if the weather panned out to forecast and wind dropped to next to nil, make an overnighter of it. We launched at Denham to a moderate breeze of 15kn or so, expecting it to veer more easterly than the SE we had, and die out in the afternoon to 5-10kn variables.
Half way up the gulf, an hour into the 2.5hr haul, and the wind wasn’t veering or dropping. Bang. Thump. Splash. Thump. Bang. (Repeat ad infinitum) Just peachy. Still….we were GOING FISHING! This was gunna be great!
Part of our keenness to get to Turtle Bay was that on a trip a few days previously while we were at Point Peron, Noel had headed over to Turtle and sussed out how to get into a pile of Rankin Cod, limiting out on those delicious eating fish in short order. We were similarly keen to do so.
Well, after much pounding etc (see above ad infinitum account) we finally (thank goodness) turned the corner and got into the lee of the bay, no sign yet of the wind easing I hasten to add, (as I noted to myself), and we cleared decks to try a little trolling.
Hmmmm, Noel, who had got here an hour or so earlier, had already picked up nearly his limit of Rankin, and also a pair of thumper Mackerel, so we had high hope, ……but lower luck sadly. Mate, we couldn’t catch a cold. Turning the corner around the cape with the lighthouse on it, heading along the western face of Dirk Hartog, the waters were beautiful, calm as, given the protection of the island. I like Lee waters. We trolled fruitlessly for a while longer before the temptation to drop baits onto the bommies showing loads of fish on the sounder as we passed over them became too much to resist, so lures were cleared and bottom rigs were dropped to immediate bites.


Nice Rankin cod landed by “B2” aboard “Bananas in Pyjamas”

Spanish flags were the first victims, this was looking promising! Even better these are outside the bag limit counts, so I reckoned they were a great target. However, for some reason we didn’t hang around too long, I think it was having a bloody bolt-cutter, a Nor’west blowfish (a fish toxic of flesh and slime, with teeth that can bit clean thru hooks and that travel in seemingly countless packs) turn up that convinced Pete it was time to head wide to look for a fish neither of us has yet to bag….a Red Emperor, out wider in 70-100m of water.
Out and out we cruised, still in comfortable conditions but with a little wind picking up as we moved away from the island… One drop….a 50cm long lizard fish, oh, yay. Next drop, another bloody blowie, so we decided to head just a little wider again…
Cruising off, Peter gave her some gas to speed up…..”cough, cough, bang! gurgle, silence….”….mighty motor was alarmingly quiet. I know four strokes are meant to run quiet, but not THIS quiet. She was deed mate, Deeeeed!
Uh-oh. Restarting wasn’t a happening thing. We all exchanged “Ohshitohshitohshit” looks, but luckily Andrew was nearby with his Boston Whaler, so Pete called him over, we were barely three or four kms apart. Lucky we had other boats there though….next stop was the Seychelles…the Indian Ocean aint a small place!
Andrew was able to tow us around the cape again, over to where Noel was sitting (having caught his limit) on the large Parks and Wildlife mooring in Turtle Bay, where we quickly tied up and Pete got stuck in to seeing about fixing the motor. The first discovery was the bag of spare filters we had for all the internal engine filters were….in the back of the car. Trigg. BUT! we cycled and cleaned out all the filters we could, noting the amount of crap in the fuel in the main external filter bulbs, and Pete proceeded to strip out the spark plugs….veeeerryyy carefully, given (a) we didn’t have the right tools, and (b) we would be truly stuffed if the tools we DID manage to scrounge up between the three boats dropped to the bottom of (HUGE FRIKKEN TIGER) Shark Bay.
True to expectation, the evidence of pre-ignition of dirty fuel was immediately apparent…the spark plugs were totally stuffed….I am told it is a sign of water in the water free fuel, but I dunno, these things mechanical are a mystery to me. However, restarting was a waste of time, the decision was made after one particularly fruity backfire and clouds of smoke that instead of blowing the whole damn boat up, we would put the cowling back on and sulk about it, which we did.
So, it was now too late to start towing for home, the prophesied ten knot breezes had decided insted to stay a steady 20knot wind, looked like we really were going to be spending the night after all.Looking forward to hopefully calm seas and no wind in the morning.
Not the best of sleep that night, the honking wind (not, most definitely not, ten knots) making for a sloppy ride at mooring, and the decision to lie a little too close to a scupper being a sadly moist one as well…and come dawn The wind was if anything even beefier.
with the cheering news from a passing Commercial fisherman that the forecast was for building winds and worse seas for the next four days, things were looking very iffy indeed. Neither Andrews Whaler, nor even Noels sturdy and reliable Glasscraft would be sufficient to tow through seas like these, one tug on a towline at the wrong moment would have one or the other boat over….. things were looking increasingly serious.
Given that none of us were able to raise anyone on any of the VHF channels, 16, 72 or 73, being parked under the lee of the limestone cliffs of Turtle Bay, the decision was made (wisely in my view) to activate the EPIRB.
My first ever EPIRB activation. This had become a Big Deal.
However it was very shortly very effective. Obviously more powerful transmitters were deployed and before long Shark Bay S&R radio was calling, and after discussions, clarifications and so on, the EPIRB was able to be switched off again, and the Denham Based Rescue boat, Rescue 4, was dispatched, ETA a couple of hours.
Whhheeewwwww… was on its way!


Dirk Hartog Island’s unforgiving western side

After a couple of hours of bagging Pete, chucking the odd soggy tea bag at him (having all decided that this was obviously all HIS FAULT!!!), who was stuck on his boat in the wind to answer his radio, while we had cups of tea and coffee on Noels big cabin boat in the warm and windlessness, Rescue 4 finally rounded the tip of the island, heading for us.
Interestingly, the location given by the EPIRB was several kilometres out from where it was activated, which led to a little confusion….but it is on reflection pretty alarming, EPIRBs are supposed to be exactly, not withing several kilometres, surely? It would be interesting to know the reason for this glitch…
In the still rolling anchorage, pulling this larger Aluminium tri-hull next to Petes sleek white centre console was a stressful manoeuvre, but we did manage to effect the tow attachment and the transfer of the three of us, Pete, Lochie his son, and Myself, onto the much larger and reassuringly stable boat.
A process not without its own entertainment value, however, as for some obscure reason Lochie decided to try and fend the very large, very sturdy and very aluminium canopy of the big boat off with his face. Not entirely sure WHY he tried this obviously losing strategy, and by observational evidence, I would suggest it was an unsuccessful one. With a hefty THUNK!!! and a flailing of arms and legs, there was a supine Lochie on the deck of the rescue boat, dazedly mentioning the pretty stars that seemed to be everywhere.
After being hustled off deck in short order, everything was tied off properly, and the tow was underway.
I would’ve got a great photo of this all being done, looking at the flash centre console, empty, being towed thru some nastily wicked seas, straight up the guts of Shark Bay…but someone, no mentioning any names here, Peter, decided to leave my camera bag on his boat rather than have me take more pictures on the way, lol.
So it was some four hours later that finally we reached the calm of the jetty at Denham…a HUGE thank you to the Denham rescue boat and crew for probably the nicest, dryest ride up Shark Bay in some pretty gnarly waters.
The point was not lost on all of us that after last years trip in which Noels boat (AKA “Bananas in Pyjamas”) was nobbled but a cruel use of sneaky inflatable bananas by Pete (see the story in the July/August “Don’t mention the bananas!”), this seemed to be a true case of Karma being a really nasty thing, so I guess you could say this tale could be called, “Karma’s a bitch, or The Revenge of Bananaman!”