Finally a morning with virtually no wind forecast. I decided to head for Emu Park to fish the rocks. Low tide would be around 9.30 am and the moon was in its last quarter. I started at one of the headlands towards Zilzie and climbed out on to the rocks just after first light, at about 5.00 am.
There was virtually no wind and the sea was still. The water was not particularly clear and there was the bad smell of a recent algal bloom on the rocks. I was fishing light – actually I did not have a choice – as I had noticed, the night before, the tip on my heavier rod had snapped off during my recent travels.
I rigged up with 12lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/8th ounce, size 1/0 hook jighead with a GULP 4” Minnow in the Watermelon Pearl colour. I was using my trusty Loomis GL2 light spin rod and Shimano Stella 2500. I have fished here a few times in the cooler months and found some good Bream. This morning the first taker was a tiny greedy estuary cod. I caught a few of these and swapped through a few colours and styles of soft plastics.
After about 45 minutes the cod where the only thing biting, so I moved round to the rocky outcrop in front of the ‘Singing Ship’ at Emu Park. It was now about 6.15 am and already getting warm. I stuck with the same light rod but swapped to a lighter, 1/12th ounce, size 1 hook, jighead. I put on a 3” GULP Minnow in the Peppered Prawn colour. I positioned myself right on the end of the outcrop and cast to the north of a large bommy that sits a few metres offshore. If you are fishing land-based, you can only reach this spot for a few hours either side of low tide.
After a couple of casts in various directions, I felt a very solid and obvious thud as the lure sunk. I paused and then lifted the rod tip fairly quickly. I had hooked the fish and now it took off for the submerged rocks and caves, which are all over the seafloor in this area. I could not really muscle it in with my light rod, so I let it take line when necessary and very slowly tightened the drag. I gradually started to move it towards me. It managed to get behind the rocks a couple of times but, on both occasions I let it swim out and then successfully took up the slack.
It was soon in the wash at my feet and I could see it was a good sized Fingermark with the tell-tale black dot on its side. I grabbed the leader and pulled the fish clear of the water. I recovered the soft plastic with the aid of my pliers. It was a long way down its throat. The fish was about 50 cm long and it looked like the perfect size for dinner, so I put it in a nearby rock pool that was big enough to act as a live well.
I re-loaded the soft plastic on the jighead and cast into the same area. Just a few retrieves later, I was on to another fish. This one was bigger and put up a more spirited fight. My 2 to 4 lb Loomis rod was working pretty hard. I saw a big tail flap over and thought I had it, but as I increased the pressure the jighead came free.
I re-rigged – same small 1/12th ounce jighead, same small soft plastic. 12lb leader was all I had with me, so that had to do. Things went quiet for 30 minutes and I mover around the rocks in either direction looking for more good spots. I had another solid bit but did not hook the fish.
Just after 7.00 am I was back where I had caught the first fish. I lobbed out a long cast and again, as I lifted the plastic off the bottom I felt that very solid whack! This was another good fish. It did not do much initially but as soon as it realised something was wrong, it went mad and leapt clean out of the water. It remained on the line but tried to bury itself under a weedy ledge. After a few minutes I pulled it clear with a great lump of weed on its nose. It was about 55cm – so I added it to the live well. I decided to stay in this spot and was soon rewarded with another smaller Fingermark – about 40cm. I let this one go and carried on fishing.
It was now about 7.30 am. I lobbed a cast up close to the edge of the bommy and let it sink. I paused and gave it a couple of slow lifts and then paused again. Next time, I felt a very light tap as I lifted the rod tip and then a solid whack! The fish took the lure and turned for open water. It stripped perhaps 25 metres of line in two long, straight runs and I began to think it might be some kind of pelagic. I held on, tightened the drag as much as I dared and held the spool to slow it ever so slightly, each time it to tried run again. I gradually tired it out and fortunately it had stayed clear of the worst structure. After a few minutes it was close to the sloping rock where I had pulled the other fish ashore. Bit this would be tricky. Its tail flapped over and I could see it was a big Fingermark. I waited for a surge in the light swell and heaved the fish up. Crack! My beloved G.Loomis GL2 light spin rod made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. It snapped just above the join but the leader was intact and still attached to the fish. I grabbed the line and pulled the fish up the rocks and it just reached safety before the leader also snapped.
I sat clutching the fish with one hand and broken rod in the other, with my heart still pounding from the fight. It had been a fantastic capture and it was a marvellous fish. We do not get to sample much reef fish in my house, so I decided to keep the three in the live well. The big one measured in at 63cm and it probably weighed in somewhere between 3 and 4 kg – maybe more.
Needless to say that was the end of the session – but what a session it had been!