By Bruce Murray
I like fishing. My entire family likes fishing. We like it so much we have the Murray Family Fishing Trophy that all six of us compete for. Largest fish caught in the year wins. I was however surprised when my wife announced she had always wanted to go deep sea fishing. In fact it was on her “bucket list.”
This pronouncement of hers happened two years ago just when my son and I were planning a fishing expedition to the Southern Ocean — also referred to by non-Australians as the Indian Ocean.
We planned to drive from their home in Murray Bridge South Australia to Cape Jaffa and stay in a hotel there and spend the following day on the ocean fishing. She assured us her sudden interest in ocean fishing had nothing to do with our proposed trip and so naturally she invited herself along.
Her addition to the trip added certain complexities when she informed us she did not want to catch any large fish. Our goal was the opposite. The bigger the better. She explained being a small person a big fish might pull her out of the boat. (By the way, she needed a chair to sit on, as she might get tired.)
With these requirements in mind our son talked to the charter boat captain who assured him they would be able to keep her safe and comfortable and so the trip was on. The drive to Cape Jaffa was interesting and the hotel acceptable to my son and I but very basic according to mother’s evaluation. A shared bathroom down the hall and no complimentary shampoo was definitely a black mark in her books. The ants crawling in the window didn’t help either.
We arrived at the dock early in the morning equipped with lunch, hats and sun screen. It was mid-summer in Australia and hot. There we met the captain, deck hand and the three other fishermen on the trip. As mother was the only female on board, she was treated like royalty and escorted to the folding lawn chair they had provided for her comfort. They couldn’t do enough to look after her.
The decision had been made to go reef fishing about 50 kilometres off shore in search of nanoguy fish and other reef dwellers. Nanoguy fish (also referred to as nannygai) are a gold colour and can range in size from one or two pounds up to thirty pounds. On the reef they would be smaller at less than ten pounds. They were reported to be very good eating.
The trip to the reef was filled with interesting sights including a school of tuna that tempted the captain to try trolling some bait in the water but no luck.
Arriving at the reef provided one of the outstanding moments of our entire trip. The boat was surrounded by a group of dolphins that were as interested in us as we in them. They put on quite a show leaping out of the water one minute and the next looking up at us from the water, as if to see if we were enjoying the performance. It was a magical experience. We were then visited by a large albatross, who I think was looking for a hand out but we were not in a sharing mood.
Once the boat was anchored we got down to the serious business of fishing. The deck hand baited the hooks and showed us the best way to jig the fishing rod up and down. It was not long before we got our first bites and soon there were numerous calls of “fish on.”
We saw and caught an interesting variety of fish that day including sea bass, mackerel, nanoguy and the poisonous puffer fish. When we caught a puffer fish the deck hand would yell “hold it” and he would get the fish off the hook and back into the water. They did not want the fish in the boat.
So, how well did we do? I caught 12 nanoguy, my son caught 12 nanoguy and my wife caught 13 nanoguy. Unbelievable!
By the time she landed her last fish she was so tired the deck hand had to hold the rod for her while she cranked the reel to bring the fish in but she was determined to win and win she did.
It was a grand adventure and mother got to cross another item off her bucket list.
I am determined however, when we return to Australia this fall and go fishing, we will be going for the big ones.