Preparing for Small Boat Adventures
 

Preparing for Small Boat Adventures

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Small Boat Adventures

By Chris Henry

My time on the Central Queensland coast has almost come to an end. Having moved here for work in 2011 from the Gold Coast, I knew one day I would eventually return home. From the moment I moved up until my last trip only a few days ago I have made it my goal to see as much of the coastline and waterways as possible. In the last few years of social media boom I have made some great friends within the fishing community that have introduced me into long range over night trips. These trips are designed to cover large distances in what some would consider “small” (4.5-5.5m) boats in order to gain access to remote locations only otherwise accessible via charter or “live-aboard” style vessels. Although these long range trips have taken place between areas as far south as the fraser coast and as far north as the Whitsunday island group, the world is your oyster and the principal stays the same wherever you may be based!

Safety first

First and most important is always safety! Even if the trip you plan is in “partially smooth waters” or even estuary systems and you only require minimum safety equipment, the distance from the nearest help can be hours away in good weather so it pays to overcompensate. For someone to get stranded in a croc infested mangrove creek, with nowhere to swim to and no visibility from over head, will not be the first and surely wont be the last. If possible always pack an EPIRB regardless if it is mandatory, if anything were to go wrong it will narrow the search area by a long shot and may just save your life! A first aid kit is also a no brainer for obvious reasons like cuts, lacerations and the ever-lingering threat of a hook in a human rather than a fish. Sunscreen and insect repellent are just as important as fresh drinking water! Oh yeah, and fresh drinking water, consider how much you would drink a day per person then double it at the least. If you have an open boat like myself you will know just how much the sun gets to you after a day on the water and it will only get worse as the days go on.

Fuel and food

Get your hands on google earth, navigation maps, sea floor charts etc. Anything that will give you more information on the area you are planning to fish and most importantly let you calculate correct distances to scale. The more you research, the more orientated you will be once you arrive. Once you have a destination set then work out the maths as to how much distance your boat will cover per litre to determine if your boat has enough fuel capacity or if you need to pack extra. Always work off your fuel consumption in bad weather then overcompensate on that also. Now this comes down to storage space and personal preference but personally I like to pack non-perishables, snack foods and nothing I have to cook so I can spend more time casting and less time sizzling sausages.

Weather

Planning around the weather is always going to be a hit and miss affair. For the vast majority of us, work is a priority and regardless if you’re self employed or a casual at mcdonalds, we usually need to give some sort of notice. Giving the go ahead on a trip 2 weeks before the date will generally find you at the mercy of Mother Nature. If you can, try and leave the “go ahead” until as late as possible, the forecast will generally become more accurate closer to the date. Also if you have the option to move dates around try and make your run home in the good weather rather than get out there in the good weather only to have the conditions deteriorate further than expected. The old saying goes “hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned” and Mother Nature is no woman to go messing with! At all costs have a back up plan for if the weather is to go pear shaped.

Mooring and sleeping arrangements

On any stretch of coastline it is important not only to find sheltered water but to take into consideration the size of the local tides. On the Central Queensland coast the tides can exceed over 4 metres in variation so when looking for a place to moor (if you are sleeping aboard) start in a depth that will not dry out on low tide. The last thing you want is to wake up in the middle of the night, face in the gunnel all twisted up because you have anchored too shallow and the boat is now laying on its side. Alternatively you can camp on shore but also keep in mind what the tides are doing so when you wake up and want to take off the boat isn’t high and dry.

Sleeping arrangements are going to differ from boat to boat. For example my good friend matthew scholz sets up swags in his 543 side console because they store comfortably out of the way on the rear of the boat. I however choose to pitch pop up tents and inflatable mattresses because they stow away below deck. There are a million options these days with camping equipment so there’s sure to be something out there that suits you.

Last but not least, if you have a GPS device on your depth sounder use the drift alarm function incase for some reason your anchor pulls or rope breaks. On a recent trip Matthew Scholz took on the Fraser coast, the boys were anchored offshore when their anchor rope had tangled around some coffee rock. The rocking motion of the boat sawed through the anchor rope and set the boys adrift. Had they not set their drift alarm the boys could have been god knows where when they awoke in the morning, so it pays to play it safe.

The fishing

When executed well any trip to remote and unpressured waterways can yield great results! Do your research but keep an open mind if you have never visited the areas before. What I have learnt is that it pays to prepare for anything and be ready to change your plan because what you might expect to come across may be completely different once you get there. The trips so far that I have been a part of have mainly consisted of inshore topwater fishing for pelagics, shallow water stickbaiting, microjigging, fly fishing flats and a small amount of creek and estuary. While it is possible to fit all different styles of fishing into a trip I do find it helps to minimise on tackle and at least stick to some sort of plan. Fishing areas like Stanage Bay or the Whitsunday group offer so much “fishable” ground that it is quite easy to be overwhelmed by the options.

Tackle

What gear you take will come down to what fishing you are planning to do. As a bare minimum I take at least 3 setups light, medium and heavy. Light is a 4000 sustain on a 5-10kg 3zero spooled with 20lb braid for everything from throwing soft plastics in creeks to micro jigging shallow reef edges. Medium is a 10’000 sustain on a 30-50lb terez spooled with 50lb braid for mackerel, queenfish, coral trout and general medium sized stickbaiting . Last but not least is a 20,000 stella on a 7’9” pe10 Ocea Plugger for the big angry pelagics like giant trevally and large mackerel. This is a general starting point and I would always carry more for spares in case the unthinkable happens and you break a rod or a guide.

When organising what lures you are taking, if I could suggest one thing it would be to de-barb your treble hooks or run single hooks where possible. It is a personal choice but just take into consideration how much time, effort and money you are putting in to get there. Imagine doing months of research and putting hundreds or in some cases thousands of dollars into a trip of a lifetime only to have to cut it short by a treble getting stuck in your hand, foot or limb.

Having the confidence to take off on a long range journey might not be for everyone so it might pay to hang close and experiment in local waters first. Familiarise yourself with your equipment and always prioritise safety. Then once you’re more comfortable, slowly venture further each time and before you know it you’ll be off on a far away expedition. So next time you’re at work on a Tuesday either having smoko on a jobsite or gazing out the office window don’t be that person wondering how awesome it would be to get away on an adventure! Call your buddies, get on google earth and start planning the getaway of a lifetime!

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Andrew Mckinstray with a beautiful capricorn coast Giant Trevally

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This rugged looking old pikey bream took a 100mm stick bait intended for larger fish. Finding agressive fish on topwater in a rarely fished creek the exact reason for these trips

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Grey Mackerel

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Pop up tents store away easily and offer protection from the elements for a good night sleep

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Topwater strikes are enough to make anyone want to pack their bags and hit the road

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