Night fishing in the estuary or salt lagoon is my preferred style of fishing and there have been two opportunities over the last few weeks. Wednesday morning from midnight to 4am three weeks back and then again on the same night at the same time a week later. The first night was a bit of a disaster but the second went well.

Originally I started fishing at night for several reasons. I was disabled and after a few hours of loading bait and retying hooks and terminal tackle I became tired and almost a dribbling idiot and didn’t like having to be around people. Daytime fishing often requires that the fish be seduced with bait that looks like a food source and then they usually have to be hit and hooked. I do fish in the day at times but prefer to drop self-berleying, smelly baits like Fisho (chicken guts) into the water and lay back on a soft chair or grassy bank. When I feel well I play the rod/s and when I get tired the bait does the work. Obviously the main fish caught at night in this manner are bream and a rare flathead.

The gear I use now was set up to fish from Veteran’s Hall Wharf at Saratoga. There are holes in the wharf and pylons which will allow the handles of the rods to be dropped into them. I used to fish most of the night with three rods and a hand reel. The wharf at Veteran’s hall had a fast current running past it and didn’t get much more than a few pickers when I started fishing there one winter’s night. After many packets of bait and weeks of consistent fishing the fish had worked out they could get a feed off that wharf and I had figured the moon and tide cycles they preferred so it became a reliable spot. It never produced a lot of fish but the individual fish caught there were large.  Apart from the bream, and occasional flathead there were a lot of blue-swimmer crabs, eels and catfish at different times of year. One year there was a big school of Mulloway with members up to 40cm long if I remember. They almost leap onto the hook. Nice eating!

The two rods I built while living there were built to be dropped into the slots and holes in the wharf. One of those is the one I am having problems getting the thread art onto and is described back a few pages. It was designed to be a good general spinning and estuary fishing rod with a slightly shorter handle so it wouldn’t stick in the holes and would sit comfortably on the reel.

The second rod was a very soft and spongy rod built to be pliable when a bream ran off with the bait. Quick description. 3 wrap, fiberglass, slow-taper, sanded blank, 2.6m long. It too has a shorter handle than normal use would dictate. It was a bit of a fluke that it worked so well off the wharf but now it is a bit soft for some things and the handle being short means that a hard battle with a fish will entail clinging to the bare blank for leverage. I took it and one other on the second Wednesday.

The spot I found to fish the other Wednesday was a difficult one. There was a big rocky area with plenty of oysters and boulders out from the shore. Behind that was weedy but with a nice sandy channel between them. The bream would inevitably either take off into the weed or drag the line over the boulders. The final reason behind choosing such a spot is not that I am a masochist but the simple fact that I have only a mobility aid as transport. It is all about range!

With the folding chair and knapsack on the back

With the folding chair and knapsack on the back

The scooter is set up by hanging the knapsack behind the seat using the folded-back arms of the seat. A folding chair in a sack is hung from the head rest. A bucket with the bait and towels and drink bottles is placed between my feet and the rods are clutched in my left hand with the soft tips hanging to the rear so they don’t snag on anything. My left arm cannot straighten enough to reach the handle bars so it just flops about and is perfect for carrying shopping, giving idiots the bird, waving hi or carrying the rods.

The second rod I used that night is a big 7ft graphite, two piece, designed with reinforced guides for heavy rock spinning. I can’t wait to get my other rod finished. The two I am using are both awkward for the type of fishing I am doing. This spot was under trees and required horizontal casting as well.

Working more than one rod in a spot like that takes fishing into the world of an industrial pursuit. You need to keep the bait active in the water and the pickers are hitting it constantly. The gear is being nudged and dragged into the rocks and weeds constantly and much of the night is spent retying the terminal gear.

I started with a channel rig. The main line on the heavy spin rod was 12lb so it could be muscled through weed and not tear when dragged over rocks. That worked well. The leader on both rods was 6lb. The main line on the softer rod was 6lb and although I lost some gear it seemed to be enough to pull a bream free of the weeds when they finally started biting properly. I use Schneider brand line. It seems to take a beating and after years of using it I guess I am comfortable with it.

The first baits were large nuggets of Fisho. The idea is to berley the water and get the larger fish excited by exciting the pickers. I sat for the first hour and watched the rod tip jiggle and pull. The hooks were lost in the weed the next couple of times.

The rig was changed to a paternoster rig with suicide hooks and cast back out. The big clumps of slimy bait were too big for normal fishing and the pickers spent another hour while I replaced hooks and reloaded large smelly lumps of bait for the pickers to play. Even though I had been sitting down as much as I could my body started to stiffen up and I tired badly. Big baits were replaced with small baits and they hit them hard. Four legal bream in a few minutes and (surprisingly) one very nice flathead as I pulled in the final bait to finish the night. He must have seen the bait moving against the full moon.

I was tired enough to be stumbling over my feet. The reels were removed and placed in the backpack. The chair back into its sack. The last tiny bits of bait were thrown to a spot where a water rat had appeared earlier. It was a battle to clean the fish. I was on my knees on a rocky shore and normally my knees are painful even on good surfaces. The fish were gutted and the rocks washed down. Man, I hate the smell of bream guts on my hands.

I almost fell onto the seat of the scooter. It is a comfy ride when one is tired and hurtin’ so the trip home was pleasant enough. The magpies and water birds were all calling and the dribs-and-drabs of traffic had that early morning urgency of people heading off to work.

Arriving home I left all the rods in the garage. The fish came into the house and were de-scaled in the sink under fresh water. I don’t care if that is not how you do it! The towels went into the washing machine and the reels and bucket were washed until the fishy, fisho smell was more like clean and soapy. It all had to be done before I lay down. I had pushed myself hard to get through and there was every chance the next morning and maybe next few days were going to be bad. The fish were placed in bags and frozen for the same reason. It might be a few days before I could pull myself together enough to cook.

And so it was. The next morning was bad. I lay in bed, wracked in pain, and wished I was dead. All that day. The next morning was the same but I managed to have a shower and that loosened me up a lot. The next few days were tough but not unduly so. And I caught five fish in a spot nobody else would touch. At night!

I am still putting off anything that might cost me much effort but generally feeling good and thinking relatively clearly. The bream reek when they thaw out but they have a specially nice taste once they are grilled. Everything is such a big effort in this body. Sometimes though, it feels great when you win some!

1 comment to Fishing

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