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Garry Smith FishTalk Tune in to ABC Radio's Garry Smith at his FishTalk web site for more local fishing news.

August 14, 2009

My Weipa Trip

Well Deb & I managed to fly up to Weipa last Friday afternoon for our remote fishing trip to the mighty Wenlock River.

After arriving at Weipa International Airport (a tin shed) we were picked up by some friends and drove the 50 ks north to a dirt landing on the river. We were ferried across to the mother ship, the Mantaray, which was moored in the river, at about 8:00pm that evening.

After unpacking / setting up fishing gear / downing a few beers etc…………we went to bed with all the excitement of a 17 year old school kid about to go on his first date. Not much sleep!!

Anyway, with all the chin wagging going on, catching up with the skipper (a good mate) and his wife, a late breakfast and an even later start to the fishing, we headed upstream. Our original plan was to travel about 1 hour up river and fish some rock bars on the high tide before venturing even further up to the fresh. These huge gulf rivers have massive tidal influences, and being a full moon, we had a run in tide of about 2 metres to contend with.

Needless to say we were about 2 hours late by this stage and missed the anticipated bite completely – we trolled a couple of rock bars several times for one small barra and a even smaller catfish. Hmmmm………..not good!

Another plan was to park the boats, walk some 600m to a tree lined lagoon that the skip had sourced from Google Earth. He had placed the co-ordinates into the GPS so was quite confident of our exploratory success – man, we were probably going to be the first ever to toss a lure into this remote waterhole teeming with monster barra (and a few crocks too).

WRONG!............couldn’t find the darn thing and after wandering around the bush for about 2 hours we decided to head back to the river and the comfort of our 3 tenders. Thank God that we had the hand held GPS, you would not like to get lost out there I can assure you.

We went further upstream, cast lures to fallen logs and snags in the river, caught a few fish and drifted back downstream to the mother ship.

The grand total for Debbie and my boat – 9 barra, 3 catfish and 1 sooty grunter – not bad, but still a bit disappointing having come so far and made all these exciting plans.

Day 2:

We were a bit more organized by now and after a much earlier rise / breakfast / re fuel / checking of crab pots etc we headed off downstream this time with the plan to fish the Ducie River this day.

The Ducie was about an hours travel downstream (both the Wenlock & Duce flow into the same huge tidal harbor) and is a favorite fishing location of mine having spent several weeks guiding up there with Capt. Kim on previous occasions.

The three dories met at the mouth, hatched a plan to fish “wherever” we liked but agreed that we would all meet back at this location at 3:30pm. This was just a safety precaution, something that must always be considered when fishing remote Cape York rivers.

Capt. Kim headed way upstream, Colin & Maree followed suite , while Debbie & I took a detour up a side creek to check it out. Well, not really – I had fished this mangrove lined creek on several occasions and had always had success of varying degrees.

We zoomed upstream, watched the bank side vegetation subtly change as salinity levels dropped, more and more snags were becoming exposed with the falling tide so we started to give it a go.

We were using 6” Leads Hijacker lures – a Cape York favorite of mine – they cast like a bullet, have strong buoyancy and can be “boofed” on the surface to give a realistic imitation of a barra strike on an unsuspecting bait fish. I was go glad that I was not born a mullet – they were being constantly harassed by hungry barra as the dropping tide shrunk their territory and they hug the backwaters and eddies behind logs for protection.

Cast a lure in the right sport, let it sit a second, twitch your rod sharply to make the boof sound – and hold on!

We motored upstream, casting away, catching fish, landing most but loosing a few too. But it did not matter up here, you know that there will be plenty more opportunities on the next snag, the next bend, the next gutter – this was fishing paradise and you become mesmerized by the action.

I’m not going to carry on with “blow by blow” descriptions – but suffice to say that Debbie & I landed 28 barra, 3 catfish and 1 jack. Not bad fishing I can assure you – and we probably lost another 15 or so to boot.

It was very happy fisherman indeed that headed back to the rendezvous point that afternoon and after catching up with our dear friends, a brief chat on who had caught what and it was back to the mother ship.

Now while we were gone we had the crab pots working – man the feed of succulent mud crabs that evening was a real highlight. I think I had 2 full bucks and downed it with a superb bottle of red to boot.


Next morning was somewhat of a strange start. We only had a couple of hours to fish before commencing the tidy up and head back to Weipa and civilization, but Debbie & I were keen for a few more barra so off we went at about 6:30am. We needn’t to have bothered though as the high tide made it too difficult (in the time allowed) to travel to fish the right location under the conditions. We made a token effort but soon decided to head back and pack up. Not that it bothered us at all, we had just had a fabulous weekend, shared it with great company, in a magnificent wild location – and caught enough barra to satisfy me for a week or two Ha Ha!.

Thanks Kim & Nat of the Mantaray for a wonderful time, thanks Colin & Maree from the Weipa Caravan Park for your company and assistance with vehicles and travel and thank you Bruce for sharing my red……….let’s do it again sometime soon.

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