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Brisbane River: February 2009 - Amazing Catch!


Terry H

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A lot of people have no doubt seen the impressive feat that we accomplished in December 2007, with a 2.6m (8’6â€) fork length bully being captured within the mouth of the Brisbane River. More astonishing for ourselves wasn’t just that we managed to hook such a shark in a river, but that we’d lost one of an equal size later that night! One year later and it was Ben Coley’s time to shine for The Bent Hookers; for in December 2008 we managed to repeat our successes from the previous year with an equally impressive 2.36m (7’9â€) fork length bull shark, securing victory for a 3rd year in a row.

On the back of these captures, we were contacted by Icon Films, a UK documentary company with regards to filming a documentary called River Monsters – Fresh Water Shark. This is a TV Series hosted by Jeremy Wade, an experienced angler who has travelled around the world and caught some of the most amazing species around. The concept behind the TV show River Monsters is one where Jeremy Wade investigates fishermen’s tales and then specifically targets the potential species in question to try and show some of the most amazing species lurking in the water worldwide.

Icon Films had contacted us with regards to filming a couple of night’s shark fishing, in a hope of capturing a large Bull Shark on film from the river. It didn’t take long to think of a location; Luggage Point near the mouth of the river! Now some anglers may recall me mentioning what a tough location this is to fish. Unlike a nice sandy beach, this location consists of a steep drop off to a very shallow sandy flat before a muddy bank. Both main features of this location are littered with hazards for fishing. A low-tide reconnaissance shows just a few of these underwater hazards that you have to deal with. First, the shallow bank houses some nice large rocks and concrete slabs covered in deadly barnacles eagerly waiting to slice not only your line, but your unprotected skin. Secondly is that drop off we’ve mentioned. Anglers familiar with our reports would know the significance of this structure as outlined in the throughout our Brisbane River Classic captures. I have also heard from anglers who have not been as lucky as we have, and lost fish as a result of being caught up on these submerged objects and possibly something on the steep drop off. If you thought the list of potential problems was long enough already and wonder why on earth anyone would fish it, the location gets even better! Visible in the pictures below is the proverbial icing on the cake; a nice rock bar with marker pole sticking out of the water to the left of our fishing location. The importance of this is a rather serious and potentially significant issue; you can’t let the fish run too far to the left, or you will lose it!

Click here for a Panoramic Image of Luggage Point

Shots to show how shallow it is: These ‘waves’ are caused from a boats wake in the middle of the river!

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So in late January, Ben and I got the opportunity to meet up with Jeremy Wade and the crew from Icon Films. Phone calls were made, schedules arranged; and we all headed down to Luggage Point for what we were hoping to be an extremely toothy encounter!

The crew for this adventure comprised of Jeremy Wade, and an Icon Films production team consisting of a cameraman, microphone/boom operator, producer and PR staff member with the addition of Ben Coley and myself.

Upon our arrival at Luggage Point, we made the slow bumpy trek across the often muddy ground to our camp site location only to see another fishing group with some half a dozen or more rods out! Our hopes dropped considerably, especially given the tight area as shown in the pictures above! Nevertheless, we didn’t want to disappoint the guys from Icon Films, and chose to set up further down the river towards the mouth, fishing at a location which we felt was ridiculously close to the pole and submerged rocks shown on the left side of the panoramic image. We knew any fish hooked would have to be hit hard with no allowance for the fish to run sideways.

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With the Texas Shark Fishing flag flying strong, we got down to business and started preparing the rods and baits for some shark fishing. It wouldn’t be for another couple of hours before baits were finally rowed out as filming multiple angles for each aspect meant a rather large amount of time went by in preparing baits for use. Once baits were ready we had to carefully plan the bait deployments in conjunction with the other fishing group in order to avoid tangling our lines and to also allow ourselves the best chance of landing any fish hooked.

The baits for this trip consisted of two decent sized freshwater eels. It was almost saddening to have to use them in the river, as we knew they would have made a prime sized bait for a more significant location like Moreton Island. Baits were rigged on a two hook trace consisting of J style hooks in the 14/0 and 16/0 sizes.

By the time we were ready to fish and had baits in the water, we knew there wasn’t much time left for fishing (maybe 6 hours), but these few hours was the exact tidal phase we have had previous success on. The group of guys fishing next to us managed to land a small 3-4 foot shark on one of their many combos. For us however, it was a particularly quiet night with nothing more than a couple of teeth marks in one of the baits.

After the first night of fishing, the original cameraman had to return to Melbourne for other work, however the rest of the crew remained. With limited bait supplies, we pulled out the remaining stock piles which consisted of a stingray and an eel.

For the second night we were able to fish our preferred location and deployed the baits out with more optimism and belief in being able to hook and then land a shark. After deployment we set up for the night and shared more fishing stories before we put our heads down and rested our eyes for the night. Unfortunately, despite the frequent application of insect repellent, the only bites we received were from the never ending attack of the mosquitoes. Come sunrise, it was time to bring the rods in and scramble home in preparation of work that same day!

It was at this point that the majority of the Icon Films crew left to return to England leaving just Jeremy and James (the cameraman). By the time night three rolled around we were out of our preferred baits and opted to pick up some fresh fish from the local fish markets. On the back of my advice, Jeremy picked up a few fresh whole mullet, and the inclusion of a snapper to ‘try something different’. These two baits were rigged up on much smaller rigs, consisting of 10/0 and 14/0 J style hooks. As things were getting a little more desperate, we decided to row out three lines as opposed to just two to give ourselves the best chance possible of hooking a fish. A few hours after we had set up and long fallen asleep, Jeremy’s sole rig went off on a short run before stopping. The line felt very light to the touch, so we knew the sinker (a local rock) had definitely been cut. The line looked to be holding steady however, so we left the bait out hoping for another hit.

Time passed, and we received no further hits so we decided to bring it in and inspect the bait for damage. As Jeremy brought it in, we noticed the line never got any heavier and by the time I let the end of the monofilament slip between my fingers we had figured out why there were no further hits: We’d be cut off! Given the rather light rig we had been using and the sheer amounts of mono in the water, it was difficult to tell that we’d been cut off; especially when the line didn’t move in the current!

We bunkered back down and got some more shut eye before being rudely awoken by a Tiagra’s drag going off! You beauty we thought as we started to turn our heads towards the rods! The euphoria was cut extremely short, as by the time we turned our heads to the fishing rods we had realised what was pulling line off. By this stage the second Tiagra started to go off and our worst fears had been realised. This was no fish. This was the mighty TSHD Brisbane, an 84m long dredger that had begun to dredge out the front of the BP Oil Wharf. Not surprisingly we quickly surrendered and some line was lost along with both rigs. Thankfully for us they were only smaller ($20-30) rigs!

Night four resembled the prior nights, with the exception of my Tiagra 80WA which was left at home due to requiring a respooling. Frequent fishing at Luggage Point, along with the Dredger stealing some line had taken its toll on the remaining line capacity. Like the nights prior, there were no significant hits and we slept undisturbed until the morning.

When night five rolled around, I was understandably loath to go. For the previous four nights over a two-three week period we had caught nil, barely registering a click on the reels or a tooth mark on the baits. We could have easily called it quits and left Jeremy Wade to go home empty handed , and reluctant as I was, I rang Ben and we headed down with more camping gear than fishing gear in an attempt to at least ‘give it a crack’.

The night started as any before it had. I quickly prepared the mullet baits, using three zip ties and a single 10/0 hook on a light-weight PVC coated trace Jeremy made up based on my advice before jumping in the kayak and taking the baits out into the river channel. We proceeded to set up the fly-screen tent, inflated the mattresses and lay down to sleep. It was cool and the odd mozzie or two hung around but like the previous four nights before, Jeremy Wade was relentless and insisted on resting next to the rods.

At around 2 o’clock in the morning we were awoken by a short burst and an excited Jeremy. Jeremy proceeded to tell us about how the rod bent a couple of times before a small and rather slow run took place. “Finally!†I thought, we have something interested in the bait, the only question in my mind was “how big?â€

James had fired up the camera and was actively filming, waiting and hoping to finally hear that beautiful sound of the Tiagra’s spool in motion. Then it occurred again for all of us to see and hear. It wasn’t fast, nor was it long; but it was a distinctive run. Jeremy was noticeably excited and eagerly awaiting my instructions on what should be done. We hovered around the rod to watch the line leave the reel inch by inch; foot by foot in an extremely slow and erratic run. This wasn’t a hit-and-run job like some sharks, rather this was something toying the bait. Many a fish has been lost by inexperienced anglers (ourselves included!) in not waiting for the opportune time to strike. “Just let it take it†was my advice. Advice which is undeniably hard to follow when you know something is swimming off with your bait!

We let this fish have its way with the bait for what felt like an eternity before it finally appeared to pick up the bait and run. “Ok Jeremy lets go mate†I instructed. This was it; we were onto our fifth night of fishing after four fruitless efforts and it all came down to this moment. We held our breaths nervously as Jeremy picked up the rod and pushed the lever up to strike before proceeding to run back in an attempt to stretch the mono and set the single 10/0 J style hook deep into the fishes mouth.

In following this same procedure in the past, we have been stopped dead in our tracks by line screaming off the reel under pressure. This time however, there was a distinctive pause.

The moment of truth had arrived. “Anything?†I ask.

“Ungh. Yep†was Jeremy’s response as he leant back on the rod.

I quickly gathered the Black Magic Equaliser kit and strapped Jeremy in, all while watching him struggle to hold onto a rod that, while not having drag peeling off, was clearly a handful for him to hold without a harness.

Jeremy’s tussle with this fish was quite a spectacle to watch. He wasn’t able to straight drag it in with ease, nor was there line flying off the reel. Instead, Jeremy was engaged in a tug-o-war between himself and this fish. Low gear was engaged and visibly shown for the camera; and in doing so the fight tipped in Jeremy’s favour, much to the fish’s disgust. After a while Jeremy had seemingly won the battle and started to drag this fish in at speed. In the midst of this battle I remembered the rig we were using: as mentioned earlier, we had run out of constructed rigs so we decided to use one of Jeremy Wade’s lighter rigs with the much smaller and more lightweight hooks. I looked at Ben, and without saying a word we both knew what the concern was and we hoped, without saying a word, that the hooks didn’t straighten. Once the fish was away from any known structure and that we’d won the battle, I instructed Jeremy to lighten up on the drag to help prevent the line being cut on some snags and secondly to ease my concerns over the hooks!

It didn’t take long before we had the first glimpse of the fish. Ben and I ran out to greet it, all the while thinking “what the hell is this thing?†I remember honestly thinking we’d caught something strange, like a dugong! Thankfully for us this big fat ball of flesh with the single round paddle like fin sticking up wasn’t a dugong. Once I realised what it was, there were a few ‘Oh my god!’ and ‘Holy F***!’’s thrown around in sheer amazement of the catch. We quickly moved it through the shallows by the trace until the fish bottomed out and proceeded to take a few happy snaps, along with a few shots for the video camera.

What we had caught wasn’t what we’d come down to catch, nor was it directly what Jeremy Wade was after. One thing is for certain, this fish was definitely a River Monster! We had caught a rather large Queensland Grouper, a species typically found offshore and much further north than Brisbane. This majestic species of fish is quite a rare fish and is listed in the protected species list by the local fisheries. The final measurements for this large Queensland Grouper went 6ft to the tail, and approximately 4ft 3in in girth! I will never forget the incredibly thick and sharp spines along the top of the fish, or the mouth full of small sharp needle like ‘teeth’.

The next task was to release this behemoth! What do you do with a large fish that has a blown up stomach and sitting on a mudflat? Well a quick phone call was made to several people in order to find someone awake that would know roughly where to poke. Turns out not everyone answers their phone at 3am in the morning! Thankfully for us there was a mate out there willing to take the call, although he was probably out fishing too! We used our large Iki Jimi to help release some of the air, before pushing it out into deeper water. Remarkably this fish was still kicking strong after sitting in the shallows for a while. We manoeuvred this rare and endangered fish into deeper water before watching it power off back to the depths from which it came.

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I have seen reports of some pretty special fish being caught, and didn’t think I would be involved in the capture and release of such a beautiful fish from our humble Brisbane River!

If you’re interested in watching some video from the capture, you can see a small snippet here:

http://animal.discovery.com/videos/river-monsters-gigantic-queensland-grouper.html

Or you can watch the full doco River Monsters – Freshwater Shark.

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wesfish wrote:

an absolute cracker of a read mate!!!! what a monster by catch :woohoo: lol magnificent beast B)

I totally agree! What an awesome by-catch for sharks :woohoo:! That is a level of fishing beyond my thought processes, I wouldn't even know where to begin!

Congratulations, and a great report to boot!

Ryan.

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Terry that is an absolutely amazing story and the fish is one of the most specacular animals I have ever seen.

To have that in our river is great.

But I really do have one tiny little quirk, the fish is on dry land and

please dont tell me they are rocks it is sitting on.

How did it get there, dragged over the rocks? lifted?, left there till the tide went down?

there is a gentle gradient there you could have easily

kept the fish in some water to support its internal organs.

I am not some screaming greeny but really mate.. come on.

cheers

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i saw that show here. good show. awesome catch. that jeremy wade guy cracks me up. he hooked a large catfish in another episode and didnt have leverage to fight him on his side of the river. so what does he do. swim across the river to the other side with rod ahead of him. and mind u this was not a peaceful meandering river but a full rushing river. i give him props.

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apoklyps60 wrote:

i saw that show here. good show. awesome catch. that jeremy wade guy cracks me up. he hooked a large catfish in another episode and didnt have leverage to fight him on his side of the river. so what does he do. swim across the river to the other side with rod ahead of him. and mind u this was not a peaceful meandering river but a full rushing river. i give him props.

What for?

Terry had to basically swim out and put the bait in the fishes mouth for him :cheer:

but the show would be good to watch :)

cheers

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I've been waiting for this report Terry, congratulations on a great fish and what a well worded report. Its a pleasure to read a report with paragraphs and all manner of grammatical nuances.

I can remember the first report and the backlash you received at the time for not showing the pics. All in all its been worth the wait.

Top effort

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fishing_hardcore wrote:

Terry that is an absolutely amazing story and the fish is one of the most specacular animals I have ever seen.

To have that in our river is great.

But I really do have one tiny little quirk, the fish is on dry land and

please dont tell me they are rocks it is sitting on.

How did it get there, dragged over the rocks? lifted?, left there till the tide went down?

there is a gentle gradient there you could have easily

kept the fish in some water to support its internal organs.

I am not some screaming greeny but really mate.. come on.

cheers

I'm not going to lie, and as such I certainly wont tell you its sitting on rocks and certainly not dry land.

Theres a small drop there from that bumpy mud, A lot of those shots have the fish in a foot of water, and the fish was only held up in the shallower stuff before returning to deeper water.

This wasn't an buggered fish mate, and I certainly didn't see or hear about any dead gropers floating around our humble river.

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fishing_hardcore wrote:

Terry that is an absolutely amazing story and the fish is one of the most specacular animals I have ever seen.

To have that in our river is great.

But I really do have one tiny little quirk, the fish is on dry land and

please dont tell me they are rocks it is sitting on.

How did it get there, dragged over the rocks? lifted?, left there till the tide went down?

there is a gentle gradient there you could have easily

kept the fish in some water to support its internal organs.

I am not some screaming greeny but really mate.. come on.

cheers

maybe he should of wrapped it in cotton wool before releasing it to :dry:

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Terry H wrote:

fishing_hardcore wrote:
Terry that is an absolutely amazing story and the fish is one of the most specacular animals I have ever seen.

To have that in our river is great.

But I really do have one tiny little quirk, the fish is on dry land and

please dont tell me they are rocks it is sitting on.

How did it get there, dragged over the rocks? lifted?, left there till the tide went down?

there is a gentle gradient there you could have easily

kept the fish in some water to support its internal organs.

I am not some screaming greeny but really mate.. come on.

cheers

I'm not going to lie, and as such I certainly wont tell you its sitting on rocks and certainly not dry land.

Theres a small drop there from that bumpy mud, A lot of those shots have the fish in a foot of water, and the fish was only held up in the shallower stuff before returning to deeper water.

This wasn't an buggered fish mate, and I certainly didn't see or hear about any dead gropers floating around our humble river.

only mud cool, I didn't really want to make that post but if I was sussed on it guaranteed others would be, so I thought I would throw a query in.

Only one of the fish pics worked for me.

But really that its a great read, I'm blown away that a fish like that is living amongst industrial structure and industrial traffic.

Looks bloody fat and healthy too.

cheers

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