Sport

On board among the predators

CLEAN HOOK-UP: One of the plentiful mackerel safely landed to keep for a feed. Many other hard-fighting fish were released to fight another day in the shark-infested waters.
CLEAN HOOK-UP: One of the plentiful mackerel safely landed to keep for a feed. Many other hard-fighting fish were released to fight another day in the shark-infested waters. David Lems

QT sports editor and fishing fanatic David Lems recently enjoyed a rare opportunity to test the incredible waters off remote Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory. Here's why it was an aquatic adventure worth sharing.

FROM the first cast to the final explosive feeding frenzy, this fishing trip was one to savour.

Spending a day in the vast, remote, predator-laden offshore waters around Groote Eylandt left me anxious to return.

The surface was bubbling with aquatic life within minutes of leaving the dock.

Birds were feasting on the baitfish, along with larger fish lurking below.

It didn't take long to find somewhere to attract a hit in the largely untouched Gulf of Carpentaria waters.

RELAXING BETWEEN STRIKES: Enjoying the comforts of fishing in a safe boat set up for offshore work.
RELAXING BETWEEN STRIKES: Enjoying the comforts of fishing in a safe boat set up for offshore work. David Lems

My opening cast was met with a thrilling strike.

Although failing to secure the hook-up, the excitement levels were quickly elevated to a new level.

It was a school of queenfish that ignited the early anticipation.

Heading further up the coastline on a Groote Eylandt Sportfishing charter, the next feeding frenzy was even larger with tuna the reward.

Tuna fight hard, especially when seizing a spinner flicked in their path. They simply can't resist when schooling in big numbers turning the surface black.

Landing such a spirited challenger provided more optimism of what was to come, continuing the aquatic adventure.

Working off a rocky ledge close to an island headland provided more, almost immediate, action.

The queenies and trevally were eager to nail the lure cast into their territory. However, most hook-ups were met with a hungry shark circling nearby and ready to snatch your catch.

With so many options, the decision was to again venture on.

Having already made some satisfying hook-ups, it was time to journey offshore in the search of bigger predators like Spanish mackerel, cobia and perhaps a billfish.

PRIZE CATCH: Among as many mackerel as he wanted to battle, angler David Lems caught a beautiful-eating coral trout.
PRIZE CATCH: Among as many mackerel as he wanted to battle, angler David Lems caught a beautiful-eating coral trout.

While the highly sought-after billfish failed to take my many offerings, the mackerel action was exhilarating.

I can't recall a session longer than 10 minutes where I didn't get a strike.

Being out in such a vast expanse of water was a bit like fishing off Fraser Island. But Groote Eylandt fishing offers so much more, with a diversity of quality species.

Groote Eylandt is 600 square kilometres larger than the Queensland island familiar to many anglers. The Northern Territory offshore waters are a gold mine of opportunity.

At one point, both lines spun the reel with two barracuda smashing the lures trolled about 35 kilometres from the island's South Point.

Mackerel over 7kg continued to be the major sport before we spent some enjoyable time working an offshore pinnacle.

Lures returned without a fish often carried teeth marks of huge predators checking out what was dragged across the surface.

The higher level approach was changed to bottom bashing with more action within minutes of getting your jig close to the deeper-lurking fish.

Up came several reef species, including a prized coral trout, fishing on a boat called Warnindilyakwa Arrarra (meaning East Wind).

Other regular catches were a variety of cods, moses perch, parrot fish and spangled emperor.

I counted more than 14 species while working a productive offshore shoal.

Watching the sounder confirmed what was suspected below - large clusters of fish staying close to safer cover on the ocean floor.

But it was the mackerel while trolling on the surface which provided the final adrenalin rush.

Preparing to head back, the sight was something to behold. A large mackerel took the lure and started jumping spectacularly out of the water.

It quickly became apparent why.

Three sharks were chasing the hooked fish.

As the shark fins broke the surface, the mackerel was devoured.

Unfortunately, I was unable to wind fast enough to land another hard-fighting fish. But seeing the top of nature's aquatic food chain at its best was worth the 150km round trip, completing an unforgettable day in the Gulf.

Next Saturday: The charter operator with one of the best jobs in the world.

Topics:  fishing outdoor-living