by Jarrod Day
I could have quite easily slipped beneath the covers to count sheep but instead, took the opportunity to head out under the cover of darkness. Like many anglers, finding the time to get out is difficult with work and family commitments. So taking the opportunity to get out when you can no matter how many hours you have spare can be very rewarding.
During this evening, we managed two gummies booth around the same size, very rewarding.
The conditions were more than favourable, apart from the cold. Over past seasons we had researched our chosen location and with the correct tide, decided it was the place to head. The slack tide made it easy to anchor and as the tide turned, our selected baits were deployed. The tide was in full force after a few hours meaning our sinkers were upgraded from an easy eight ounces to a heavy 20.
Gazing at the glowing rod tips, one of the rods begin to bounce slowly before loading up as the reel began to howl. Andrew grabbed the rod in hand and hit the fish hard. In that instant the fish had other ideas, the more pressure Andrew put on, the harder the fish fought. Immediately, my rod took off and all we could do was look in awe as both rods imitated one another with solid head shakes. High fives and big smiles, we battled out the fish until it came time to get the net ready. Hooked-up and trying to help Andrew, it was nearly impossible.
Calmly, I asked if he needed a hand, and in that, he lent over the side of the boat, bear hugged his fish and said 'nup' as the fish hit the deck and went berserk. I, on the other hand looked quite surprised thinking it was a sizeable gummy of around 10 kilos, but after flicking on the deck lights saw a much larger specimen at my feet. With adrenalin pumping, I was still hooked up and began to put the final touches on my fish. Andrew provided the encouragement, but as the fish came to the surface I looked in disappointment as an Eagle Ray took off with another 50 metre run. The funny thing was we both thought the ray was in fact a gummy during the fight with the distinct headshakes and long runs, but as with all fishing, you can only ever guess as to what you’re hooked-up on. After severing my leader, we quickly flicked out some fresh baits and took a seat awaiting another big gummy.
Fishing the tides:
With all styles of fishing, putting together the pieces of the puzzle to work out certain traits of a location can be very rewarding.
By now, I have only a handful of locations that I fish on certain stages of the tide to yield the best results.
Aiding in getting the best results from your location I suggest you fish it during both the EBB and Flood tides.
Then, if you do get a fish, let’s say during the last two hours of the run out, go back next time and just fish the same tide. Sometimes you will manage another fish, and so the research sessions begin.
Along with fishing certain tides, sound your location looking for structure or known haunts where fish may school or pass by. This way you could end up with finding a better area that is more productive.
One such place of hard work is in the Western Entrance of Western Port. This location is near Buoy 16 and has been homage to many good catches of gummy sharks, early season snapper and big whiting. It fishes best during the first and last two hours of the run out tide. It is here I actually landed my PB Western Port snapper of seven and a half kilos. Fresh squid baits are ideal but try a fresh salmon fillet and you’ll be surprised.
Then there’s the other, happily named SUCCESS, it has again been a worthy location to fish during the first two hours of the run in tide. This location is a contour line which runs for about five kilometres up the channel.
It is locations like these that provide me with success after putting in the effort to figure them out.
Setting the standard:
Bait selection is a very important factor when gummy fishing. Without a doubt fresh is best, so utilise your time efficiently and gather some before your session. If you don’t have the time to do so then stick with cured eel fillet or the USA calamari.
During winter there are plenty of opportunities to gather quality baits, surf fishing can provide you with enough salmon to get you through the gummy season or a few sessions on the inner reefs in Port Phillip can provide you with a freezer full of calamari baits. Just remember, to get the best from the baits you have collected, freeze them in saltwater. This way, they won’t get freezer burnt and will stay in excellent condition. Once thawed, you’d think you just caught them.
Beating the bugs:
The only downfall to fishing at night is having your baits destroyed very quickly. At different times of the month, sea lice are prolific consuming your freshly rigged calamari within minutes. Even a tough piece of cured eel fillet can be devoured, leaving only the skin.
Sea lice live on the sea floor and when fishing for gummies your baits also need to be as close to the bottom as possible. I have heard many stories in the past about spraying WD40 onto your baits to discourage sea lice. If somebody sprayed my T-Bone with WD40 do you think I would eat it?
My method is much simpler than that, rather by attaching your sinker to a 70cm length of 10lb leader and tying it onto the clip of the Ezy Rig you’ll enable the current to lift your bait a little higher off the bottom. The lice will still have a go at it but not to the extent they can when it’s nearer the bottom.
The final touches:
With the closing stages of any battle, putting the final touches on landing your fish can be the most delicate of procedures that need to be 100 percent. The risk of loosing fish is much higher at night because of the lack of adequate lighting. The most important factor is to keep the deck of the boat clean and obstacle free. It is best to make sure all rods, knives, tackle boxes etc: are stored out of the way for when you’re attempting to net your catch or untangle a stingray. Regardless, take your time, be patient, tire the fish out and don’t get over anxious.
The last thing you need to do is to make one mistake and all you hard work will be for nothing.
Night time necessities:
Unlike the daylight hours, there are a few extra items a night angler needs to take along.
By this I mean simple things such as glow sticks to attach to the end of the rods to see when you’re getting a bite. Often the lights on the boat don’t show the rod tips and you’ll have to wait until a gummy is pulling line off the reel to know you’re hooked-up. Without a glow stick you can sometimes get a bite from a fish and not notice it. After 30 minutes or so you might check your bait only to find a baby gummy or rock cod hanging from your hooks. If you’re in search of bigger fish, you could have just waisted 30 minutes whereby a fresh fillet sitting below would have been a better option.
Headlamps are also very important; I don’t like using big bright spot lights glaring into the water. Not that it will deter gummies but it can suck quite a lot of juice from your batteries. A headlamp can be left on and when it’s time to put on a fresh bait or re-rig, you can have the light emitting right into your working area rather than casting a shadow from the spot lights behind you.
During the winter months it is extremely cold out on the water, so cold in fact that I’m almost putting myself off as I type this. But, nevertheless the fish are out there so make sure you take adequate clothing and a heater or sleeping bag to keep warm. I have almost fine tuned this to an art where I wear two pairs of tracksuit pants under a pair of Stormy Sea’s overalls, two jumpers, T-shirts and my Stormy Sea’s jacket, two pairs of socks, my Burke sea boots and of course a beanie. I might find it difficult to move around and look like the Michelin man but I am warm and I’m fishing.
Alternatively, small heaters can be taken but make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby; you don’t want to get into trouble.
Last of all is adequate food, like on all fishing trips you will get hungry and in the cold some hot food is the way to go. Thermos’s full of hot soup, a transportable BBQ for hot snags and a nice cup of coffee is the way to go.