Shark Bay – The Inner Sanctum
The Inner Sanctum is a dish best served by boat, with a few jerry’s strapped in to help you cover ground and lots of it, well that’s how we approach it.
After about 6 months from our last trip, once again the plans, the itch to get up there again were creeping in. The biggest hurdle this time was the plans of new jobs, career prospects and the reality that this year’s trip needed to be pinned to a long weekend, not a 7 to 10 day break.
Any regular traveller to shark bay will tell you that trying to put your eggs into one basket of a weekend that far out might not work out to well, and with a constant eye on the willy weather website for the 6 weeks leading in, comfort arrived about a fortnight out when the low easterly wind pattern that usually starts to develop in Easter rocked up in late May.
Finally arriving around midday Friday, we got everything setup and hit the water mid arvo and headed of for a quick look at one of our usual haunts not far from town, usually good for some big western yellows, good sized pink snapper that like roaming flatter pastures and chunky tailor.
Much to our disappointment, there wasn’t a lot to spruik about with only a couple of very small yellows, very few pink snapper, and some small tuskfish to hit the decks, we were left thinking if this is how one of our good indicator areas is going, are we in for flat weekend.
Launching at gentleman’s hours thanks to the time of the tides, we headed of into the distance across the bay to one of our further but most favourably spots for Pink Snapper in reasonably skinny water to only find two boats already working the area. With the tide starting to show it was on the in, we decided to not cramp the situation and move on. After some deliberation in the boat, much to my disgust, we headed off to a rocky point that we knew had some tidal influence on it and produced some ok fish the year before. What a change from last year, as we started to put casts into the flow of the point, it wasn’t long until Mikey and Brent had some solid 40cm plus slabs hitting the deck.
It then became pretty clear this trip the bream were going to be hard to tame, as it didn’t take long for them to go of the bite and shut down, we found some other entertainment in that area on some chunky whiting and an aggressive flatty, but within too long we were on our way to another area.
A spot that produced well for us 12 months earlier, the anticipation of what may arise this time from the caves, crevasses an weed beds was instant, what we encountered was a rampant school of mini GTs that would just not let any other fish near a lure, another location where we had once tamed some giant western yellows and solid tuskfish seemed to be a relocated day care for GTs, not that we were complaining.
The next plan was hatched to move out to deeper water nearby, an area we had eyeballed once before in search of some Pink snapper on Jig’s, and whatever else was lurking.
What was too happened over the next few hours, I would have never predicted to happen in this location, was that due to my overall lack of knowledge in the area, or was it the new way in which we approached it to last, I’m still unsure. I started off on the Damiki Backdrop Casting Jig 40g while the other lads went the placcies 5’ to 7’.
We pulled up to the shallower side of the area we wanted to work, deployed the kota and started to work along some good looking, but at times heavy structured ground in search of some elusive large shark bay pinks. After around 20mins or so we started to wonder again, are we just up here on the wrong conditions, then the first strike, mike was onto a mid-60’s pink, short hustle and it was in the net. Things slowly started to improve from here, and as the next hour unfolded, we started getting into mid-size pinks, Golden Trevally and the Odd Small GT, by small I mean half a metre, because every GT under 40kg is a rat thanks to the guys in Oman. Coming around one part of the area we were working is when things got interesting, mike all of a sudden gets a peeling run on the pe2 loaded caldia, and within no time is dusted, did we just loose the big pink we were hoping for, or was this something else.
After playing around with weight sizes on the Damiki Jigs, from 20g up to a 100g, it become very clear that 40g was the ideal setup in the 6-8m of water we were fishing, and the retrieve for both the placcies and the jigs come down to the basic hop hop an drop. We’d stumbled across the biggest school of goldens I’d personally encountered in my few trips to the bay, and there was metre fish to be had in here and they wanted it of the bottom. Once we had established the pattern our weekend just went from ok to outright awesome in the space of 5 mins. It was on, after a good tussle I had my first good size Golden on the decks, stoked to say the least, hungry for more, you bet.
About 5 mins later after a few small hook-up’s on Pinks, it would be on again, but in dramatic fashion, both Mike an myself had the double hooked up, you beauty, oh no, they both went in opposite direction to each other and were seeing who could take the most pe2, after a short decision it was decided to chase mike first, he had less line, then after recouping some of his spool, we had to get hot after mine as I was getting unloaded, but as we did this, the fish turned, and went totally opposite direction’s again, take 2, fighting over the kota pedal, running back and forth from front deck to back, we soon had mine in, at around mid-80 cm’s I was chuffed an worn out the same time, then Mikey finally got his to the surface and the first metre golden would grace the decks, over the side with mine and out with 7D for pics.. what a beast at 106cm.
We’d have a bit of a quiet spell for the next half an hour, landing only a handful of small pinks again, but myself and Brent were determined, we were getting a metrey as well. It was at the time we noticed the tide started swing and go out, and with late arvo sun starting to get down, the school would fire up into a frenzy. I think it was after getting dusted 4 times in a row I wasn’t giving up, I will get one, from the shortest of hops, bang, I’d hooked up to a fish that didn’t put on the after burners like the others, but just stayed down and pumped power, after a good tussle of short but very powerful bursts, we’d make head way and start turning him up, from the depths we could see another large golden coming up looking every bit a metre as well.
Not only I had just landed my PB Golden Trev on a Damiki backdrop jig, it was my bucket list fish of the 1m plus at 103cm, and to do it where I did, after chasing them further north I was just quietly a little stoked.
After this there was only one job left, Brent, here’s my jigrod, get em. As we started to lose light, the backdrop jigs were coming into their own against the placcies, and before I knew it the lads had the lid of my jig box and we’re going for broke. After a few failed tussles, we finally managed to back one out on the outboard and Brent was into it, quietly disappointed he’d missed out on the metre mark, he was still chuffed and worn out from battling his new pb of a nudging 80 Golden on the deck.
After the antics of day two’s afternoon, we weren’t all that sure if the initial plans layed out for day3 could come to level of what we had achieved the day prior. As we set of from the ramp to our first location over 10nm away, we quickly spotted a small school of tuna busting up and raced on over and that was pretty much it, one hook up, a certate almost spooled, game over. Of we set back on course to our first location, usually a great spot for large tailor, we were back on the thought train of what is going on this weekend, not a tailor to be seen, so of we moved again.
We still had not cracked a real beast of a bream yet like last year’s trip, so we headed on to an area we knew was good for good for large bream as well the powerhouse bluespot tuskfish.
Pulling up way short of where we needed to be and coming in quiet on the kota trying not ruin the last chance of the trip at a big yellow, I threw in tight against the reef ledges, giving my Pontoon21 cablista a few quick jerks an pause, it was on, in plain view through aquarium clear water we saw a big yellow come from its cave, grab the jerk bait and cut loose on the reef flat.. My first two casts at the last spot of hope went 46 and 44 and that would be it, they shut up shop on us again.
Akin to last year, our beloved tuskfish wouldn’t bite so we moved on to our second favourite pinky flat. Once again to our amusement, the big fish weren’t holding, but we did get stuck into a few around the 40cm mark, saw some good size yellows that just couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
We decided we’d head to a new area and explore as it was getting to the middle of our last day, about half way to where we wanted to head I spotted some leaping bonito working some bait and thought we might as well have a crack, see what else might be in there. As we pulled up I took a look at the Sounder and realised we were about to embark on more than a few leaping bonito, a quick look over the side and it was clear, snapper everywhere. Our initial thoughts were we’d come across a spawning school, but it was nothing more than a feeding frenzy as fish broke up around us for the next few hours.
As we descended Damiki Back drop jigs, and different placcies, the size of the pinks started of small, around 25-40cm being the norm, as we persevered the size of the fish began to increase, getting up into the 40 to mid-50 region. Using the 100g backdrop at this stage to try get past the rats sitting mid water, I would come up solid on what I hoped would be massive pink, using a slow pitch jigging action I was onto something with some serious grunt, after a few tense runs and some real hard pulling power we got out first site at one of the biggest tuskfish I’ve seen to date, after some tense moments with net we’d have one of the most slipperiest fish you could ever try an hold up for pic. At 62cm I’d grabbed my second PB for the weekend on a Damiki Jig and couldn’t be happier.
After the elation of seeing the tuskie, it wasn’t long until the boys raided the backdrop collection again and went nuts on the snapper. The retrieve was simple as the bite was hot, small jigs of the bottom, quickly releasing the jig to fall with a 2-3 second pause. As we slowly drifted through, we’d start getting in better sizes with a few fish getting into the 60-70cm bracket, it’s always hard to take a heap of photo’s on a session where you struggle to put the rods down so we’ll finish up with boys on the best of a double of hook up.
Now the 9-12 month wait to return.
By Corey House – WA Damiki Field Staff