By Eoin Corroon
In the last 6 months of 2016, my wife and I busied ourselves organising the Sea Sherpa North Shore Challenge based in Portland, Australia. The goal was to put on Victoria's only dedicated offshore kayak fishing competition over the Australia Day long weekend. Offshore kayak fishing is a growing sport in Australia and less popular in the Southern States of Australia because the weather isn't as warm.
Lo and behold, Australia Day 2017 was upon us before we knew it and we had 35 anglers turning up in Portland, Australia, most of them opting to take the Friday off to meet other anglers and fish over a four day weekend. What could be better?
We were up bright and early at 5a.m. on the morning of the competition to sign entrants out on to the water. Cracking weather conditions and the array of brightly coloured kayaks lined up on the sand and in the water made for stunning views. All in all, there were 18 Hobie kayaks, 7 Stealth kayaks, 5 Viking Reloads and a few other makes thrown in the mix.
When 6.30 a.m. came around 35 keen fishos hit the water in a range of pedal and paddle kayaks. Some opted for a trip out to Julia Reef while others raced to the Anchorage, situated about 20 kilometers offshore. By the way, hats off to some entrants who paddled between 200km and 300km over the course of the weekend - a solid effort!
A couple of yakkers decided to play the numbers game on the reef and try their luck on the snapper. Soon after, word came over the radio that one of the entrants had hooked a tuna and needed to borrow a gaff from another entrant.
There were scattered catches of snapper and salmon (kahawai) from those on the reef with one entrant, in search of some larger models, having already sorted through over 60 salmon for his team. Others reported a struggle to find the fish but better conditions on the water after a passing squall.
The time ticked by and the announcements over VHF revealed that there wasn't long to go. Some of the guys began to hit the beach with reports relayed that another entrant had hooked up and was on his way to Tasmania! As the entrants rolled in, it was clear that it had been a tough day's fishing. For some, the numbers game on the reef had been the wise decision, while the gamble to go out wide for pelagics and glory made for a bittersweet tale that led to victory.
The Individual Challenge Award and Best Catch Award went to Gabriele Meoni, who caught a 98cm Southern Bluefin Tuna from his Stealth fibreglass kayak.
Second prize went to Peter Ritchie who caught two snapper and a salmon, showing that a large pelagic fish wasn't a prerequisite to success.
Third prize went to Nelson Rouw who caught two snapper and four Hobie Adventure Island rudders. Unfortunately the rudders were not on the accepted species list.
Portland man David Webb used his local knowledge of the reefs to nab fourth place and Luke Easton took fifth place, much to his own surprise.
Special mentions to Jordan Rouw and Shane Esmore for their cracking catches on the day. Jordan landed a 19.4kg tuna having paddled 40km on the day and Shane landed a 23kg model as well as a kingfish. Unfortunately both Jordan and Shane did not return to shore within the competition window.
Needless to say, most of the caravan park was eating and sleeping well that night. All in all, we couldn't have hoped for a better weekend of weather and a better outcome, although it did feel weird to be on the beach instead of out on the water participating.
Some of the entrants have already booked their camping spots for Australia Day 2018 so we'll be back to it planning the next one.