Scott-samson-fishIn autumn 2007 I went on my first long range fishing trip to Greenly Island, SA.

For a few years I’d been hanging to get out there amongst the wild blue chasing South Australia’s big kingfish and samson fish, so naturally when I got the opportunity to head out of Coffin Bay to Greenly Island and beyond on a three day long range charter I was pretty excited.

We boarded the boat after an awesome meal at the Coffin Bay pub to get some sleep for our big trip out to sea the next morning, but with all the excitement we spent most of the night up fishing and trying to catch live baits under the lights of the jetty in anticipation of some big kings and samson fish.  A couple of dedicated crew tried to sleep, but I couldn’t manage a wink at all.

Loading up ready to leave Coffin Bay for Greenly Island

Loading up ready to leave Coffin Bay for Greenly Island

The boat had hardly left the headland at the entrance to Coffin Bay when a flock of diving birds signalled the presence of southern bluefin tuna busting across the surface on baitfish.  Although the fish were initially shy, we didn’t have to travel far before a few of the reels screamed off.

long-trip-out

Steaming out

From then on small groups of terns signalled tuna busting from the surface as they fed on small baitfish. Half the fun was actually getting to the deep water grounds and you could have easily spent all day chasing chunky bluefin.  They were typical school bluefin size ranging from 15-22 kilograms in weight and were great fun on the smaller overheads and 4000 sized threadline reels.

We ran into plenty of bluefin tuna on the way out

We ran into plenty of bluefin tuna on the way out

We continued south towards Greenly Island, but as the day went on the wind strengthened to the point where we couldn’t seek safe anchorage inside Greenly Island and we were forced to make a slow dash to the northeast and hide in the lee of the mainland.  It had been a big day and you forget how tired you get after a rough day at sea.  Although most of us retired early a few stayed up and caught plenty of squid for the next day’s fishing.

greenly-anchorage

The 'somewhat' sheltered Greenly Island anchorage

Overnight we all prayed that the wind would back off, so it was a relief that when we woke to light northerly winds the next morning our enthusiasm was regained and we steamed south east after a quick breakfast.

It seemed like hours before we arrived at the deepwater reef.  The bottom looked awesome on the sounder as a number of large humps rose up out of a hundred metres of water. Clouds of colour on the sounder indicated the presence of thick schools of fish sitting just above the larger humps. By this time everybody was standing with their rods in hand rigged with 150lb leaders and 400g jigs.  A couple of the crew also had live bait rigs set up for the first drop.

The ship’s whistle sounded and everybody dropped to the bottom.  At first there was silence until everybody’s rigs reached the bottom, then all hell broke loose! The first hook up was greeted with plenty of excitement from fellow anglers and it was only seconds before the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth hookups followed quickly.  Even the live slimey mackerel and salmon got slammed.

The deck was alive with anglers hooked up!

The deck was alive with anglers hooked up!

The deck was soon alive with anglers running up and down trying to avoid tangles and see what we were messing with.  The first fish to the surface was a kingfish around 10kg and this was soon followed by more kings.  Just as we thought we’d only hit a school of kings up came the first of three quality samson fish that we managed to land between 20 and 30 kilograms in weight.  It was although the kingfish must have been schooling higher in the water column than the samsons as the first rods to go off captured kingfish.

A typical school sized kingfish that we managed to land!

A typical school sized kingfish that we managed to land!

A couple more drifts yielded more samsons and kings, however the hook ups didn’t come as easy as they did initially.  A few lost fish probably may have spooked the fish as well.  There must have been some really big hoodlum kings amoungst the smaller school fish as a few fish we had hooked on 80lb braid and 10kg of drag decided to head south back to the reef and there was very little you could do about stopping them. By the time we had drifted over the mark for the third time the action stopped and we couldn’t raise a big fish, except for the odd barracouta and nannygai.  It had been a good morning and all up we had landed about 6 kingfish and at least a dozen solid samsons.

We managed some ripper samson fish to 30kg

We managed some ripper samson fish to 30kg

We decided to retire for lunch and have a rest to prepare for the afternoon session.  Today was going to be our only chance to fish this mark as the weather had been forecast to deteriorate the next day.  There was a fair bit of tackle to re-rig and most anglers switched to the larger ‘Power’ jigs as the hook up rate on the larger fish had been pretty consistent on these.

After a couple of drifts we soon found the fish again and they hit hard for a couple of hours.  Once again multiple hook ups followed on each drift.  The size of some of the fish increased on the morning session and the biggest fish landed was estimated to be over 30kg.  Rat kings provided plenty of surprises in between samson hook ups and often nabbed the jigs on the way down.  A few smaller samsons with juvenile markings of 5-10kg in size also appeared amoungst the catch.  We released most of our catch only keeping a few kings and samsons for the table.  The rest were released as quickly as possible with an excellent chance of survival.  The deckhand was always quick to put the deck hose in the fishes mouth while it was being unhooked to keep it sustained until release.

Double and triple hook ups were common in the afternoon session

Double and triple hook ups were common in the afternoon session

As the sun started to drop in the sky and the bite began to slow we decided to call it quits and make the long journey back to the Greenly Island anchorage.  We were all exhausted, but we didn’t have a moment to spare as the anchorage is well known as one of the prime locations from long range hoodlum kingfish.  We caught plenty of live baits and fished into the night, but the kingfish failed to show.

Our last day was spent bottom bouncing and trolling for tuna around Greenly Island to escape the wind and we were well and truly satisfied with our trip. Over the three days of fishing we had caught dozens of good fish and also a mixture of quality bottom fish species such as nannygai and queen snapper, but by early afternoon it was time to head north again back to Coffin Bay to reflect on the events of the past few days.  We had persisted through rough weather and made the most of our opportunities in the time that we had and had experienced enough awesome fishing action to have us dreaming of the next South Australian long range charter.

A nice feed of nannygai

A nice feed of nannygai

If you're interested in heading off on such an adventure try contacting David Clayfield he runs 'Why Not' charters out of Coffin Bay or Port Lincoln in South Australia, you can check out his operation here at http://www.whynotfishingcharters.com.au/

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