I have been lucky enough to catch and mostly release some sizeable fish on my kayak and therefore have my own, sustainable bragging list off fish I caught over the years from Maniyak. Some have totally surprised me and others I targeted successfully.
No doubt, that my recent run of catch and mostly release of the pelagics has been my best run of catching big ones, that didn’t get away.
Pelagics are a group of fish that stay in the pelagic zone in the ocean. This means, that they are always on the move, following the warm water currents from up north to wherever the pelagic baitfish like slimy mackerel or sardines may feed on plankton.
In northern New South Wales, that happens around late summer. This is the time I am waiting for. Larger pelagics include the billfish species like marlin and swordfish, which rarely come closer to ocean shores. They prefer the feeding grounds around the continental shelf.
While ‘smaller’ pelagics like Spanish and Spotted Mackerel and several tuna species do frequently visit nearby inshore reefs and bays if the warm current runs that way. It’s not uncommon, that fishermen caught large Mackerel and Tuna of headlands around Australia’s shores. Just gotta be at the right place at the right time.
Up to date, my biggest and heaviest fish I landed on my kayak was a Longtail Tuna. I caught 10 tuna altogether, this one was 115 cm long and as heavy as a bag of flour. It took me over an hour to land this huge fish.
Every time I thought he’s just about to give up, he went for yet another speedy getaway. These fish are solid and pure muscle and it’s a question on who tires out first. Yet, so much fun to catch. Not to mention a tasty meal or two, either fresh and raw as sashimi or fried in a hot pan.
Whilst writing this blog, I set out fishing again. Another huge tuna was caught, measuring 130 cm.
As I don’t have scales with me, I estimated the weight at around 30 kg.
This Longtail Tuna was almost impossible to lift into my kayak, it took a lot of effort and skill.
Filleting this fish took just as long as landing it.
Over the years, I caught a fair amount off Mack-tuna, which don’t get as big, but fight just as hard as all tuna species.
Their distinctive markings on their upper body make them easy to distinguish. Their meat is as red as cow meat and therefore not so popular as a table fish.
There are two main targeted Mackerel species around Australian shores.
The Spotted Mackerel, or spotties, may reach the meter mark. The fingerprint sized spots on their shiny silver skin shine like an arrow in clear waters. They are one of my favourite table fish.
Easily filleted, white soft, tasty meat and loaded on Omega 3. Ideal to pan fry or rolled raw in sushi rolls, yum.
The Spanish, or King Mackerel, surely is the king of the mackerel species and often targeted by fishermen. They can reach over 2 meters in length and weigh up to 30 kgs.
Easily recognized by their zebra bars along the flanks, which gives them the nickname ‘barries’. This is a lightning fast, fearsome predator. Their razor-sharp teeth will slash almost anything in their path, even wired fishing traces set out to catch them. One good reason I don’t like them to close to my kayak.
However, large Spanish Mackerel caught along Australia’s east coast are most likely to suffer from ciguatera, a serious disease caused by human toxins in the water. These are picked up by baitfish whilst feeding on plankton and eventually end up in a predator’s stomach. Easy maths will multiply an older fish with a whole lot more baitfish eaten. This is a serious illness and needs to be treated immediately when symptoms occur. Another reason to catch and release this fish.
The biggest Spanish Mackerel I caught was 125 cm long and weight around 12 kg’s. Another big fighter.
To my very surprise, I was lucky to hook, catch and land a Mahi-Mahi, or Dolphinfish once. Their golden glare makes them easy to recognize, good as gold. These fish loop acrobatically out of the water when hooked and display a colourful show. Swimming in small schools, one dominant bull is generally accompanied by 3 or 4 females. They rate high on the consumer list, however, mine swam off again. Gotta be happy with that.
My most successful fishing day was only a little while ago. All in all, I caught 3 Longtail Tuna, 1 Spanish Mackerel and about 8 Spotted Mackerel in one day. And what a day that was. As soon as the bait hit the water, the line peeled off my fishing reel. I was right in the middle of a feeding frenzy. Awesome. One tuna and one spotted Mackerel were kept, the rest swam off again after a photo or video was taken.
Fishing can be stressful.
Snapper is a popular inshore reef fish, who come closer to the shoreline to spawn in the colder winter months. Only mature males or females are able to spawn and therefore mostly get released when caught on my line.
My biggest snapper was 85 cm in length and weight of 7.8 kg. Smaller, pan sized snapper are too immature to reproduce and are my preferred keepers’ size. Baked freshly caught in aluminium foil in fresh herbs and spices, they are indeed a tasty meal.
The Flathead is one of Australia’s most unique fish. This ambush predator digs itself into the sand and waits for smaller prey fish to pass by. Their brown coloured skin gives them a perfect disguise, as well as their long, lizard-shaped body. Their nickname ‘lizards’ is, therefore, no surprise.
What makes these fish even more unique, is the fact that all newborn are males. They switch sex at a mature age when they reach the 60 cm mark. It is even more important to release the big females for reproduction purposes. In early autumn, the females congregate at river mouths to lay their eggs. Flatheads are handled with care as they have sharp and painful spines around their body. My biggest ‘lizard’ was a whopping 90 cm and caught on soft plastics. She was quickly released after a photo was taken.
There are still plenty of fish species missing on my brag wish list. However, I hope that one day they will be added, and be released again. ‘Tight lines’ to all fishermen and fisherwomen.