Fishing 101: How to catch your own Christmas dinner
Turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings please! Oh wait, this is Queensland and it’s 40 degrees outside. Stuffing is not welcome in 40-degree heat. Ever.
Here, it’s all about buckets of prawns, just-shucked oysters and fighting your family for the biggest mud crab pincer. Follow that up with a dip in the ocean and you have a Christmas day worth every drop of sweat.
So break out your rods and reels because it’s time to close the oven and open the seafood buffet that is the Queensland coast.
The first step: Get friendly with the locals
Head to your local fishing shop – there are a number of people in there just waiting to give you the secret spots and advice you need. Or they will lie to you and give you the worst spots and keep all the fish for themselves. Either way, at least you can buy some good bait.
Or blaze your own trail and explore some of the best fishing spots in Queensland.
If you’re sticking to the shoreline, a good rule of thumb is to look for structure: Rocks, reef or bridge pylons are great. Anywhere fish can hide.
Tools of the trade: Rod, reel or neither
All you really need is three things: a handline, sinker and a hook. Simple and effective and cheaper than the chips you will need for all the fish you’ll catch. The local fishing store will have handlines and they will tie your sinker and hook on for you if you don’t know how. Fishermen are friendly.
But getting the casting technique down can be tricky.
Hold the spool in your weak hand. Take about a metre of line out. Then start twirling the sinker and hook above your head like a lasoo (think City Slickers). Avoid standing near anyone you like. Keep swinging and time your release like a hammer thrower in the Olympics. If successful, your bait will fly through the air and land right into a fish’s mouth.
If you do it wrong you’ll look like a rookie and a burly-bearded gentleman will come out of nowhere and cast it for you. I can confirm this happens EVERYWHERE. Again, fishermen are friendly.
If you decide on a rod and reel then go for a lighter reel with a seven-foot rod. This will give you good all-round performance and it can fit in the back of most sedans. Ask my wife.
Grab a fish chart that tells you the legal sizes of fish and the bag limits, too. Sustainable fishing is good fishing.
Bait: Man’s (other) best friend
Smell it, hook it and love it. Leave the lures out of your tackle box for now because you’ve got a meal to catch and nothing works better than fresh stinky bait.
Your bait can vary but as a rule of thumb, never leave home without some prawns. Everyone loves prawns and so do fish. As a bonus they’re really easy to slide onto a hook. Just insert the hook from the tail end and slide it out through the body near the legs. The hook will look like another leg. The fish don’t stand a chance.
Tide: The dinner bell for fish
The fish are always in the water but just like you and me, they get lazy. Lazy fish don’t bite hooks. That’s where the tide comes into play.
Try to pick an hour either side of high tide or low tide (suss out tide times here). This is when the fish are most active and more likely to sniff out your delicious bait and nibble it down. If the sun is setting or rising during these times then jump up and down in excitement because this is the prime time.
Hooking up: The final step
Cast out your bait and wait. This is pretty much fishing in a nutshell.
For the advanced fisherman: Cast your bait into the sea and keep the line tight… and wait.
Patience is the best tool for your tackle box.
Once the fish is hooked, enjoy the fight and remember you worked hard for this and you don’t want to mess it up now! You will get the feel for it the more fish you catch and hopefully it will become an addiction. Trust me, it’s a great addiction to have.
If you get hooked on fishing (that pun was totally intended) then create a fish bucket list. Or just steal this one.
Here are some handy fish facts so you can talk the talk.