|Once we had the speed right and the routine happening it was very smooth and within 5 minutes it was all done. On with the other grapnel and finally the float with the flag (was I glad of the flag later) and it was all done.
Because we set across the current at about 40 degrees with a little speed and tension on the main line there were no noticeable "bends" in the mainline, it was nice and straight. We motored away about 500 metres and enjoyed a well earned cup
of tea and a line fish. After 40 minutes with no legal keepers coming on board we motored quietly back.
Lesson Number One:
Always have a buoy with a flag, I doubt we could have located the longline without it. As instructed we went to the down current end to pull up the grapnel anchor and remove it.
Lesson Number Two:
Bring a boat hook or a gaff. It is very difficult to grab the buoy otherwise, thanks to fantastic piloting skill (or was it luck ?) Dhamendra managed to get the buoy in on his first attempt.
We pulled up the buoy and let it go while pulling up the dropper line and removed the anchor. A quick dash to the other end, a repeat of lesson number two and we were soon drifting quietly and retrieving the mainline onto the handspool.
We were cautiously optimistic and soon I could feel pulling against the mainline. The first couple of traces were empty with no baits left and then we saw the familiar red and silver colour as the first snapper came into view. A good size it was too.
We carried on retrieving, Dhamendra put the traces back on the holder and we left the snapper temporarily on the floor in the boat with the hooks still in their mouths.
Next problem, the mainline got very heavy and the next 3 traces were all wrapped around the mainline with no fish in sight. Untangling them was easy unlike what happened next. Suddenly there it was coming up on the next trace a very unhappy looking
five foot hammerhead shark.
I voted to cut the trace off, but Dhamendra a long time Fijian fisherman was not keen to give up a brand new trace and hook. We pulled the hammerhead partly on board for some dental surgery.
Lesson Number 3:
The little hook disgorger I had (orange handle will float if dropped overboard, $14.95 at the boat show) was way out of its league for this sort of challenge. What was needed was long nosed pliers (I have three pairs at home).
Outstanding feature of the target snapper hooks is that fish are nearly always hooked in the corner of the mouth so it was relatively easy to free the hook using the less risky approach i.e. the point of the bait knife. Mr hammerhead was put back to
terrify other longliners on some other day.
Total catch on the first set was five good sized snapper.
Reset the longline, much easier now we had the technique worked out and motored away for another rod and reel fish. By now it was about 1.15pm and a pod of dolphins swam lazily by. We had seen five shark fins by now also cruising around and had passed
two rafts of penguins on the way out so the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.
Didn't have high hopes for the second set (all the shark fins and the sun was very hot and bright). On retrieving the long line for the second time we were surprised to have another five snapper (one undersized and returned) and a couple of quite large
Thankfully no more sharks.
By now it was really scorching hot and all of our cold drink was gone. So, much to my 4 year old's disgust we started up the motor and headed back to the boat ramp.
It was dead low tide and the public ramp, which I had hoped to use, had only a foot of water at the bottom of it and I saw that other fishos couldn't get enough of their boat trailers under the water to get their boats on.
Plan B: Back round to the boat club ramp (and yes I am a member unlike most of the other boats I see there) and, oh no! It was like queen st on a Friday night.
I used the old trick of motoring up the edge of the ramp and stopping in front of the temporary pile of rocks next to the ramp (can't do that in a fibreglass boat). During the half hour wait to retrieve to boat onto the trailer I had a chance to talk
to other fishos.
No one else had caught anything much, there were lots of theories why the fishing was slow. The fishing calender showed the day to be "fair" for fishing with a 30 minute bite time 1.30 to 2.04 pm.
Off home, cleaned up the boat, divvyed up the catch and had nice fresh snapper fillets for dinner, enough for everyone.
On what was a poor fishing day, two sets of the long line yielded 12 fish (not counting the shark) and one snapper returned (undersized) resulting in a 20% catch rate.
Fishing with two rods over a similar time period yielded few bites and no keepers. Not hard to work out what was the best bet on the day.
I won't set the longline everytime I go out, as I like to contest the fish on my 4 kg outfit, but when the fishing is hard and time is limited (marginal weather) I can see it as a useful weapon in my armoury.
The trace rack is a brilliant idea and everything is click on and click off, quick and easy to set and retrieve. Had I bought a cheaper (inferior) longline from somewhere else, I am sure that we would have struggled to set and retrieve it (we have all
heard stories of long lines tangled around props etc).
Congratulations to Paul and the guys in the shop for a well thought out and engineered product and good advice on how to successfully use it.
Ed: Thanks for a great report Ross, I am sure it will be a great help to many boat longline novices.