Wilderness Island, NW Australia

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Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Sat May 22, 2010 11:19 pm

I must apologise for my lack on input in KFDU the last few weeks - I've been really busy with a lot of things, including preparation of this trip. I came back pretty exhausted (still un-naturally tired all the time a week later, which has me worried I might have caught something up there) but have finally had time to start to write it up. Wilderness Island, on the eastern side of Exmouth gulf in Western Australia was the most remote place I have ever fished, and also had the best fishing I have ever experienced. Though I didn’t catch any trophy fish, I certainly hooked onto some and had a fishing trip of a lifetime. I understand if you guys don’t read all of this, it’s pretty long, plus Brett will have his story too…this is just the first day. The subsequent days write ups will be shorter I promise and I will add them to this post as I write them up.

Day 0 of 5

There were four of us yak fishing, Brett Ozzane (Shufoy), Trevor (elmo) (who drove all the way from QLD to join the trip), Scotty Coghlan (Western Angler editor) and myself – three of us in yellow Hobie Adventures. It became confusing throughout the trip as Brett, Trevor and I all had the exact same kayak and colour, the same hats and even the same colour shirts sometimes so we often didn’t know who we were looking at from a distance. Scotty distinguished himself in a Revo.

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Finally at exmouth

I drove the 1300km from Perth to Exmouth and met the guys at the Lighthouse Caravan Park, where Col, Ash, Mike and Brett had already spent a week soaking up the sunshine and catching fish from the yaks. I have a diesel car, and about 2/3 of the way from Perth I stopped at a remote roadhouse to get fuel, only to find that the anti siphon device in the car had jammed and I couldn’t get the fuel nozzle in. Bugger! 150km from the nearest small town and I couldn’t get fuel! 30 minutes later I had destroyed the fuel cap out of desperation with a large screwdriver and created a 5mm diameter hole, through which I dribbled 60 litres of diesel over the next hour. Another 20 litres of diesel went in my hair, clothes and on the ground. Ford have some explaining and fixing to do, but at least I made it to Exmouth (albeit stinking of diesel). Thanks to the operators of Woomeral Roadhouse who were really helpful in getting me moving again.

Before meeting the guys at Exmouth I popped into Learmoth Jetty (45 minutes South of Exmouth) where there were heaps of bait balls, and I almost immediately caught a smallish Giant Trevally (or was it a giant Smallish Trevally?). Sign of things to come I hoped! After meeting the guys, we headed down to the pub, where we met the Wilderness Island owner, Jim, fishing guides Shane and Harry, and Scotty and Darryl from Wangler. After dinner I enjoyed the pub for 15 minutes before falling asleep in the back of Bretts car while the others got up to mischief. I woke up several hours later with some tipsy guys tickling my feet.

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Taking the kayaks to the island

After sleeping at simple roadhouse room and on the balcony of the guys cabin with the mozzies, we all checked into the Novatel Hotel on the Saturday afternoon to be greeted with absolute luxury. The kayaks were loaded up onto Shane’s boat and I think we surprised them with how much ancillary gear you need to take (or don’t need to take) with the yaks. Next morning we headed to the ramp and before you knew we were on our 1 hour boat trip across the Gulf before a spec of land appeared – Wilderness Island!

Now, when you stand on the shore at Exmouth and look across the Gulf, all you see is open sea and can only imagine that there is land on the other side. However, looking back from Wilderness Island you can clearly see Cape Range (behind Exmouth), the Submarine antenna’s and the lights of Exmouth at night time. This is because the area around the Island is really flat, consisting of low lying islands, sand flats and mangrove swamps and creeks with miles of salt flats behind these.

We headed up one of these mangrove creeks, and I was amazed at the fish life I could already see just standing on the boat. Bream were everywhere, Long Tom, I even saw the concave snout of a 50-60cm barramundi (which are quite rare up there but occasionally captured). On mooring the boat, dozens of bream, many around 35cm surrounded the boat and could be seen everywhere in the crystal clear water of the run in tide. My casting arm started twitching…my Polaroid sunnies were doing their job too well…but first it was time to unpack.

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The creek we arrived in – and the bream


The camp itself was basic but comfortable, 2 beds to a room, with a room consisting of a cool hut (gets a lot of breeze as the sides are made from insect proof shade cloth). The main room had a basic kitchen in which Darryl and Jim (and later Brett) knocked up some of the best seafood meals I have ever tasted. The balcony featured a table with attached benches which you had to be careful on. If two people sat on one side the whole thing would topple over, which made for some funny scenes and more than one spilt beer when someone stood up on the other side of the table. Along with the people I have already mentioned, a French backpacking couple were helping out and trying their hardest to decipher our Aussie accents. Power from a generator also allowed us to charge up batteries at night.

It was Sunday afternoon, and it wasn’t long before our yaks were set up and we headed off for an afternoon session. I also realized early on that this was a cast and retrieve sort of trip, with the water being around 1.5 metres deep or less in most places that we fished. That said, forward rod holders and the fish finder weren’t really necessary and just got in the way, and I only switched the sounder on those rare occasions when I couldn’t see the bottom. We headed South 1km to one of Scotty’s favourite spots and I was rewarded with a golden trevally of about 40cm, before a barracuda snaffled the lure. At this point I must excuse my lack of fish photos. I avoided using the net as the lure trebles got tangled in it, and as all of our fish were released I was more focused on releasing them unharmed than messing around with photos (though I got a few). Besides, the fishing was so hot I just couldn’t spare the time to take too many happy snaps – thanks Trevor for some of the photos displayed here.

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Second fish for the trip


Heading over to Burnside Island, we found Scotty having a heap of fun with something I hadn’t expected – whiting on lures. In water ankle deep, the greedy fellas were fighting each other to grab hold of small surface lures and poppers, and looked pretty awkward with the bottom sloping mouths trying to feed on the surface. I really hadn’t anticipated this type of fishing but had bought my bream lures as an afterthought, and cast out. First fish was a nice flathead, but the whiting soon followed, and I had plenty of whiting hookups on lures in that session (and poppers later on). Great fun and a first for me.

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Whiting, flathead, bream and trevally in abundance

Casting into deeper water I was into a good fish that pulled the hooks, but was most likely a GT. Then a forktailed catfish took the lure. Then a nice bream. As the day got later, nearly every cast was being hit, and soon I landed the main culprit – small GT’s. These were great fun on light gear and took everything I could throw at them in the 30cm deep water – minnows, soft plastics, poppers, you name it. One was putting up a nice fight when a 1.5m lemon shark that had been stalking me grabbed it next to the kayak and ate it (and the lure) in a big shower of head shaking spray. Awesome!

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The launch spot just metres from camp

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Sunset

One afternoon’s fishing on day 0 and I was already down three lures, and had lost count of the number of fish caught. As we pedaled in the fading light back to camp, fish, turtles and small sharks boiling up in our path, I wondered what the coming days would bring. We came back just after the sun had set and climbed up to camp, avoiding the multitude of fist sized hermit crabs that seems to be everywhere.

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Hermit crab

More to come….
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

I love yaks.
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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Sun May 23, 2010 5:40 pm

Thanks for your comments. Dishley, yep, already got a new net, a silicone one, that other one made me swear way too much. Here's the next day.

Day 1 – Monday


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Launch – metres from the huts we slept in

A beaut brekky of bacon and eggs preceded a cold dawn start which found us working a creek edge on high tide, and this time I had brought my trusty light bream gear and all my bream lures (which are now all either mangled or lost). Almost immediately I was onto a GT which did it’s best to drag itself into the safety of the mangroves, before I landed it. Really awesome fun on the bream gear, these things fight like no other fish. Another cast, another GT. Then another. Then something long, very long and skinny with fearsome big teeth grabbed the lure and jumped around a lot. This was by far the largest long tom I had ever caught and he was determined to bite me when all I wanted was to get the lure out of his gob. The lip grips still bear plenty of long tom teeth marks.

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My crudely drawn path for the day

I was lagging behind the others (for the entire trip actually) so I moved on with the occasional cast attracting a plague of long tom up to 1 metre long following the lure. Kind of reminiscent of swan river blowies, though I’d be more than happy to catch a long tom in the Swan, they fight hard and leap around dramatically. I learnt to wind in very quickly when I saw a long tom to prevent him from catching up to my lure as they were a pain to unhook. Frequently the long tom were a bit faster than me, but luckily their bony mouths resulted in a low hookup to strike ratio. The frequent surface strikes were fun to experience.

I caught up to the others, and we drifted along the mangroves. The water here was barely 1 ft deep, and the mirage drive would hit the bottom on a full stroke so we had to be careful – though luckily it was crystal clear so we could see the occasional stump in the water to steer clear of. The stumps were the remnants of the mangrove forests which were decimated by cyclone Vance in 1999. Vance’s eye (with 267 km/hr winds, the fastest land wind speed ever recorded in Australia) passed right over the area we were fishing, and even today there are mud flats where only old skeletons of mangroves remain. Harry told us that after Cyclone Vance there was so much mangrove matter around in the water that the Mud Crab population reached plague proportions, before dying in their thousands when the food supply was depleted months later.

Casting close to these stumps, my little bream lures were hit virtually every cast. The majority were bream, with many good sized 35cm specimens that fought well on the bream gear (as they should!). A hooked bream would be followed by 15 of his mates right back to the kayak, and if he dropped the lure, one of his mates would take it which saved casting out again. The water was so clear and bream numerous that it was actually possible to see when a bream was about to attack the lure and quickly pull it away from him if the fish was smaller than desired.

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A photo of me taking a photo of a bream


The occasional cod made things interesting, as did the schools of whiting, flathead, grunter and the occasional GT that pulled a lot harder than the average bream. I was winding in close to a stump when a fish darted out from cover and fought much harder than any bream I’ve ever caught, and I landed my first ever Mangrove Jack. I was stoked, I’ve always wanted to catch a Jack and this was a healthy size – unfortunately he jumped out of my hands and over the side as I was trying to take a photo. Another Jack, though smaller, came in shortly afterwards and this time complied for a happy snap.

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My 2nd Jack

After pulling in more 25-35cm bream in 2 hours than I have probably caught in the last 12 months, all on the one (now with much less paint) SX40, I tried to catch up with the others on the ocean side of the channel. A big GT or queenfish had a good swipe at a larger popper on the way over but failed to hook up, and I caught my first hard fighting Javelin Fish in some very shallow water on the other side. Trevor and I were pedaling just a 2 metres apart when one of the numerous turtles appeared between us in the 30cm deep water. The turtle was a bit freaked out, having two long moving things either side of him. I was surprised that we could keep up with him, and Trevor and I pedaled with this turtle between us for a good 2 minutes before he wizened up and darted under Trevors kayak.

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Javelin Fish

Jims boat found us around midday and we enjoyed a nice lunch that they brought out to us. We all climbed aboard the 8 metre centre console after ‘docking’ and caught up on Brett and Scotty’s successes, including a good sized Queenfish and Jacks. The wildlife continued to make itself known while we munched on sandwiches, and a big loggerhead turtle poked his head up not far away – with a head as big as a humans. I saw a few of these out of the yak later in the trip and they were so large that they made me jumpy at times until I realized what they were. A couple of medium sized sharks and a large eagle stood by, possibly as intrigued by us as we were by them.

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Lunch

After lunch we proceeded to cast lures around some rocks on the open water side of the islands, and I watched Trevor as he fought and landed a good sized mangrove jack. I was onto slightly heavier gear now and was casting around some poppers over the reef when a large fish (probably a coral trout from the way it fought) hooked up, then got off. I hooked onto a fish that pulled hard before reefing me, before landing a procession of cod and small blue bone on a home made lure. Brett and Scotty were now headed off to Simpson Island, so Trevor and I followed, trolling higher speed minnows and hooking so many estuary cod that we stopped fishing to increase our speed. At the northern end of Simpson island, Trevor and I gave up trying to catch up with the others and waited for them to come around the island. In the meantime I destroyed several bucktailed jigs on bluebone, red throat and spangled emperor, cod and several reef fish I couldn’t name.

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Cod on home made lure

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Trevs Jack

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Little Emperor

Once Scott and Brett rejoined us, I left them on the deeper water on the other side of the island while I headed across the flats, tossing a small transparent SX40 imitation on my bream gear in the clear, shallow water. Nothing at all was touching it , and I was about to give up when I got a shock with the fastest fish I have ever hooked. Just 2 metres from the kayak, a long silvery shape flashed and there was a solid, incredibly fast fish on the end of the line. As the lined peeled off, the fish partially breached and I saw the head and body of a giant herring. This was a genuine giant herring, not a wolf herring (which I’ve caught before and fight no-where near as well) and another thing I’ve always wanted to catch. Alas, the fight was over too soon and I lost, and I wound in a worn 8lb fluorocarbon leader (apparently the gill flukes are sharp). I definitely want to catch one of those again though, their speed is amazing.

By myself now, and with the tide going out quickly, I found myself stranded on a long section of rocky reef. I removed the mirage drive and paddled for a while, until even then the bottom of the kayak was scraping against rock in ankle deep water. Being late in the day, with the tide still going out and several flats and deep water channels between me and the camp, I had visions of being stranded in the muddy mangrove forest overnight, just me and the sandflies (and without insect repellant). Getting out, I dragged the kayak as quickly as possible and was relieved to find the water deep enough that it didn’t scrape on the reef. I was hastened by the numerous reef sharks which seemed to follow me (attracted by the mud I stirred up I guess), sometimes coming with 2 metres of my feet, dorsal fins and tails glistening in the sun like a mini-Jaws movie, before darting off is a big spray of water. And one stage I had three sharks approaching me from three different directions, and no amount of arm waving seemed to scare them away. Though small, they could still give a nasty nip if they decided I was worth a taste and it was with great relief that I found water deep enough that I could paddle again. When I stopped a bit later and got out to get some drinking water from the front hatch, there were still sharks around, within a metre of me this time, and I got a bit of video footage after jumping back in the kayak.

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Cheeky reef shark

With the shark presence I gave up fishing until the northern end of Burnside Island, where I found a deepwater (2m) channel and cast poppers around until the others returned. Some good size queenfish attacked the popper 3 times, one with a bit of an aerial display and one hooking up before getting off very shortly afterwards, before I rejoined the others and headed across the channel to Wilderness Island. Back on the rocky point of WI, I was casting around catching some small golden trevally on squidgies when Harry appeared on the rocks on the quad bike. He asked if I could check that the boat ignition was turned off, so I headed back to the boat as the sun set. Casting on the way, I hooked onto a larger fish that gave my 5 kg outfit a good workout, and with nearly locked drag and frantic pedaling I managed to withdraw the fish from the reefy headland. It was my best GT of the trip, and I took some quick photos after hopping in the boat before letting him go on his merry way.

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Mt best GT for the trip

Travelling through Tiger Shark infested waters by myself after the sunset, I sensed or saw something large nearby – or more likely imagined it – and was glad to get back to the camp. One of the good things about this trip was that we pulled our kayaks up literally metres from the camp, and didn’t need to rig or de-rig that yaks each day. This allowed extra time to enjoy the saltwater shower (that smelt like petrol) and quantities of beer as we all enjoyed dinner of Mangrove Jack. Well, nearly all of us – exhausted, I fell asleep in my cabin by mistake and missed it. This time I wasn’t dreaming of the worlds hottest bream fishing – I didn’t need to anymore.

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Trevor – the happy fisherman

Day 2 (Tuesday) report to follow….
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

I love yaks.
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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Tue May 25, 2010 12:47 am

Day 2 – Tuesday

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First of many queenfish for the day

The usual bacon and eggs, black tea and cereal breakfast greeted us as we emerged for our third day of fishing. I don’t wear gloves fishing as I normally don’t catch much, but was starting to regret this decision. Apart from a couple of flathead (where I wore gardening gloves), I had handled the 30-40 odd fish each day with bare hands. Even the benign looking GT’s managed to spike my hand with their dorsal fin or gills, and it had started to look like it had chicken pox. Though I had caught many fish with nasty teeth such as barracuda, long tom and mangrove jack, the only bite I’d received was from a 4 inch grunter, which drew blood on the tip on one finger. On top of this there were a few nasty braid cuts, the result of re-tying leaders many times after damage from fish teeth/ gill rakers and the reef.

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Launch, day 2

This time we headed North, and for me the fishing started off a bit quietly. Brett was having some fun with the GT’s at the first bend, and they seemed to love the poppers, while for me nothing seemed interested. It was ultra high tide, normally the best fishing time in the Gulf, with the flats flooded and fish flashing around everywhere. I changed to a popper and things livened up, particularly one section near a creek mouth that we nicknamed ‘long tom point’. Casting here, several large long tom fought over the popper in a spectacular fight, before one was hooked and leapt all over the place. Luckily he dropped the popper near the kayak, and nearly straight away a small trevally came up and nabbed it. Trevor was having the same fun with the long tom, every cast with a popper attracting a multitude of them. That lasted for a good 10 minutes until I turned the video on and tried to film it, when they predictably disappeared.

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A little trev that nicked the popper as soon as the long tom spat it out

Being added as soon You tube uploads it
Non stop action – until I started the video camera

As we headed North the mangroves thinned out, though I did manage my first ever bream on a popper and a nice one at that. We passed over some really shallow water, so shallow that the occasional lone swell wave coming from the Gulf broke near where we were kayaking, even though it was flat as a tack the rest of the time. Scotty and Brett were again training for the Hobie Olympics and had disappeared into the distance, while Trevor and I cruised a few metres apart chatting.

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Brett casting amongst the mangroves

It was then that I noticed a large, grey shape about 4 metres long hovering between us. Crap! Trevor switched on his shark shield, but the grey shape did not move. Strange – it was only a couple of metres from him, did these shark shields really work? Still, it was not circling, or acting threatening in any way, just swimming along slowly beside us. We soon suspected something different, which was confirmed when a big head surfaced and exhaled, revealing a big fat dugong. It didn’t seem too worried by us, and we hung around observing it for 10 minutes while it went about it’s business. I also took some underwater footage with my ‘waterproof’ camera, which I regretted later due to the water that got inside the camera (though I’m glad I got some footage). I should have not trusted the waterproofness as you can hear on the movie just before I put it underwater, and my camera is now wrecked. The close quarters dugong sighting was an unexpected highlight of my trip.


Dugong

After having a few casts with poppers around some limestone bommies (which produced the usual cod and trevally for us) we finally caught up to Brett. Changing to a Nuclear Chicken Gulp and casting/ retrieving quickly, I was soon onto my first queenfish for the trip over a reefy area, and it fought like a trooper on my 5kg outfit. Seeing a few baitfish being chased by something in the deeper water just off the reef, I put on a large Yo Zuri lure and started to troll, being rewarded almost immediately with a solid hookup on what I suspect was a Mackeral. Unfortunately the line went slack, and a bit disappointed I started winding the lure in. By this stage I had drifted back over the reef, and I wound with the rod tip high to prevent the lure from snagging up with the reef. Suddenly there was another weight on the end of the line – I thought I was snagged, but when the weight started fighting I realised I was onto a nice fish. My first ever coral trout came to the kayak (one of 5 I caught on this holiday), such pretty fish they are and just as nice to see it swimming away after a quick photo.

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My first coral trout

Scotty seemed to have been hovering in one place for a while, and this meant only one thing – he had found some fish. He seemed to be pulling in small GT after small GT, with the occasional golden thrown in for good measure, and a swarm of fish was following his kayak (Brett, I think Carmel should re-name ‘Iggy’, call your Revo ‘FAD’ instead). I joined in the fun with my bream rod, and a few GT;s later the drag pulled harder and faster, revealing another queenfish had taken a liking to my lure. It was a fun fight, the last part requiring a bit of a scull drag out of the reef directly below me. I landed the fish, but at the expense of my favourite bream rod which snapped 30cm from the tip after I bent it a little too far. At least I didn’t break it in a car door this time!

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Little queenie when my rod snapped

I was having way too good a time to feel despondent about the broken rod, besides, I hadn’t fared anywhere near as badly as Scotty. On day 0, he had broken his first bream rod on a long tom. On day 1, he turned around to grab his spare rod, only to find it wasn’t there in the rear rod holder anymore (he didn’t leash it and it just disappeared). In the meantime his i-pod had stopped working and one of his non-waterproof cameras was destroyed when water got inside his dry bag. His (well, Bretts) fishfinder stopped working - luckily for Brett, who could use the battery instead of the one I accidentally left back in Exmouth when packing Brett’s stuff into the boat. (Sorry mate!)

Besides a broken rod, Scotty and I shared another experience – flyfishing. I had bought along my 6/7wt rod that I had bought for NZ trout 11 years ago, but had never actually landed a fish with it. Scotty by comparison was a seasoned fly fishing veteran, who immediately set about casting the fly amongst the plague of GT’s hanging close to his kayak. Scotty seemed to be having a lot of success casting from the kayak, hooking several and landing a few, while I headed to shore – no way I felt confident enough to fly fish from the kayak!


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Scotty showing off the long wand

However, I just couldn’t cast far enough from the shore, so I headed out again and found it really wasn’t too hard to manage the fly line and cast the long wand from the yak. Looking at all the fish around the place that were snaffling any lure, I thought ‘if I can’t catch a fish on fly here, I should give up’.

Well, the short of it - I should give up. I don’t think the floating flyline helped, or my lack of experience, but zero fish later in the fishiest spot I’ve ever been, I’ve decided that fly fishing just isn’t for me.

Jims boat arrived with another yummy lunch, and as we docked Daryl jumped overboard in search of crayfish. He came straight back to the surface, marvelling at the schools of mangrove jack and coral trout that he had seen, but they weren’t interested in our lures. They were interested in apple cores however, and a big coral trout came up to investigate one that was floating away from the boat.

Lunches were a short and sweet affair, as we were all keen to get back into the fishing. In the freshening wind the others steamed ahead to a likely looking dropoff , while I tried to tie a braid to leader knot. It tangled. I tried again in the annoying wind. Another fail. Then another fail – I normally get it right first time! Finally I got it right and cut off the tag. Whoops, that was the main line, not the tag! Grrrrrr…..curses flew….I’m sure most of you know the feeling…luckily the rod was leashed or I might have thrown it in the water. It was 30 minutes later before I got the patience to tie it on again.

Lots of small reef fish followed in the deepest water we fished in the yak (5m deep), before we started on the long journey back home. After a short rest stop on a really nice beach (a rarity on our trip) Scotty proved he wasn’t a fishing magazine editor for nothing and hooked onto a nice fish on a trolled rapala. The queenie leapt around spectacularly before Scotty landed (then released) the fella on what looked like light tackle.

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Nice spot for a rest

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Scotty with a nice queenie

By this stage the tide was at it’s lowest and starting to turn, making it difficult getting through some of the flats and rocky reefs (particularly as we all had mirage drives). The tide range in Exmouth Gulf is much higher than in Perth, at around 2 metres difference between high and low (at least over the next few days according to the tide chart). We found ourselves dismounting once to get over one particularly shallow region, and braving the reef sharks that seemed to love these extremely shallow reef flats. If I’d know then that Harry had been stung 5 times by stonefish around the Exmouth area (as he told us on Friday), I would have been even more nervous!

As the sun sunk in the sky, we tossed poppers around the entrance of the large inlet near Wilderness Island. A shark took a liking to Bretts Halco Rooster and cut him off, leaving Brett one lure down. Meanwhile numerous small queenfish, GT’s and long tom were taking a liking to the surface lures. Gee I love popper fishing, it’s so fun I really don’t care if the fish gets hooked or not! This trip was the first time I’ve caught fish on poppers too. I switched to a small popper (one of Mike Munns that I won on a KFDU photo comp in 2008) and had fun with the whiting, their slender creamy forms seemingly writhing all over the yellow lure before the occasional hookup. The others started to head back, but I was just having so much fun that the sun was setting before I decided to leave. Being such a remote area, any sort of rubbish is incredibly rare, so when I saw something bobbing in the water nearby it took my interest. There was Brett’s Halco Rooster popper, lost an hour ago to a greedy shark. I don’t know, this Shufoy guy polluting pristine environments….

In the twilight of the trip back to camp I encountered a large shark in my path, dorsal fin and tail out of the water, and I diverted course a bit to keep out of his way. Unlike the reefies, this big shark was freaked out by my presence and departed in the shallow water with a big swirl of water when my presence was realised. After a long paddle over very shallow reef, the saltwater shower back at camp was a welcome end to the day. As was the exceptional crayfish mornay that Daryl cooked up, easily the best seafood meal I have ever tasted. With 20km of pedalling and non stop action fishing all day, and plenty of beers and yarns at night, sleep was definitely no issue.

Day 3 to follow........
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

I love yaks.
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Yakyakker
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Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Perth and frequently visiting Sydney
Local Fishing Region: Perth

Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Thu May 27, 2010 12:08 am

Day 3 – Wednesday

2 ½ days of dawn to dusk kayak fishing, doing 15-20km per day, is hard work. Our clothes, seats and PFD’s were wet, and in my case covered in fish blood despite attempts to clean them and catch and release of all fish. And my arms were aching from working the larger poppers all day, much harder work from a kayak than when standing up in a boat or the shore. Giving our gear a chance to dry, and our kayaking muscles a rest, we took up the opportunity to go out in the boat for a day (insert Darth Vader music here).

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Heading out of the creek

After unloading fishing gear from the kayaks we headed down to the moored boat in the creek, where the plagues of bream greeted us. Scotty threw a large 25cm long GT popper overboard as a joke, but actually hooked one of the bream briefly (the bream was shorter than the popper). Before long we were zooming through the millpond gulf waters, passing the area we got to yesterday in just a few minutes before arriving at a remote island.

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Doing battle

In a scene reminiscent of the D-day or Guadalcanal landings, the boat nosed up to the beach and we jumped off the bow into the knee deep water, rods poised and bails flipped, ready for action. Someone had been shelling the beach – well, there were large sea snail shells, mostly intact and as big as my head, everywhere. Higher up on the beach were various twisted wrecks of Aluminium that I imagined were an old WW2 aircraft wreck (just to keep to the theme inside my head).

Shane and the boat headed back out into the safety of deep water while we walked around the island casting poppers just past the reef edge. 2nd cast I was onto a feisty tuskfish. Trevor landed a nice cod, and my popper was attacked by several unknown shiny things before a hard fighting Brassy Trevally made a commotion. Again, his friends followed the hooked fish literally back to my feet, swimming in water so shallow that they were sideways, before flitting back into the deep.

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Brassy Trevally

A couple more cod later and we retreated from battle, all our prisoners released, and reboarded the boat (albeit with my bag a little heavier from a shell). At least my feet were wet to give the illusion of kayak fishing, though my bum was still dry.

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One of 1,567,091 cod caught that day

Next stop was another island, though we stayed in the boat and cast lures into a likely looking spot. The fishing there was again pretty hot, with lots of smallish trevs and queenies following the lures and having a taste, before we headed off to a mid water reef. The short of it is we caught a stack more fish, mainly small, but including Brett’s nice Mangrove Jack (which became dinner).

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Bretts nice Jack

The next reef near an island was great fishing (and squidding for some big fellas who hung around). Casting large white squidgy soft plastics in the very snaggy area, I had a few bust offs. However, most of the time the lure made it back, only to be followed and attacked by a combination of decent queenfish and Spanish mackerel right next to the boat. I landed my best ever queenfish and my personal best (but tail hooked) Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel within 10 minutes of each other, but the fishing was so hot I forgot to get a photo of either. It was exciting watching them attack the lures only metres away, right next to the boat in the crystal clear water. My only annoyance was that the anti-reverse on my reel seemed to have failed, meaning that I needed to keep my hand on the reel handle al all times.

Tuna are a frustrating fish. We saw some surface action, which the guys somehow knew were longtaiil tuna even from a distance, but as soon as we got within casting distance they disappeared. As if teasing us, they reappeared 200m behind us, but again disappeared as soon as we got our first casts off. A kayak would have been ideal, enabling us to get close without scaring them – but being a good 20km from the coast, we knew this wasn’t an option. After a couple more frustrating attempts, I cast right in the middle of the school, and just before my lure hit the surface I saw a large tuna head broach the surface. This fish was huge, bigger than my only other tuna caught last year, and I’m pretty sure he was the one that took my soft plastic which landed on top of him a second later. I felt the take….then the drag, then the fish swam at a million miles an hour under the boat. With the reel anti-reverse not working, I couldn’t take my hand off the handle to tighten the drag but had to thumb the spool. To my disappointment, after a very fast initial run that took about 50 metres of line, the braid broke – I suspect due to some damage incurred during the days fishing. Oh well….I wasn’t all that sure I could stop it on the 7kg outfit anyway and it was likely I would have been spooled (or had the braid cut by the boat). Out of a kayak, this would have been an epic battle as I gave chase. Next year….bring it on!

The next spot looked like the grand canyon on the sounder – 5 metres dropping down a cliff face to 15 metres – and showed so many fish that our guide, Shane, seemed excited despite the fact that he goes fishing every day. We dropped soft plastics down, and snagging and bustoffs were common. Without exaggerating, every soft plastic was hit on the drop or on the first lift, and I was busted off several times by suspected large coral trout. This was a place for locked drags!

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One of 4 coral trout I caught within 45 minutes (photo courtesy of Brett Ozanne)

I landed 4 coral trout out of the 11 boated in that spot in 1 ½ hours of fishing, along with countless other reef species, all on soft plastics (we didn’t touch bait the entire trip). The hookup of the day was undoubtedly a huge fish that Brett hooked on a large Gulp. It gave his 15lb nitro outfit a big workout fishing above the very reefy and rough bottom, and bets were on both as to the species of fish and whether he could land it. I certainly expected a sudden ping and a disappointed Brett while filming this (as had happened to me a couple of times that day on large fish). Did he land it? Find out on the attached You tube video (warning – bad language)…


Brett hooked up to the mystery fish…

Returning to camp with the sun still shining, I was still buzzing after a great days fishing. As much as I like yak fishing, it was liberating fishing without rod leashes for a change and sharing the experience with others from a closer vantage point. With a dry bum we finished the day with the usual beer and awesome dinner of fresh seafood. Evenings were a great time for a yarn, particularly with Harry and Jim who live this dream lifestyle year round.

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Coming back in

Now, where else can you drink beer, looking at the sun setting over your fully rigged kayaks…with no risk of anyone pinching them overnight - with the option of checking emails and talking on your mobile phone (though mobile access isn't necessarily a good thing...)

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Remote island...yeah right!

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Sunset was at beer o’clock each night

Thanks everyone who has followed this rather long story so far, I’ve enjoyed re-living the trip while writing it. 2 days of write ups left- back to Wet bums and lots of wind Day 4, and some interesting estuary fishing day 5.

p.s. here is Brett holding that Golden Trev - the end part of the 500 MB you tube file didn't upload properly - and I'm not waiting 100 minutes to upload it again!

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Bretts Golden
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Thu May 27, 2010 11:04 pm

Day 4

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About to launch for a days fishing, with last nights bed in sight

Our nice dry kayaks, PFD’s and kayak seats welcomed us, having had a days rest out in the sun. Unfortunately a strong Southerly also joined us for the day, the resulting chop soaking all these things within seconds of launching. We headed South into the face of the freshening wind, waves breaking over our laps and reminding us what kayak fishing was all about.

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Out in the wind - photo courtesy of Trevor

My bream rod had seen it’s length reduced by 40cm, but after trimming off the broken part I found that I could use one of the guides as a makeshift tip runner. While this shorter rod made it easier imparting a good action to the poppers, accurately casting into a 20 knot wind with it was another story. With my short casts going everywhere besides the snaggy areas, nothing showed interest for a good 60 minutes of fishing.

Rounding the bottom tip of Burnside Island, my next cast was hit by a hard fighting queenfish that bent the stumpy rod as far as it would go (which wasn’t far). Trevally and bream suddenly became abundant too, and somehow noticed my little popper amongst the white caps. As we soon passed through the small channels where the inlets enter the gulf through little gaps in the island, the outgoing strong current combined with the strong wind chopping things up nicely. But no fish for me.

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Keeping up

While Brett and Trevor persisted with the fishing on the marine side of the island (and caught some nice ones) I became lazy and joined Scotty in a little sheltered bay. This place was awesome, out of the wind, with a sandy beach to pull the kayak onto and enjoy the serenity (minus the carp and ugly stick). After catching some whiting on a popper, I stretched my legs and joined Scotty on the rocks.

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Nice little bay to stretch legs and stretch size of fish when no photographic evidence

Casting off the rocks, my soft plastic had been swiped by a couple of decent GT’s, but it was a cod that Scotty had been observing poking his head out from a ledge under our feet that I was trying to catch. While jigging up and down, a big, thick, round fish appeared, this thing about 1.5-2 metres long and I guess weighing about 30 kg. He swam straight beside my soft plastic, but showed no interest in it. From my brief look at it, I am pretty sure it was a small tiger shark, definitely way fatter than the reefies that were numerous around there. Before I could get a better look, however, my jig head accidentally snagged his tail, and he took off, well and truly hooked on my 10lb line.

Scotty looked on as I fought this beast, locking the drag as much as I dared and traversing the rough rock shelf to try and stop the line from hitting exposed reef. He came up a couple of times with a big spray of water, but stayed near the surface. I felt like I had control and could have landed him when the line went slack. Bugger – the cheap jig head had actually straightened! Landing a toothy critter from that rock ledge would have been a challenge anyway.

Lunch was delivered to our sheltered bay, fresh fish sandwiches, before we decided to make a move. With the tide flowing out at a fast rate of knots we tested how shallow you can actually use a mirage drive, and Scotty demonstrated how to cast a 2 piece rod (in two pieces). With the wind behind us, it was an easy return trip and it was just a matter of steering and pulling in flathead (my first on a popper) and numerous other species from the flats, including a few small golden trevally.

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First flathead on a popper for me

As usual, I arrived back at camp 20 minutes after the others and was faced with this…

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Bugger - now how to I get the kayak across the reef to the beach?

With the low tide there was 100m of hard reef between me and the beach, and more appearing as I watched. Thankfully Trevor was on his way with the trolley, and helped me take the kayak above the high tide mark. The reefs up here are full of nasty sharp things like oysters, so I’d suggest anyone visiting the island ensure that there is at least one trolley amongst the group that has robust wheels (i.e. not the inflatable ones meant for sand).

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Giant clam on the reef - one of the reasons inflatable wheels are a bad idea. Trevors trolley with lawnmover wheels worked a treat thanks mate!

After all that dragging , I was a bit tired back at the beach and Brett mentioned that I haven’t talked about my ‘can sleep anywhere’ episodes, so here we go….

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Captain Snooze – actually I slipped while pulling the kayak off the wheels – it was bloody heavy!



Day 4’s fishing ended early in the day – for most. As I sipped beer from the main building, the exposed reef and deep water on the other side was way too tempting. Soon I was traversing the dry reef, marvelling at the huge starfish, weird coral and amazed that I was paddling over this area just that morning. At the end of the reef I cast a popper as the sun set, one nice Spanish Flag taking my offering. As soon as I realised the tide was coming back in I headed back quick smart – I’d hate to swim back in the dark!

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Spanish flag (I think) on a popper from the reef

An entrée of fresh calamari preceded the lighting of a huge bonfire, which Jim successfully managed on the 3rd attempt despite the use of diesel accelerant (he will never be an arson suspect in Exmouth). The big tepee style of fire was built in the intertidal zone of the beach, and the tide was rising quickly. Bets are on as to how many minutes would pass before the tide first reached the blaze and we all carefully watched the lapping waves to see who would win. Of course it hit the fire while we were inside eating dinner for a 15 minute period, though it was still smouldering the next morning despite the tide coming in and back out again underneath the inferno.

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Reef at low tide. The arrow shows where I walked out to go popper fishing - hence keen to get back when the tide turned!

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Reef at high tide

One more day of fishing left (day 5)…estuary and creek fishing report to follow in final report.


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The great fire - before and after. Our kayaks are now big blobs of molten plastic
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Yakyakker » Fri May 28, 2010 8:47 pm

Day 5 – Final Day of fishing and final report

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View from the breakfast table

Dragging my kayak down the beach towards the water, I was lucky to have not accidentally backed straight through the smouldering coals of last nights fire (which I noticed afterwards). Our last day. Would fishing in Perth ever be the same again? Would I ever be happy with a 1 bream per 30 cast catch rate? Only time would tell, but in the meantime we still had an enjoyable day ahead of us.

The tide was rising nicely and we planned to fish right up in the mangrove creeks (which are nearly impossible to float in at low tide). This is the type of fishing I dream of, and on return to Wilderness Island I’d spend more time in these creeks. The attached Google Earth image shows what I’m talking about…

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It looks much nicer from ground level

Tossing a lure in the little creeks and shadows of the flooding mangrove forest, the usual suspects were all caught that morning – queenfish, trevally of 3 different species, bream, whiting, flathead, javelin fish, a shark even followed the lure back to the kayak. At least he didn’t ram the kayak, like what happened to Scotty a couple of days before when he whisked a fish out of the water just in time. On one cast a good sized Jack jumped out of a log, followed and attacked the lure right next to the kayak, then pulled the line deep inside the mangrove forest before the hooks pulled.

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Another whiting

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Another barracuda

I caught up to Trevor and Brett in a good sized creek which had a phenomenal current, so strong that full steam pedalling was required to make any headway. It was a bit deeper, so an old diving Bennett Mcgrath lure went on for a troll amongst the mangrove edge. I thought I’d snagged some weed, but in came the worst fighting fish for the trip. Surprisingly it was a decent Mangrove Jack, that had apparently fallen asleep as I pulled him in.

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Sleeping Jack (Photo by Brett Ozanne)


This creek was on fire, and I had two more good hookups on suspected jacks, (as did the other guys I think). Another hookup was a large cod, probably 8kg worth and my biggest for the trip, that tried to pull me into the flooded mangrove forest. After a good tussle he was ‘safely’ in my net and I put the lipgrippers around his mouth. Keen for a photo, I removed the lure, only to have the lip grippers lose their hold, and the big cod swam though the big hole in the bottom of the net that I was unaware of. Cutting all those trebles out of the net mesh had taken its toll! (That net and the troubles it caused was the most annoying part of the trip, and it has now been replaced with a silicone one).


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Another Trev that took a liking to a popper

I found the top of the tide a bit quiet, apart from a 90mm flathead hooked on a 105mm Halco skin deep and a few trevs. Face it, if I was a fish, I’d be right up in those flooded mangrove forests feeding on all the goodies up there, not out in the kayakable channel. By this stage I’d lost the others in the maze of creeks, but found Trevor eventually. Brett completely disappeared, I assumed eaten by a crocodile.

Speaking of crocs – it was the most croccy looking area I’ve ever fished in the yak – in the tropics, in remote mangrove forests with no human habitation. Crocs have been sighted around Onslow (not far to the North), and last year there was a 4m croc causing concern around Coral Bay (which is further south). I heard that Yardie Creek was once a croc shooters camp in the 1950’s – so we were definitely in their natural habitat, and they have been seen as far south as Carnarvon. Luckily for us as kayak fishermen, but unlucky for us as wildlife observers, we didn’t see any sign of crocs, and Jim or Harry had never seen any either. Besides, with such shallow, clear water it would have been easy to see any approaching, so they weren’t a concern.

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Beautiful mangrove fishing area (Thanks for the photo Trevor)

Trevor and I returned to camp as the tide dropped, only to find Brett had beaten us back via some other route. Thus ended, with a big sigh, my Wilderness Island fishing experience.

Or did it? The sun was shining. I had a rod and a few lures. There was a creek nearby, and I had no-one to please but myself. Without thinking I found myself heading to a nearby creek at the bottom of the tide, with Jim, Trevor and a couple from Warnambool, I wasn’t sick of fishing yet! Casting from the shore in a very shallow, skinny creek we caught more Jacks, Flathead, some decent Cod, Bream, grunter and some unidentifiable thing, all from a small pool of water.

The sandflies are a real issue in the creeks for the others so we returned to camp. However, they never worried me the entire trip (but then again I’m rarely bitten by mozzies or leeches when they are giving hell to others around me). Before the sun set I had a few flicks by myself around the moored boat in the creek (no-one else seemed keen to fish there because of the sandflies) and caught the usual large bream every cast on an SX40 – and thus really ended my Wilderness Island angling experience. Bream fishing in the Swan River will never be the same again.

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My SX40 came home a bit worse for wear

Shane and his boat picked up Trevor and I the next day, braving winds so strong that the prawning fleet had stayed in port. Thanks for Erik and Corin, our exotic French friends, for keeping us company during the delay caused by these winds. While waiting for Shane, I reflected on how many different species we had caught between us, all on lures (I probably got a couple of these wrong and missed some):

- Mangrove Jack
- Northern Yellowfin Bream
- Pikey Bream
- Bartailed Flathead
- Yellowfin Whiting
- Golden Trevally
- Giant Trevally
- Brassy Trevally
- Fork Tailed Catfish
- Estuary Cod (several different species)
- Grunter
- Barracuda
- Javelin Fish
- Queenfish
- Spanish Mackeral (and other mackerel species)
- Squid
- Coral Trout
- Sharks (hookups only)
- Giant Herring (hookup only)
- Longtailed Tuna (hookup only)
- Spanish Flag
- Long Tom
- Spangled Emperor
- Oher Emperor species (e.g. Red Throat)
- Blue bone
- Fingermark Bream (I think?)
- Grinners
- Many small unidentified reef species.
- Saw a Barramundi, Milkfish, Mullet, and other schools of fish uninterested in lures (possibly bonefish or permit).

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Nice pikey bream caught by Trevor (photo by him too)

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An infamous Long Tom (photo and fish by Trevor)

Scotty and Brett caught a lot more larger fish than me, and Brett enjoyed his trip so much he didn’t leave for days after Trevor and I departed. I’m sure they, and Trevor, could add to this list.

The 1300 km drive home was uneventful apart from a kamikaze giant red kangaroo that (only just) failed in his mission, a fuel tank that wouldn’t take fuel and a rock concert playing outside my room at the Potshot Hotel as I tried to sleep. Thanks heaps to Brett and Scotty for organising this great trip and for all their advice and assistance, and also Trevor for the great company while fishing. Thanks Darryl for the great cooking, Harry for the yarns, Shane for the boat trips, and Jim (who runs the island) for a trip of a life time. And thanks to you for reading my long winded trip report - I’ve enjoyed writing it. I’ll be back!

THE END

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It’s a bloody hard life, I tell ya!
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Shufoy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:53 am

Here's the first instalment of my Wilderness Island video's, as usual watch in HD with the volume up, a corona goes well with this one too!!

Enjoy!

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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Shufoy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:02 pm

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Re: Wilderness Island, NW Australia

Postby Shufoy » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:20 pm

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