“OK, let ’em go, guys,” Mick McGillivray calls through the wheelhouse window and seven paternoster rigs are free-spooled to the bottom nearly 100m below.
It takes a minute, almost two, to get the baits down but it becomes very obvious when they’ve reached bottom – seven rods immediately load up under the strain of solid fish, quite often two at a time.
“Go easy on ’em, just wind steadily,” says Mick, of Evans Head Deep Sea Charters, as a heady mix of prime pearl perch and snapper are gradually fought to the surface, over the side and onto the ice.
It’s just another day out over the productive reefs wide of Evans Head aboard the Pirate, Mick’s fully surveyed Randell 38.
Mick had been fishing the rich grounds off Evans Head commercially for over 15 years and in 2005 decided he’d like to share this rewarding fishery with visitors and those who don’t have access to a boat capable of travelling well offshore in comfort and safety.
Evans Head Deep Sea Fishing Charters can accommodate up to 10 anglers in pursuit of snapper, pearl perch, teraglin, mulloway, morwong, bar cod, bass groper, hapuku, blue-eye and many other delicious bottom fish.
As if that’s not enough fun and fillets, there are at times abundant kingfish, amberjack, samson, spotted and Spanish mackerel, yellowfin, longtail and mackerel tuna, billfish and mahi mahi. You’re likely to quit before they will.
Trailer boat anglers flock to the close reefs off Evans Head, a village famous as the birthplace of the Australian prawn trawling industry and the site of a huge training air base in World War II.
Sheltered from southerly swells, the Evans River entrance is as safe as any NSW coastal bar can be and during busy periods and fine weather, well over 50 trailer boats can be fishing inshore on any day.
But out where Mick goes, you’ll likely see none. You’re far more of a chance to encounter a passing bulk carrier, container ship or car transporter. Many of Mick’s grounds are close to the shipping lanes but the Pirate has plenty of electronics, including radar, to allow safe fishing in these sometimes busy waters.
Mick is very adept at operating some extremely sophisticated sonar equipment and has an unbelievable number of GPS marks at his fingertips, all gained through thousands of hours of painstaking searching and serious fishing.
Naturally, someone who has spent a big chunk of his life gaining intimate knowledge of such productive water is keen to keep it that way, so please leave your GPS phone or hand-held GPS back on shore – it could be an awfully long swim home!
Mick is protective of this fishery and is ever-keen to maintain its sustainability. He won’t do a second drift over a spot that has been productive that day and might not go back there for weeks or even months. With so many other locations nearby, it’s easier to ‘farm’ the fish rather than pressure their populations.
Our Winter trip was with a group of young guys from Victoria, plenty of whom had hardly fished before, let alone been so far offshore. Mick’s safety briefing broke the ice well and his easy manner soon had everyone relaxed and enjoying the ride out to the grounds.
Thanks to Mick’s tuition, even the first-timers quickly got the hang of the reliable tackle and the braided line made the bites easily to detect. It wasn’t long before they were hauling aboard reds and some thumping pearlies like pros and when there was the inevitable tangle, Mick appeared, instantly unravelled things and got everyone fishing again.
The frozen pillies and squid bait were of top quality and the fish were in ice almost the minute they hit the deck.
To comply with NSW Fisheries regulations, the catch must be returned whole and is thoroughly documented for DPI statistics, and no filleting is permitted at sea.
Mick suggests you bring a sizeable esky and your best filleting knives to process your catch at the sheltered cleaning tables at the adjoining boat ramp.
We caught plenty and after a marathon filleting session at the ramp everyone went home with many choice fish dinners. I haven’t done much bottom dropping out wide for years but now that my freezer is sadly bereft of pearlie fillets, I think I’d better sign up for another voyage with the Pirate!
Evans Head Deep Sea Fishing Charters offers six-hour trips for up to 10 anglers for $1400 and extended trips out wider for $1650. There are some mid-week fishing/accommodation packages that are unbelievably affordable.
Call Mick on 0428 828 835 or visit www.evansheadfishingcharters.com.au
Mick has recently geared up for game and sport fishing with quality trolling outfits from light to heavy tackle. The Pirate’s outriggers have been tuned and the Reelax heavy-tackle game chair lubed, polished and good to go. Mick is ready to go fishing for the inshore baby blacks or the striped and blue marlin and wahoo out wider, along with the yellowfin and longtail tuna.