An early rise at 2.30am for a departure time of 4am from the Mackay city gates where I was to rendezvous with my good mate Pedro (aka. Kwikdraw) for a reconnaissance mission in search of the mighty sportfish the Saratoga. Our destination lay 85km south west of the city and with yaks on board we set off in search of our quarry.
The Southern Saratoga (Scleropages leichardti) is becoming an increasingly popular species for kayak anglers. Known for their hard and spectacular fighting qualities this fish features on many anglers bucket list including, yours truly. The Saratoga belongs to the family of bony tongue fishes and have a hard bony mouth, this combined with their aerial acrobatics make them a difficult fish to hook and land.
Arriving at our destination we checked out the launch spot which was a little challenging to say the least with a vertical drop of 10 feet to the water. Kwikdraw’s yak had to be retrieved from the middle of the creek after it got away from him on descent. It was pretty funny at the time but does stress an important point about yak fishing with a buddy, if I had not have been there he would have surely had to swim out to his yak which would not be my ideal way to start a session and could lead to more serious consequences.
My Kayak of choice for this mission was my little Extreme Kayaks Fish Bandit at only 2.6m long it is the perfect platform for still water angling. Kwikdraw brought along his Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 a superb kayak that is extremely versatile and boasts many outstanding features.
Once on the water I was overwhelmed by the amount of fishable structure that lay before us, there were literally hundreds of snags to target upstream and down. I decided to head upstream and Pedro downstream.
I was probably 400m away from him after 20mins of fishing time when I heard the unmistakable sound of a large fish busting the surface. I could see Pedro was in a battle with a serious contender so I paddled as fast as I could and got there just as he netted a 60 – 70 cm Saratoga. We were stoked! After travelling all that way to a creek system neither of us had fished before, to be rewarded with our target species after such a short while was amazing. Pedro did an outstanding job by keeping the pressure on the fish at all times during the fight, this is most important with Saratoga as it is very difficult to set the hook into their bony mouths. His skill was confirmed when as the fish was netted the lure flew from its mouth as it thrashed about. Trying to get a photo was very difficult as we wanted to release the fish quickly with no harm done. The female Saratoga produces only 100 to 200 eggs so every one of these beautiful creatures is precious. With this in mind Pedro decided to forgo the measuring process and return his prized catch to the depths to fight another day.
Buoyed by this epic capture I threw everything I had at those snags and as I pulled in my third Catfish for the morning at around 8.30am it was looking like I had missed the early morning bite window. I was contemplating this thought whilst removing my lure from the above mentioned Catfish when it flipped over and caught my finger with it’s dorsal spine. Ouch!
I was not going to let this dampen my spirits though and the next two fish I boated were Sooties 32cm and 26cm not huge fish but tough little fighters and a welcome change from Catfish. Pedro also managed to drag a little Sooty out of a snag. So the tally for the morning was Kwikdraw – 1 Saratoga, 1 Sooty Grunter. Mackayakka – 3 Catfish, 2 Sooty Grunter.
The target species eluded me this time but I am wiser for the experience and I know that it is only a matter of time until I can tick this amazing fish off my Bucket list. It also gives me a reason to return to this magical waterway.
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