This is a story about a short trip we did to the Great Barrier Reef. Three of us had planned to go to the Great Barrier Reef for 2 days of spearfishing and fishing, we would tow up and stay on-board friends boat which is a 23 foot Intrepid centre cab. Plan was to fill up on some tasty reef fish and stock up the freezers for a couple of months. We left at 8 p.m. Thursday night and drove through the night hours to get there, arriving at 4 a.m. We pulled into the service station which opened at 5 a.m. and got an hours sleep. We woke up, fuelled the boat and bought 40kg of ice to put in the 160 litre cooler for the fish. Went down to the boat ramp to launch her and it's about a 35 nautical mile (60km) trip to the place we were going.
We stopped a little bit short and had a quick drop in about 30 metres of water, we got a couple of Red Throat Emperor and a few other throwback fish. We then pushed on to the reef we wanted to fish and spearfish and spend the night in the lagoon. We anchored in about 15 metres of water, I swam up to the anchor spearfishing and caught 3 nice coral trout before the other guys could even get in the water. They weren't monsters but they were the good eating sizes around the 2 kg mark. I swam then back to the boat and then went and put them in 160 litre ice box, sitting them on top of the 40 kg of ice which we purchased from the service station. We also had a 56 litre ice box with 2 x 2 kilogram ice bricks for our food and this would be a backup if we managed to fill the big cooler.
After a few hours at this spot we got a few more coral trout before the tide picked up and we had to jump back in the boat. The other guys were back in the boat already and fast asleep, we were all so buggered from the night before driving.
We had a couple of other jumps in some other areas which didn't prove very eventful, we couldn't find any good bottom or any fish there we then moved out to some wider ground and had a quick drift but the current was pushing quite hard and the others weren't too keen to jump in the water. So, we did have a few drifts over this flat country fishing and this brought up a few Red Throat Emperor and some more coral trout on the fishing lines which passed a few hours.
We then moved back in closer as the current slowed down before the next tide changed and swam around for about an hour pick me up a couple of coral trout, but it was hard going and not much at this spot.
As the day was getting on we then moved towards the lagoon to finish off the day. We had planned to go fishing at night but as we didn't have lots of fuel we opted not to and we're all pretty keen to get to bed.
We have one quick dive in the channel to the Lagoon normally this area can produce good fish at dusk, however, the current wasn't running very hard through the channel and usually this spot turns on when the current is running a bit.
As the sun went down, we dropped anchor for the night we're all too buggered too even cook so I think it was corn chips and tinned tuna for dinner and then by about 6:30 we all went to sleep, we slept through the night really well and woke up just before sunrise. We pulled the pick and went out again.
There was light drizzling rain, but the wind was light and we went back to fishing for a while over the wide country we fished the day before. The current was strong and we were waiting for a bit more light to go spearing again. We caught a few more Red Throat Emperor and some coral trout on the fishing line. By now the fuel gauge was sitting on half and we were a little concerned about using too much fuel running around before we had to run back the 40 odd miles to the mainland. So we moved in closer as we knew the tide will be slowing down coming up to the next tide change.
We were hoping to dive the area we found some fish yesterday I slipped on my dive mask jumped over the side just to do an inspection dive. As soon as I jumped in I was over sand but it was alive with fish, big schools of surgeon fish, bait fish, sharks around on the bottom in about 15 metres, then I can see the black shape of the bombie as I drifted towards it. I look down there was big red bass going in and out of the bombie, coral trout all around it sharks and loaded with bait fish, I got the guys to GPS that spot.
The current was still running hard and we didn't want to use the fuel to drift over and over it so we drove up current from the spot, dropped the anchor and then let the boat sit back over the Bombie. The boat sat perfectly right on top of the bombie. We trailed a rope out the back of the boat with a float on it to catch as we dived and then we just took turns diving on the spot. We ad to swim as hard as we could just to get to the front of the boat, grab onto the anchor rope, relax to breathe up then dive to the bottom, shoot a fish. Then by the time we got to the surface, we had drifted about 30 metres, we then grab the rope as you were going past, then pull yourself back up to the boat, then throw the fish in the boat. This worked really well, but it was hard work, we did this for about an hour and a half and started to get some really nice Trout and other fish.
After doing this for a while we all jumped in the boat, had a break, something to eat and a drink then the current started to slow down, so we jumped back in the water as we were still under our bag limit of coral trout and we wanted to get a few more. We managed to get a few more coral trout, Red Throat Emperor, Blackspot tuskfish, green job fish and Mangrove Jack, Cheyne saw a really nice mangrove jack of about 10 kilos was seen but we couldn't get that one unfortunately.
After about 3 hours at this spot we were just short of our bag limit of nice coral trout. The 160 litre ice box was nearly full with 3 guys catches and we can see the weather was starting to turn. A 25 knot southerly wind was forecast for the afternoon, rain was starting to set in so we opted to call it a day. We tidy up the boat took some photos of the fish and iced them down in the 160 litre cooler with the 40 kilos of ice. Which was just enough to keep them cold. It had chilled the fish from the previous evening, however the fish that we just caught would take a little bit of rearranging to get them in the ice so they could chill down. We did this, got out of our wetsuits and headed off for the land.
Close to two hours later we got back to land pulled the boat out, then headed to the service station for a big dirty meat pie. We bought another 20 kilos of ice to put on the fish for the trip home and this really brought them down to the right temperature. We did the 8 hour drive home and left the fish on ice to be processed the next day.
All up we used a total of 60 kilos of ice to fill up the 160 litre Icey Tek ice box and we ended up with 20 kilos of A grade fish fillets. These are all skinned, filleted and pinboned and we ended up with 20 kilos of pure meat.
If I did the trip again, I probably would have been cheaper just to buy the fish but nowhere near as fun.
In hindsight I should have left the ice in bags when I first put it in the Icey Tek cooler then I could take the bag's out, put a small layer of ice on the bottom of the icebox, a layer of fish and then another layer of ice just chucking it out of the bag's as we go.
Instead what we had done, was dumped the entire lot of the ice in the ice box outside of the bags so this then formed one huge mass of ice in the box. We had to sift through and break up the clumps of ice, just to put the fish at the bottom of the icebox. It's best if you can get a layer of ice on the bottom, a layer of fish and then more ice and then just layer fish/ice as you fill up the box.
This way you get ice all around the fish and they chill down really well. When I use fresh water ice and salt water fish I always make sure I drain water out of the ice box as we go. This keeps the fish in a lot better condition and makes the eating qualities a lot better from my experience.
The other alternative is just to buy some table salt, 1 or 2 kilos is enough and as you put a layer of ice down, chuck handfuls of salt in amongst the ice. This helps keep the ice from melting as quick, bring the temperature of the ice down lower and it also stops the melted ice being so high in freshwater and having a slight salt content closer to the salt content inside the fish fillets.