March 28, 2020

Australian Fishing Adventures & Misadventures - Melbourne & Cairns

I knew that Australia would be one of our biggest trips yet, but I think I was still unprepared for the challenges that lay ahead. The first difficulty was, of course, getting there! I fly on standby tickets and the time that Alex got off for the trip happened to line up with Canadian March break. I had to leave 2 days ahead of her and spend the down time alone in Melbourne while I awaited her arrival. That, plus a 12hr connection in Vancouver, made for a long few days of travel. Needless to say, I was very excited to be taking our third and final flight up to Cairns when the time came!

Oh yeah, I did book an AirBnB while waiting in Melbourne and made sure to choose one with water nearby. Unfortunately, the only aquatic life in sight were these exotic Eastern Mosquitofish (AKA the plague of microfishermen).

Eastern Mosquitofish (G. holbrooki)

Arriving in Cairns was a shock. Melbourne was warmer than home, but Cairns was downright tropical! I started getting nervous about our upcoming car camping plans, given the forecasted lows of 25-30C. Fortunately, we had booked an AirBnB for our first night to recoup and get ready for the road trip ahead. It was already 6:00PM by the time we arrived, but I knew there was a tidal creek just behind the resort and, of course, I couldn't stop myself from tossing a line.

Right away, I noticed a lot of Needlefish-looking things on the surface, and tried to convince them to chase my tanago rig. Soon enough, I felt a tap and pulled up something that was definitely not the Needlefish impersonator. At this point, I had no idea what any of the fish were. I called this one the "spiny curled up guy" (it was a Crescent Grunter).

Crescent Grunter (T. jarbua)

Next, it was time to start working on those Needlefish things. The only way I could get them interested was by skimming the bait back and forth right at the surface of the water. This also made it very difficult to hook up. I later learned this may also have had something to do with the shape of their mouths. Finally, I hooked up on one only to have it fall off the hook before I could bring it to land. The same thing happened with a second hookup. Finally, I let the third fish chew on the bait a while before setting, which proved successful! I pulled up and photographed lifer #2 of the trip: the Northern River Garfish. Check out that crazy snout!

Feathered River Garfish (Z. dispar)

Finally, it was time to start trying for some of the really small fish I saw milling about in the shallows. They were very aggressive but seemed too small to hook, even with a tanago. Eventually, I saw something larger take the bait a pulled up a real surprise: this juvenile Mud Crab! Not what I was expecting, but cool to see such an iconic Australian animal.

Mud Crab (S. serrata)
After releasing the crab and rebaiting, I returned focus to the tiny micros. I resorted to just occasionally lifting up the rig because I could barely feel their bites and the water was too muddy to see them properly. I finally lifted up lifer #3: the much-wanted Pacific Blue-eye! This is a beautiful Australian native that is pretty enough to be kept as part of the aquarium hobby. They get a little bigger than this, but not much.

Pacific Blue-eye (P. signifer)

Those three species seemed to make up the majority of the species composition of the creek, so I went on a short walk to the nearby botanical gardens before heading back to our place for dinner. The one thing of note was a Laughing Kookaburra I saw perched on a sign. It let me get really close for some pictures but I had yet to hear them call. I would later regret wishing to hear them as they laughed seemingly all day and night in some areas :p Seriously, look them up on YouTube if you've never heard them.

Laughing Kookaburra (D. novaeguineae)

I then headed back to our resort and Alex and I went out to the Thai restaurant that our AirBnB host worked at. She gave us a great deal and we enjoyed some delicious pad thai! I can certainly recommend the "Taste of Thai" at the Lakes Resort in Cairns North.