I can’t help myself: while soft-baiting from small tinnies is my primary love these days, a part of me remains irresistibly drawn to wharves. After all, they have many attractive qualities which include: easy accessibility; the fact they generally poke out into deeper water and/or the current; and how fish are already naturally drawn to their sheltering structure rather than us having to attract them into the vicinity. These attributes resulted in me catching an almost obscene number of fish from wharves for nearly 20 years – and some of them were pretty big, too.
So when my boat was off at ‘the doctor’s’ getting some minor electrical work done and the forecast for the following day looked spectacular, it was easy to decide what to do instead: time to visit the newly rebuilt Devonport Wharf! But learn from my mistake – don’t load up with a heap of gear!
Unlike the old days, when you could drive your vehicle onto this wharf and use it as a comfy base, cars must now to be slotted into a 24-hour park situated around 400 metres away from the wharf’s western end. But I didn’t know that. Instead, having grabbed a heavy, bulky Wobble Pot at the last moment (thanks to a mid-night ‘inspiration’, along with the necessary 5kg block of berley to fill it), a decent-sized chilly bin (crammed with the aforementioned berley, plus bait and ice), two fishing outfits and a tackle bag, carrying everything proved impossible. In fact, I had to make three trips, and even then I was very heavily laden. So multiply the 400-metre walk mentioned by five (back and forth), factor in the three loads of gear, and perhaps you’ll understand why I was already a bit broken by the time my little jetty campsite had been completed. On the plus side, my very early arrival meant only two other anglers were present before me, enabling a reasonable position up near the tip of the wharf to be claimed.
Armed with a 4.27m (14’) Kilwell Powerplay rod in overhead configuration, along with a Daiwa SL30SH reel, I found myself unexpectedly excited whilst baiting up my Break-Out sinkered ledger rig. On one 4/0 circle hook I bound two thirds of a squid with bait elastic, while the upper hook sported a 4” Z-man PaddlerZ soft-plastic smothered in ‘Pilchard’ Secret Sauce.
Then, with legs comfortably spread, I positioned myself and the rod so the maximum-possible casting arc would be achieved, before letting rip…
To cut a rather long-ish story short, the ensuing few hours of fishing served to remind me of why I love fishing from wharves so much – but that there are also some less savoury aspects. So, at the risk of sounding like the grumpy old man I may be turning into, I’d like to share both sides of the coin with you.
• Beware of approaching boats! I’ve also fished from other nearby inner harbour locations – the ‘Tank Farm’ and near the Harbour Bridge in particular – and seen a number of anglers hanging onto line zipping off their reels at a blistering pace from all three places, thanks to boats cutting in too close. I’ve also witnessed much slower battles caused by the inhabitants of drifting boats tangling with shore-based anglers’ gear. So to boaties I say, “Please be considerate,” and to shore-based fishos I say, “Look out, mate!”
• The message of looking after any undersized fish accidentally hooked so they survive and grow big enough to breed doesn’t appear to have reached many of the shore-based anglers I watched. In addition to the odd undersized snapper quietly being slipped into chilly bins, others were left to flap for a number of minutes on the wharf’s hot concrete deck before finally being unhooked and thrown back into the water. Several of these fish floated away after such unfortunate treatment. I suspect much of this is simply due to a lack of education, so would love to see signs outlining good fish-handling treatment at some of the more popular land-based fishing spots.
• Nor did it generally pay to be something ‘undesirable’, such as a ray or shark. While Devonport’s elevated position meant most of the really big specimens were busted off in the attempted landing process, some of the smaller ones did end up on the wharf deck. A few were released reasonably smartly, but I also saw too many get killed or mutilated and then tossed back. A greater appreciation of how all the various species are vitally linked in the ecosystem means it’s simply not acceptable to kill something just because it’s not what you want to eat.
• Why are so many shore-bound anglers thoughtless and messy? I often see lots of rubbish lying around on wharves (and the rocks for that matter) – a mix of paper, bait, plastic, bottles and discarded line. Some hook rigs also get abandoned, and it’s disappointing to see seagulls hopping around with traces hanging out of their mouths. Consequently, I would like to see more rubbish bins placed in the popular fishing spots and, if there aren’t any, for anglers to pick up all their crap and take it back with them!
• Be wary of nearby anglers with limited casting skills and/ or who may not have good awareness of where you are. Too many anglers are very casual in their approach to casting, not looking behind before ripping one out, or are simply ignorant of the potential dangers. I’ve seen several people injured by casting anglers’ hooks and sinkers over the years, so always give anglers shaping up to cast a wide berth.
• While there is little in the way of rocks to snag up anglers’ gear, rubbish dumped from many boats over the decades – some of which is very large, heavy and durable – means that anglers do occasionally get snagged up, and each time they lose their gear, the snag becomes a little bigger. With braid-type lines taking so long to decompose and being so strong, this is likely to become an increasingly significant problem going into the future.
• I love the fact that people cared enough about this old wharf to stump up with sufficient funds to get it back in good shape – and that anglers are still allowed to use it, despite the aforementioned problems.
• Big ups to the very friendly lady who came around chatting away to us all, while also picking up all sorts of rubbish – some of it pretty unsavoury – and putting it in a bag. A great approach that set a great example to the anglers present.
• Inventiveness is alive and well in the Land of the Long White Cloud. All the regulars came equipped with various versions of a very cleverly-designed adjustable rod holder, which was held securely by a firmly hammered-in wedge. The device was also hinged, enabling the rod to be nicely angled. In contrast, my rod, held by a heavy-duty metal rod-holder placed in a handy wharf-edge hole, was very upright, leaving it more susceptible to windage and being picked up by passing boats.
• Most wharves can be a great melting pot of cultures. It was wonderful to see people of all races getting on famously, checking out how each other was getting on, as well as the outfits they were using, the favoured baits and any catch, thanks to the common language of fishing.
• In a similar vein, things could easily have got ugly amongst the group of us positioned at the wharf’s end. Due to rather cramped conditions and the strong cross-current present, our lines were often swept down past each other’s positions, despite our rigs being equipped with break-out sinkers. This meant anglers generally had to cast over their neighbours’ lines – yet due to some common sense and consideration, tangles were remarkably few. And when another line was caught up, there was never a cross word, with everyone appreciating the tricky conditions in force at the time.
• As alluded to earlier, we did have a couple of boat problems, with the worst involving a complete moron in a fizz boat ignoring the frantic arm waving by several anglers as he approached, flying past the wharf just 30 metres out and collecting a bunch of lines as he did so. But the Devonport ferry operator was much more considerate. Pushed outside his usual approach line by oncoming vessels, he ended up running into a surfcaster’s line, but responded quickly to the angler’s waving, slowing the big boat down and then reversing, enabling the angler to successfully retrieve his gear. I must say I was pleasantly surprised.
• Despite fishing from such a popular wharf, the fishing was still enjoyable. I experienced steady action, releasing around 10 small snapper up to 32cm long in the hope of getting something bigger – a realistic expectation given that around four or five decent fish were caught up ahead of me. While I ended up with nothing to take home this time, at least I had the consolation of seeing my carefully circle-hooked Z-man soft-plastic produce four of my snapper total. So maybe I’m onto something?
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