Monday, August 20, 2012

My First Saratoga

Hi there,

I finally got to catch my first ever Saratoga, and this is the story of the day it happened.
For a long time I had heard of these fish and seen photos of them.
Most of my fishing buddies had caught some, but I was Saratoga-less, if such a word exist.
Till the day when my good mate Mud gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to go fishing with him at Corroboree Billabong the following day.
This is a place where I had been just once before, and loved it.
The scenery is fantastic, and this is a good place to fish for Barramundi, and Saratoga.
A place where one need to be ready to cast his or her lure among the lilies and that is something that I always wanted to try.
So to Corrobore Billabong we went.
Once there, Mud told me to put a weedless lure on my line and to start casting as far as I could in the lilies...

Lilies and jumping fish.

And in no time doing just that, he caught the first saratoga of the day. Which you can see jumping on the end of his line in the above photograph.
I was amazed to see him catch a fish in such treacherous waters full of potential snag...
But he reeled it in with no worries and the first fish of the day was onboard.

First Saratoga of the day.

This is a specie of fish that I find very beautiful, and this was only the second one that I was able to see in the flesh.
Maybe 2 or 3 cast after I got a really good hit, nearly as soon as my frog hit the water she was taken by a good fish. So early in the swim that it made me jump in surprise.
But it didn't stay connected and swam away scott free.

We then moved a bit further away in the billabong, and Mud caught some more Saratoga.
As he had told me that most of the hits should happen far away from the boat, I was trying to do the longest cast that I could make. 
With my lure now in clear sight of the boat, I told myself that I was out of the strike zone, so I started to reel in my lure faster, just to get it out of the water and cast it away in the distance again.
And this is when just below our eyes a Barramundi had a go at my little frog and totally inhaled it. I was on! this was a short battle as the hookup took place so close to the boat, and it was a still very green Barra that ended in the boat.

Frog down the throat.

First Barramundi of the day.

This was my first fish on a frog lure, and I was very happy with that.
As the fish had obviously been in the billabong for a long time and was a bit dark on the back, I decided to put it back in the drink, and hoped to catch another cleaner one...

Here is the little lure that I used to catch this fish:

The frog lure.

By then I was definitively confident in the lure, which after all had got me a good solid hookup on the second hits only.

We moved to another place, where we didn't get any joy on the fishing front.
But the place was still very beautiful, and very relaxing, a really peaceful location.

Lilies and Pandanus.

Again we scouted to another of Mud favourite spot, and this was going to prove a place full of action, and full of tough lilies.

The lilies.

Can you imagine casting your lure in there?
Well, that is just what we did. All the time thinking that if we were to hook a good fish, drama might come screaming in our sorry ears...
As we drifted a bit we arrived in the shadow of some pandanus and casted against the tree roots. We started to get hits after hits, both of us. Mine were usually pretty strong but never stayed connected. Mud's ones were staying connected... Experience I guess.
But despite staying connected to his fishes, he would often loose them as they started to go ballistic in the lilies. In which case we often had to go and get the hook out of the lilies stems, where the fish had placed them... 
This is when I first noticed a rather large croc, coming for my lure, that was dangling from a lillie pad. Lucky I got the lure back before the croc.
Seeing that, we decided to move a bit further away, and Mud started to land Saratoga, like if this was an easy job.

Mud and another Saratoga.

At one stage he hooked on a very nice fish, which immediately started to make his reel sing. Like if the drag system had not been invented yet. But the fish went in some mix of pandanus and lilies root, and got lost. This was upsetting as it could very well have been the best fish of the day, without much doubt. 

Then he got one who got stuck on an underwater snag. But he managed to get it out of the snag and to reel it toward the boat.
I was still reeling in my lure from the back of the boat and Mud was at the front.
This is when I heard him shout: "He's going for it! He's going for it!"
To which I replied: "What?"
And his answer sent a jolt through my whole body: "The croc!"
As I turned my head to these words, the only thing that I saw was the inside of a big white mouth full of teeth approaching the boat at great speed, followed by a big black scaly tail. Then bang! It hit the side of the boat, and in no time Mud and I found ourselves standing exactly in the middle of the  boat.
We could hear it hissing and being upset under the gunwale, but none of use went to have a look...
Mud said: "Start the engine! Start the motor!"
But did it himself at the same time that he was saying it, and got us out of there as quick as he could, and I still thank him for that.
From his estimate the crocodile was between 3.5 meters to 4 meters. (11.48294 to 13.1233613.12 foot). This would have definitively be big enough to give us some worries if one of us had fallen in the water.
After that, we decided to move away from this very good fishing spot...
And Mud started to get some more Saratoga.
Then I got a hit and as it jumped I saw a little Saratoga pulling on my line!
I got really excited and was afraid that it would spat the hook before being in the net.
I was between laughing and stress, as I really wanted to get this little fish.
And it finally came close to the boat, I grabbed the leader and pulled it over the boat side, I had my first Saratoga!

My first Saratoga.

It might have been just a baby one, but ho boy, I was as happy as if it had been a monster one!
And I got in on a small weedless lure that I had seen Arrabmundi use with great success on my prior visit to this very billabong, nearly a year ago.
I will use these lures again.

And Mud continued to get some more Saratoga:

Sunset and Saratoga.

Between the scenery and the fishing, this is really a great place to wash your mind from all the worries of the week.

With the night falling upon us, Mud said that we were to do a bit of trolling.
He put a little Spear Head on his line, and I put a Big Lucifer on mine.
And in no time he got a little Tarpon.

First little Tarpon.

Which was rapidly followed by another one, one more time by Mud.
I was starting to wonder if I should change my lure, when I got a good hit.
The strike was frank, and I said maybe more loudly that I would have liked: "I'm on!"
As the line was peeling from my reel, I got up and steadied myself ready for the fight, when the line even if still tight, was much easier to wind back.
So I said: "Ho this is not a monster, this is a small one, maybe even just a Tarpon."
Deep inside I was starting to think that I would have loved a nice clean Barramundi, one that I could have brought back home. Not too far from the boat it jumped, and in the light of Mud head torch I saw it. It was actually a bit bigger that I believed it to be. On nearing the boat, it found back some energy and took some line again, like if this was no problem for him.
In the end it was close enough to be netted and Mud did a pretty good job at it.
In the boat was my second Barramundi of the day.

The last Barramundi of the day.

At 72cm (28.346457 inches), this was no monster, but it was bigger and cleaner than the first one. In fact it was even to big to be placed in any of the two small esky that we had.
Mud remedied to this by quickly dispatching and filleting the Barra, and in the esky it went.
I was going to be able to feed my little family.

We tried a few other places, casting mostly in the lilies again, but without much success.
So we had to try one last place for one last cast, you know how it is... Just one last cast...
This is when in full sight of us, real close to the bow of the boat, we saw a big thing, engulfing my little surface lure.
And it started to take some line, like no other fish that I had hooked on this very day.
But it didn't jump...
Yet it was still very exciting to fight this thing in the darkness and to try to guess what it could be.
Regularly, I thought that I had it, and it would make another run for it.
In the end, it was boat side, but still underwater and we hadn't seen it's colour yet.
Then it surfaced and we saw it, the thing that had grabbed my surface lure was a rather nice catfish.

Not really a kitten. 

After the croc that we saw earlier in the day, there was no way that we were to try to unhook this fish in the water at night time.
So in the boat it came, and we got very carful as to were we placed our feet.
I was still excited from the capture, and didn't know if I should laugh or get worried about how to get my lure out of this catfish gob. In the end this might have helped me and it was a rather quick and easy process.
Then a quick photo for posterity, and a release, so it can go and make millions of other little catfish for other people to catch.

So this is the story of the day I caught my first Saratoga.
I really had a great time, which brought to me some much needed head space, thank you Mud.
But when I look at the photos of it... I really need another hair cut...

But hey, it could be worse.
Have a good day,


Fish Whisperer said...

Well done! I have always like the Saratoga. It is rather prehistoric looking.
Do you eat catfish?
Tight Lines

Rambling Expat said...

Hi Fish Whisperer,

Yes I love Saratoga, they definitively look like survivors of a very ancient times.
For the catfish, I sometimes do, Most people around here say that they are a disgusting fish... But where I grow up, we were eating them when we were catching them, and I still like them.
This one was released.

Have a good day,