Hooked on Me! by Royce Black

As a relative non-fisherman, it never ceases to amaze me the skill of some of the owners and crew that fish on our delivery trips. Coles at Birkenhead does most of our catering but owners and crew still get the urge to hunt and gather along the way. Gathering oysters off the rocks in the Kimberlys the size of your hand, spear fishing on a reef, or trolling a line behind the boat for tuna or mackerel.
Geoff Warner and Tully from Pretty Woman a Seawind 1000 would be up at day break and then gone for an hour or so in the tender to return with a nice bag of breakfast and lunch fillets and Alan Davidson and his son Graeme are the same except Alan’s speed and skill with a filleting knife are a pleasure to watch.
fish tunaThen there’s always the one that got away and the after stories with the fish growing ever bigger with every word. Guys, they don’t count unless they are on the boat and have been held up for a photo!
This story is about the one that got away and its aftermath.
We were sailing on a Seawind 1160 delivering it from Sydney to Perth via Darwin. A 5,000 mile eight-week delivery trip as I do it, or a year if you had the time. Simon had me on board until Broome to teach him the ins and outs of the SW1160 and Ned joined for most of the trip with Colin coming on at Cairns for the leg to Darwin.
Trolling is always good up the east coast of Queensland and over the top across the Gulf and it didn’t change on this trip, with 10kg tuna and four-foot mackerel being caught and slowly consumed. Then ‘bang’ Colin’s rod went off again and I luffed the boat up as he started reeling it in.
Seawind 1160A nice tuna came to the surface and as the others were resting I got the net ready to help land the tuna. As Colin brought the tuna up to the transom steps I got it in the net but he kept reeling it in and the lure pulled out of the tuna whipping forward and then stopping suddenly against my face.
At first I thought that was a close call, only to find out that gravity was not having an effect on the lure as it was stuck to my face. A call of “stop winding” halted Colin who was still caught up in the chase for the fish.
The semi lucky tuna was on its way and replaced with a 95kg Royce. In the heat of the moment the line was cut away, instead of releasing the snap on the bearing swivel, and there on deck was me with a new piece of eight inch custom jewellery attached to my face!
Issue one: Blood … my blood … dripping into my mouth.
Issue two: Sight! Open the eyes one at a time and check that they are still working. YES!!!
Issue three: 175 nautical miles or 25 to 28 hours to Gove.
After making sure that I wasn’t bleeding too badly on Simon’s new boat I made my way to the aft head for a visual check up and yes I was well caught.
fish tunaThis lure had two stainless welded tri hooks … and one was well imbedded above my right eyebrow and the other had slid up my upper lip and was half imbedded inside my nose.
The second one I pulled out but the ‘brow boy’ wasn’t moving. We had a good assortment of tools on board but none could cut through that welded, work-hardened stainless so the next option was to tape the lure to my head after putting corks on the dangerous spare sharp bits.
We had a variety of lures on board but ‘brow boy’ was a rattler with a 6mm ball bearing inside and in the 1-2 metre seas of the Gulf of Carpentaria had the desired effect of water torture as I tried lying down for some sleep with it rolling endlessly from end to end with a wonderful tap at each end.
Arriving into Gove Harbour later the next day we anchored and I donned a floppy hat so as not to scare the locals and we all took the tender ashore. I was lucky enough to organise a ride to town with a local who was leaving for the 20 minute drive in half an hour after our arrival so we made for the yacht club bar where the manager picked straight away that the corks were not in the hat and that was the start of show and tell.
Dr Andrew from Gove base hospital also had a little laugh prior to removing the lure by cutting me and cleaning the wound and applying a pressure bandage, I was away after the necessary shots and back to the yacht club for a well earned beer. Colin’s shout by the way. The assisting nurse said, another half an inch and it would have got my eye and I remarked, another half an inch and it would have missed my face!
The lure continued around to Perth and caught some more great fish and all I have is a little scar, this story and the must-have photos.
Safe and happy sailing and fishing and watch out for those oversize clown fish!