Having never been to Weipa, I could not wait to experience some of the epic fishing sessions the boys in the QFM office describe aboard the Eclipse. With a motley crew of previous Eclipse holiday makers including Mark ‘Chainsaw’ Lawson, Peter Morgan and our frequent US bass pro friend Gary Boyd, the remainder of the troop including visiting American bass pro Mike North, the humorous Peter May, AFC bass pro David Green, (in one of his few appearances in salt water) and myself, ABT organiser, Marcel Krieger.
With a short plane flight from Brisbane to Cairns and then onto Weipa, the Eclipse experience includes airport transfers and we were pleasantly escorted by local guide Dave Donald. Loading all the gear into the trailer, we set off on a 2 hour drive north past the township of Mapoon and along the 14km beach stretch to Camp Chivaree located on Janie Creek, owned and operated by Dick Foster.
Keen to hit the water we climbed aboard the Eclipse mother ship, a multi decked, air conditioned home away from home for the next week. Complete with drinks fridge, unlimited desalinated water, hot showers and 3 smaller aluminium boats to fish from. A 5 hour steam to the Jackson River meant that we would be fishing pristine, uninhabited waters come the morning.
Before we set off in the boats for the first morning, Mark Lawson thought he would get the edge and have a cast from the mother ship. Landing one of the smallest grinners I have seen, he started out our species list for the trip and a massive target to improve on.
Heading out along the beach and into the mouth of the Jackson River, I experienced flats fishing at its best, with blue salmon, queenies and trevally pushing the bait form the gutters into the shallows and smashing any lure worked fast enough in their vicinity.
Visiting the Eclipse for another hard earned drink and freshly made lunch, it was time to head off again; however, like usual in Weipa the winds pick up and working vibration baits and plastics around the mouth was the order of the day. Peter Morgan scoring some 8 barra from the bank and Gary Boyd the prized fish of the trip, a lovely sized permit.
Heading offshore the next morning we experienced enormous manta rays feeding on the baitfish schools metres from the boat, whilst catching a myriad of fish. My afternoon session was a highlight spent anchored to a snag with David Green and slow rolling plastics we caught 50cm plus mangrove jacks, queenies, fingermark, barramundi, trevally and estuary cod. Several of these fish finding their way to the dinner table for a feed of fresh fish for all aboard. Just watch out for those massive gropers lurking before the back of the ship ready to inhale anything that touches the surface.
With the winds low in the morning, we headed out the front to attack the bait schools. Lopping large plastic swim baits under the schools, Dave Green and I soon found the cobia taking a liking to them with 4 fish hooked in the first hour. One of mine on the first cast of the day and the biggest a Greeny special somewhere in the vicinity of 1.6 to 1.7 metres in length. Enough to tire out this self confessed gym junkie.
Travelling up to the McDonald and Doughboy systems at lunch, our afternoon session was slightly tougher with a low pressure system hovering over the area. Another good feed and sleep and we were ready to confront another day in fishing mecca.
Trolling out the front with Peter Morgan and Peter May, I not only took part in some tinnie karaoke but we landing countless gray mackerel amongst more trevally, queenfish and cobia. Peter May landing a metre queenfish and Peter Morgan hooking up a shark as large as the tinnie on a lure meant for a mackerel, a fight that nearly saw him spooled 3 times.
Heading back to the actioned packed Jackson River, further trolling outside accounted for several metre plus mackerel and a swag of small black tip reef sharks that took a liking to a certain Halco lure that now displays heavy chew marks. With Gary Boyd landing a metre plus queenie on the flats, it was time to head 3 ½ hours south to Namaletta Creek, Port Musgrave.
A quiet came of Texas Holdem on the cruise down and it was time to set off again and catch some barra in the snags on poppers.
Heading back towards base camp at Janie creek, fishing flats, gutters, reefs and out wide this was perhaps our best day of fishing. Unforgettable moments that continued to occur of triple hook-ups with Chainsaw and Greeny to huge queenfish and GT’s that smashed any popper on the surface whether it be big or small.
With the wind to strong to find the same fish in the afternoon it was an actioned packed time anchored near the mouth fishing over the freshly flooded flats for giant herring, queenfish, brassy trevally, golden trevally, blue salmon, remora, cobia, tarpon and long toms. Any lure worked fast enough caught a fish a cast and reminded you never to be reincarnated as a bait fish.
With a cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs and baked beans it was to be a day of travel and hoping the beans didn’t make a resurgence. Safely back in Brisbane, we are reminded of arm pulling fun we experienced as a group and the accessibility to this remote place that Dick Foster and the Eclipse provides.
One lucky winner will be randomly drawn from the Daiwa BARRA Tour to experience Weipa at the newly built accommodation at Camp Chivaree. Dick has invested in 15 twin share safari style tents that allow fishing at your doorstep at the mouth of Janie Creek some 90km north of Weipa, FNQ.
This remote, comfortable Sportsfishing destination is managed by Dick Foster and Eclipse Charters for the indigenous Cooktown Family the Traditional Owners of the area.
The camp also plays part to a turtle rescue operation where people can come and meet large sea going turtles face to face on the beaches.
Camp Chivaree can cater for groups away from the crowds and can supply quad bikes with rod racks to hit the remote beaches, tinnies to head up the mangrove lined Janie Creek or outside in the fish rich waters.
With airport transfer included, charters can be fully or partially guided. Flying out from the east coast in the morning, you could be fishing that afternoon. This is how good the service provided to you is.
I recommend that you need 3 outfits, a heavy spin stick for offshore, a medium spin stick for beach and flats fishing and a medium baitcaster for throwing lures at the mangroves and snags.
For example I used an Egrell S10 with a 3000 Daiwa Certate Hyper Custom spooled with 35lb Unitika braid. A G.Loomis PR844 with a 2500 Daiwa Certate Custom spooled with 20lb Daiwa SW Sensor braid and a Daiwa Advantage baitcaster with a 103L Alphas R-Edition spooled with 16lb Sunline Cast Away PE.
Although I took various sizes of leader I mainly used 30 or 40lb Saltiga Fluorocarbon, you will find that the toothy critters like mackerel will bite through anything.
Because of weight restrictions on the plane, you need to condense your lure collection. I took a tray of larger diving lures mainly used for trolling or offshore. A tray of various sized poppers for big GT’s and queenies to smaller bass and bream sized poppers for jacks and barra. Include several metal slugs and lipless vibration baits such as Jackalls. These lures can be jigged in the deep holes of the mouth or burned across the flats, fish can’t resist but to nail them. You will also need a tray of shallow and deep suspending lures for the snags.
Include several packets of plastics in the 3-6” range. The Americans loved to throw their top water frogs, however, I found the Ecogear 4-5” Power Shads did plenty of damage. Like always on the reefs fish can’t resist the Berkley Gulp and the 4” Minnows and 3” Prawns were constantly smashed.
Without adding too much weight take a variety of jig heads from weedless and lightly weighted weedless hooks like the jigheads from TT. A small mixture of weighted jigheadds from ¼ to ½ with good quality hooks. Remember to take extra split rings, trebles, pliers and scissors as well as sunglasses and plenty of suncream.
Caught Species List.
Big Eye Trevally
Fringe Finned Trevally
Golden Spot Cod
Grey Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Spanish Flag – Strippy
Wire Netted Cod