Fishing the Coral Sea on Elizabeth E 11

Last week I was fortunate enough to be on assignment for Fishing World aboard the Coral Sea Charter Company’s flag ship – the Elizabeth E II. She is a Queensland designed and built Norman R. Wright & Sons motor yacht, a massive 108 feet in length with a displacement of approximately 130 tonnes. This luxurious vessel is magnificent in every regard. She exudes old world charm and class with her internal fit out in Queensland Maple, with each of her cabins boasting its own en-suite. Yet the EE II also has all the mod cons including air-conditioning and hydraulic stabilisers which make the ship a pleasure to travel on. Add in the five star restaurant quality food and service then you’re in a league few can match – anywhere.

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On this trip EE II was skippered by one of the co-owners Bob Edwards, who has for many years been running extended charters along the north Queensland Coast, and whose seamanship is of the highest order. Our expedition was to target an area of the Great Barrier Reef located approximately 200 km due east of Thursday Island which was where I joined the ship.

As is often the case the south-easterlies along the Queensland coast made their presence felt throughout the 7-day voyage. However Bob chose to keep the big boat close in behind the fringing reefs which made conditions fishable and still very comfortable. This is the benefit of being in such a large vessel which can get you safely from Thursday Island or Mackay out to the wide reefs in the Coral Sea, and once there serves as an excellent platform from which to fish from. As a result you end up in a prime position to experience some mind blowing fishing action in a pristine area that is rarely fished.

On our trip Bob’s ability to time and time again anchor that big boat on to a fish rich patch of reef was pretty amazing. As soon as he had anchored the vessel, rigged baits from all corners and side decks were released to the bottom. Almost straight away multiple anglers were then struggling with bent rods in an effort to try and stop those big reefies from bricking them on the coral below. The species list encountered on our trip included all the top shelf favourites … big coral trout, Maori sea perch, a variety of emperors, job fish, red bass, assorted cods and trevally species as well as Spanish and shark mackerel. Not only were the species numerous but the size of fish landed was pretty mind blowing for a Darwinian like me with coral trout to 13kg and some thumper hump-headed Maori wrasse which were all released (as were all trout over 80cm in length).

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All up we landed 31 different species on the trip. The majority of fish caught were on baits fished on the bottom. However, in between my own chosen role as roving photographer (and boy was I kept busy once the baits hit the water), I did manage to break out my jig gear and got stuck into some great fish, many of which I had never caught before. Also late each day I press-ganged the two hard-working deckies aboard – Marc and Josh – into field testing some new metal jigs on the market. They jumped at the chance and landed some fantastic fish on the new assist-hook rigged Halco Twistys, the equally new Butterfly jigs from Shimano, as well as knife jigs from Reidy’s. Suffice to say they are now converts to fishing metals vertically! We also dropped down both Squidgies and Gulps and these too accounted for many a good fish. We even managed to get some of the bait fishing brigade aboard to drop a few down themselves.

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As mentioned earlier, the weather played a part in shaping the fishing strategies for the trip. The windy conditions weren’t conducive for taking the dories out to chase big GTs on poppers, jigging for those famed doggies on the outer reef, nor trolling up the odd marlin (all species which repeatedly appear in the ship’s extensive photo albums). However I’ve got a feeling that it won’t be my last trip out to the Coral Sea aboard the EE II … which in my book is Queensland’s equivalent of the QE II – but better because you can fish off her!

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A full trip report from Peter Zeroni will appear in an upcoming edition of Fishing World.

For more information visit:

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