Sailfishing in Beautiful Broome
One hundred and twenty years ago there was a pearl rush (kinda like the gold rush but underwater!) and the coastal town of Broome swelled with people from all over- half of them Japanese divers and prospectors. Divers traipsed everywhere combing the area for pearls. Some great fortunes were no doubt made, but at the cost of many lives. This and the decline in pearl numbers drove the industry to develop farming techniques which continue, still today. Broome pearls are world renowned for their purity and colour. The rush is well and truly over, and Broome has now reverted to being a comfortable town of about 9000 friendly people, that also relies on tourism for its livelihood.
“DISCOVER BROOME” one reads everywhere on billboards and in brochures. This pretty much entails checking out the famous Cable Beach and watching the sunset over the ocean. Not having been in the vicinity of a croc-free ocean since Byron Bay, it was pure undiluted luxury to swim in the saltwater. If you don’t mind feeling a bit silly, you may jump aboard the famous Broome camel ride along the beach front, but be warned, West Australians let cars on their pristine beaches, and having to dodge cars on a Camel-back detracts somewhat from the whole affair! You can also check out the pearl farm, the interesting Historical museum-shelves and shelves of shells (not the best one we’ve been to on our travels, but worth a look), a crocodile park (even though Broome locals will swear to you they don’t get them!) and the famous Sun Pictures.
Sun Pictures were, without doubt, our favourite attraction in Broome. The oldest known operating picture gardens in the world, it was a treat to go along and watch a couple of flics outdoors. The first one we saw was Independence Day. As the film started, a very modern looking mini-jet flew over the theatre at about 300 hundred feet and everybody in the place just about jumped out of their skin. The building has changed little since its construction in 1916. It has somehow managed to withstand the ravages of war, cyclones, fires, floods, and king tides. This would be the absolutely perfect venue for an outdoor silent film festival. The vibe is just great…people lull around on low-slung chairs crunching choc-tops and popcorn, kids caper about on the grass below the screen, the nights are tropical and hot, and mozzies are munched on in mid-air by tiny bats circling around your head. If you ever find yourself in Broome do yourself a favour and go to the pics!
The highlight of our stay in Broome that wasn’t on dry land was our expedition out into the mighty Indian Ocean to chase one of the most elusive and beautiful animals on earth, the Sailfish.
Barbaric some of you may say, but we would argue that this is not the case. Without going into a huge philosophical argument, we want to stress that every step was taken to minimise harm to the fish, and all fish were released and swam strongly away from the boat. Many were tagged to aid in research projects studying the migratory habits of these magnificent animals.
We made arrangements with Ross from FAD sports fishing, to head off at 7 am. The sea was very lumpy, and none of us was very excited about the prospect of being tossed around all day long, but really this was a small price to pay if we were indeed to jostle with the mighty Sailfish.
Half an hour into the 50km trip out to the grounds, Sarah was reacquainting herself with her breakfast, Eric was OK (but hoping that he was not next in line), and Josh was trying to figure out how to convince everyone that he should be put in charge of the chocolate cake for the day. It pretty much stayed this way all day!
Once out at the fishing grounds, we started trolling. The first fish of the day was a large Mac Tuna, which Josh brought to the boat after a little bit of a fight, and a lot of complaining about “sore arms”…..and this was only the beginning!
We didn’t have to wait long before the call went out “SAILS BEHIND THE TEASERS!!!!!”
The baits were dropped back as the teasers were brought up, and before we even knew what was happening, Eric was hooked up!
While Eric hung on during those first frantic minutes of the fight, the rest of the lines were brought in. The fish tore at the sky in an attempt to throw the hook, then headed straight for the bottom. This fish wasn’t hurting at all, he was simply annoyed that the bait was stuck to his beak, and something was trying to pull him sideways. It couldn’t tell what! After a great deal of toing and froing, the beast finally relented and was tagged and released unharmed(except for a little nick on the nose!)
The baits went out again, and within minutes we had a double hook up. The first fish hooked was handed over to Josh, who brought the 8kg fish to the boat very quickly, and the second to Sarah. With a little encouragement from Eric, and tremendous courage and determination, she forced herself out from her misery below deck and did battle for over one and a half hours, managing to boat a magnificent 32 kg Sail on 6kg line.
Bearing in mind Sarah’s condition, it was a struggle that would have had big burly Macho men crying for their mothers and wanting to turn around and head for shore( according to our skipper and his crew). Everyone was impressed by her efforts!
The baits went out once more and it was Josh’s turn again, this time the fish really turned it on. It pranced and flew about in the air, as though the water were the last place on earth it wanted to be.
Josh was relentless and finally, his efforts paid off. Well done mate, a 30kg fish on 8kg, a really big effort for an eight-year-old all on his own!
One of the hardest things during the day was trying to make sure that we kept our water consumption up in the 40 degrees C heat(105F).
The action pretty much continued like this for the rest of the day only letting up for long enough to have lunch (poor Sarah took one look at it and ran away). The day turned into a blur of hookups, fights, and releases, with the skipper furiously steering the boat to keep us “on the fish”.
The action was not just limited to our fishing though; at one point we noticed some commotion about a mile away and went over to investigate.
What we saw was truly amazing: huge schools of dolphin were rounding up bait fish into tight balls, then taking turns to slash through them; amongst them were the Sailfish and Marlin (often seen co-operating with dolphin to herd baitfish); filling the air 100m above them were Brown Boobies, they would turn, tuck their wings back and dive at such speed that they became a blur, slamming into the water, in order to reach the bait, 30m below; below all of them we saw massive sharks over 6m long circling in the dark blue depths, waiting to see what would drift down their way, or whether it was worth coming up for a feed.
Once we were finally back on shore we did the tally. We had caught and released fourteen sails and managed to achieve the boats first ever quadruple hook-up.
A taxi had been called to take us back to pick up our car (it had spent the day at the doctors). The driver asked about our day, and Josh told him who he had boated four fish. The driver looked at him incredulously then turned to us for silent confirmation”Yes, it’s true” we both nodded our heads. The man couldn’t believe his ears, slowly he turned back to Josh and said
“I know people that have been fishing for Sailfish for ten years now, and have only ever caught one fish”.
All of us realised how very lucky we had been that day……….. a day that none of us will ever forget.