Heart-racing satisfaction from landing ‘the great one’
IT'S the silver glow that gets the heart racing and provides some of the most anxious moments in beach or rock fishing.
It's the sight of a beautiful jew in the nearby waves, within reach but not yet landed.
When the impressive predator is finally secured, it's a moment to pause and reflect. What a thrill.
Unless you are a regular jew catcher, few fishing experiences match the satisfaction of bringing one of the kings of the sea ashore.
Jew, also commonly called mulloway, are among the most elusive and challenging species to catch.
Countless hours can be devoted luring one, with plenty of near misses if you strike before the hook is properly set.
That's why it is hardly surprising that mulloway means "the great one'' in Aboriginal language.
While I had caught smaller "soapie'' jew up to 12lb, it was not until my 36lber was snared that I finally felt delighted.
Most gratifying was landing the fish on my own in the dark and with rain threatening to spoil the excitement.
On many previous trips I had my experienced angling brother ready to help me should I need a hand to bring a big fish ashore.
I had also watched him land some super sized jew while I waited for my first decent fish to play fair.
My turn finally arrived.
It was at one of my favourite spots in northern NSW, close to a sandbar, where I knew rock worms offered a popular food source.
There was deep water access nearby so I had a chance. It was just a matter of when my luck would change.
When the fish made a run this night, I sensed it was a jew. So I made sure it had swallowed my fresh bait before using my surf rod to advantage.
From the first run away from the sand bar out to sea, the fight was on.
After watching my reel spin and more line peel away, I just took my time and walked along the beach in whatever seaward direction it decided to go.
I had only decided to go fishing about 8.30pm, rather than just on sunset.
By 9pm, the sandbar was fully covered in water and the tide was rising. Perfect conditions for a hungry jew on the prowl for food.
With rain falling, I continued playing the fish ever thankful I was wearing waders and my favourite fishing jacket.
As a good battle took place, the fish went in another direction.
After briefly considering it may have been a monster stingray, the thump, thump action at the end of my line reassured me it wasn't.
The jew was moving along the deep channel rather than trying to anchor itself to the sea bottom as rays often do.
It stopped a couple of times in the surf so I continued to wait patiently, taking some deep breaths as the heart pounded even more furiously.
Having not landed a decent jew before, I wasn't sure when to apply extra pressure on the line. But I timed it perfectly.
My prize catch finally came into the shallow water and I could see the silver glister from its big scales in what little moonlight remained.
With the help of one big wave, I managed to manoeuvre the beautiful fish within reach. I jumped on it, carefully reaching for a safe hold away from its dangerous gill-rakers.
My years of observing paid off. I had control of the fish, getting my fingers in the right spot to lift and bring it up the beach.
I was elated, delighted, relieved.
Content with my night's work, I returned to my family beachhouse.
Luckily there was ice in the freezer and some old foam boxes to preserve the fish until a closer look and cleaning in the morning.
It's not every night you catch a fish that fits across the back of your four-wheel drive and doesn't fit in an esky.
After 20 years of chasing a jew, it was a moment to savour.
This article is part of the Queensland Times Fishy Tales series, a collection of stories written about unusual or exceptional fishing adventures.