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Close Encounter

Introduction

A kayak is an ideal way to enjoy a peaceful day on the water. It is incredibly relaxing to silently glide across the surface of the water without the annoying drone of a motor and its subsequent fumes. Unlike sailing however a kayak allows its user to go where they want when they want without having to rely on the often intermittent wind.


Kayaking is one of the fastest growing offshoots of recreational fishing in the world. It is rapidly becoming a huge sport in the USA, Africa and New Zealand. It is gaining popularity rapidly on the mainland but it is rare to see a kayak fisherman in Tasmania despite the huge amount of recreational kayakers.

A day's kayak fishing in the Channel

The morning's weather was magnificent with the sun shining brightly and virtually no wind at all. With one of my rare days off coinciding with this incredible autumn day and the knowledge that winter would soon be with us, I decided to have a quick fish for some flathead in the channel.

My first though was to take the tinny out but thought to myself that on a day such as this, the kayak would be the best way to enjoy it. I grabbed a 3kg overhead outfit, rigged up a drop shot rig and hit the D'Entrecasteaux channel. I paddled for around thirty minutes revelling in the feel of the sun on my shoulders and the peacefulness of a mid week day on the water.

I arrived opposite the Tinderbox boat ramp and started to drift slowly in the current. After a moment's indecision, I decided to rig the bottom hook of my drop shot rig with a pumpkinseed coloured three inch Berkley Bass Minnow and the top hook of the drop shot rig with a black and white Berkley Gulp Minnow.

I had been fishing for approximately an hour when after catching and releasing a few barely legal flathead as well as the ever present gurnards, I had a solid strike. I lifted the rod to set the hook and the tip folded over into a satisfying bend.

I felt a heavy dead weight and immediately thought that I had hooked the bottom. After a few surges however I knew it was some sort of fish and thought it was an octopus but also felt that it was too large to be an octopus as all of the octopus that I had caught in the Channel were around half a metre long or less.

I put my finger on the spool of the small Abu overhead and slowly coaxed the unknown denizen of the deep towards the surface. After a few short surging runs during which I removed my finger from the reels spool and allowed the drag to do its job I saw colour on a huge octopus in excess of a metre in length.

I removed my camera from its waterproof box and was just about to capture the octopus on camera before release when suddenly the water exploded around me literally saturating me in the process. A large seal close to 10 foot long had decided that the octopus looked good enough to eat and that it was going to do just that.

Lucky for me the sudden strike on the octopus by the seal was enough to snap my line and I watched in amazement as the drama unfolded around me. The seal had an amazing and spectacular method of breaking the octopus in to smaller bite size pieces.  

The seal would grab the octopus by a tentacle before rearing out of the water and swinging then snapping its head in a rapid motion resulting in the main carcass of the octopus flying in one direction and a tentacle in the other direction.  The seal would then consume the tentacle before swimming over to the sinking octopus carcass, gather it in to its mouth and repeat the procedure.

This happened eight times in all with the seal totally unfazed by my presence as a paddled along side it. At one stage it bumped the kayak while performing a tight turn to retrieve the sinking carcass. It was very much aware of my presence but chose to ignore me and concentrate on feeding. After the show was over I realised that anything else would be an anticlimax so I paddled home totally amazed at the wildlife experience that awaits kayakers in the unspoilt southern Tasmanian waters.