Six pound trophy breamSteve Robinson
Damon Sherriff is a great friend of mine. We often speak for hours about fishing. The moon, tide, the barometer, rigs, bait and water temperature. Our wives don't understand and never will.
He has a passion and dedication for snapper fishing that is unmatched. People follow him, pester him and even copy him, but no-one out fishes him on snapper. He was having another great season. He doesn't tell many people about the fish he catches, but he catches a lot.
I had spent my summer shark fishing. In 2004 I helped carry Andrew Hart's 150 kg Mako that he had caught off Low Head and ever since, when I get a calm day, I spend it bobbing around in Bass Strait. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but I love it. I'm addicted!! I had also had a good season but the weather had turned foul and with the water temperature plummeting, it was time to head back into the River.
Damon was encouraging me to have a fish for his favourite snapper. There was still a good chance of catching a "Red Bream" as he likes to call them. But on this day my gut feeling was to try something completely different and to go Black Bream fishing.
West Arm, Long Reach and East Arm have all produced fish. I launched my kayak in a likely spot and fished with crabs that I had collected. Several good bream were caught by a professional fisherman last winter in his nets and Damon and I had both caught small bream in previous years, so my hopes were high.
It was a fishy day. Four Gummy sharks hooked, and they released themselves, in the first hour. It never ceases to amaze me to the size and species of fish you can find in just a couple of metres of water.
Tap, tap, smack! Another hook up. Another Gummy, it had to be. Nothing else could pull this hard. A massive run up into a couple of feet of water and then a full 360 degrees around the kayak, towing it as it went. But, unlike the gummies this fish didn't surface, instead keeping its head down, continuing short runs. It wouldn't come up.
Finally I saw it; It was massive, a magnificent bream! My heart racing, and with my hands shaking, I slipped the net under it and sat it on my lap in the kayak. I was struggling to believe just how big it was; A fish of a life-time.
I lifted it out of the net and panicked! It started thrashing around making one last effort to escape! I was going to lose it over the side; maybe no-one would believe me? I clutched to my chest collecting a full set of dorsel fin spines into my hand and arm. Ouch, ####, but the fish was back into the net and safely back onto the floor of the kayak.
I stared at it admiring the great colours. Black, silver, gold, copper, yellow and a big fat blue nose. The base of its tail was slightly worn and some fins damaged from years of fossicking around hard rugged bottom. Its mouth full of crushing teeth also showed signs of wear and tear but it was still a magnificent fish.
Still shaking I call Damon on the phone. Of course he was out snapper fishing but, I spoke to his wife Sarah. "I've cracked it!', "What?', "How big?', "Really!', "He'll want to see it.'
Damon called in on his way home. He too was in awe of the fish's size. Apart from the colour, it could easily pass for one of his "Red Bream'. "Too good to eat', he said. It was agreed that he would do a full mount.
Damon's taxidermy is brilliant. He spends pain staking hours hand painting detail onto each individual scale and his patience is evident in the final mount. He's not quick, but he is one of the best!
For the record the fish weighed 2.72 kg or exactly 6 lbs, was 52 cm fork length and was aged at 24 years old. The Tamar doesn't have a big bream fishery like many other Tasmanian estuaries, but fish like this can be the reward for effort.
This day was based on a gut feeling, a bit of luck and a magnificent fish. Now I have memories to keep forever. That's why I love fishing so much!