Sunday, February 8

Steve: Today's moderate seas allowed for a full day of activities, and we made the most of it. We started with a quick run south from Lizard Island down to the High Rock area, where Pete said the trolling is normally great. He was right! After about 20 minutes of quiet, both rods suddenly bent over and the reels began screaming. Our first two fish were a Shark Mackeral, and a Mackeral Tuna (a beautiful blue/silver color). From there, things really heated up - within the next 25 minutes, we had caught 5 more fish including two more large Spanish Mackeral. Basically, we'd just finish letting our lures out when another fish would hit. We would have kept fishing, but didn't want to take any more fish - the problem with these fish is that they often hook themselves in a way where they won't survive if thrown back. Pete freezes and gives the fish away, but said we had already caught almost more than he could handle. This was fine with us, and we all had fun replaying the excitement - what a blast! We can't remember a time when we've fished with more action than this morning.

Our next stop was Ribbon Reef 7. The ribbon reefs are on the far outside of the Great Barrier Reef, and form a chain that protects the inner islands and reefs from the Pacific. The ribbon reefs are beautiful, with calm waters immediately inside the barrier where the surf breaks as it slams in from the open waters. There are a number of bommies inside the ribbon reefs, and we immediately set out on a snorkel from the Ruben Jane to explore two that were located nearby.

After crossing through very deep water, we approached the first bommie and immediately saw a large amount of fish life, including an elusive Coral Trout that Pete wasn't able to catch up to. But probably our most interesting experience was seeing a 5 foot White-tip Reef Shark that was slowly cruising all around the bommie. We saw the shark several times, and once he swam directly under us. Similar to my experience in seeing sharks when I was here in 2002, none of us felt any fear at all from this shark. The thing that kept crossing my mind was Katie's insistence over the past several months that she'd never swim or snorkel in places where sharks lived.. Today, Katie was actually the first person to see the shark, and her reaction was one of excitement. In fact, she worked actively to spot the shark again so that I could get a good photo! What a change…

After we got back to the Ruben Jane, we tied a fish carcass to a rope in the hope that we could attract the shark. Sure enough, several minutes later the shark appeared and we had fun tugging the rope and trying to wrestle the fish from the shark's mouth. The tug-of-war didn't last long - the shark easily cut through the fish, leaving us only the tail.

After lunch (which included sushi made with the tuna that we had caught), we cruised to the site of a shipwreck for some more exploring. This is a very unique shipwreck - the ship is almost all above ground, and is stuck on a reef. Ten years ago this ship was being permanently kept and lived on at the marina in Cairns, and had fallen into a state of severe disrepair and was deemed unsafe. When the Cairns authorities insisted that the boat be fixed or removed, the owner apparently drove it (intentionally) right into a reef. The hull and deck of the ship remain in tact, but are very rusted. Underwater it was great to see the propeller and miscellaneous items that came from the ship. We were told that a lionfish (highly venomous) lives by the propeller, but were unable to spot it.

Our final destination was Irene Reef, which has great fishing and offers some protection from the wind. The activity for the evening was bottom fishing, and we brought up several surprises including two sharks and a Giant Trevally. The sharks put on quite a show, twisting and splashing until they chewed through our lines. After dinner (rack of lamb!), Pete put a spotlight behind the boat and we enjoyed watching all the fish feed and jump. We also threw a bunch of bait overboard, and David and Katie did some more fishing. I'm starting to call Katie our "fishing maniac" - she just can't stop, and is very adept at baiting her own hook.

We also learned today that Paula will be rejoining us on Tuesday in Melbourne as originally planned. This is terrific news, especially since it means that Paula's father is well on his way to a successful recovery.

Tomorrow we plan to start with some fishing here at Irene Reef, and then continue south back to Opal Reef for a snorkel before we need to begin the final part of our journey back to Cairns.












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