FISHLESS and drifting, time ticking down, Josh Smith and his skipper James Kemp discussed whether they should throw in the towel.
It was late in proceedings at last year’s Canberra Yellow Fin Tuna tournament at Bermagui, the biggest salt water comp this side of Sydney, and the Queanbeyan duo were yet to land a fish.
Everyone struggled that year. Conditions were bad, the tuna weren’t biting, and run after run off the coast of Bermagui had proved fruitless.
With his mind on a hot dinner and a cold beer, Smith’s bait was suddenly given a nudge. Somewhere under the boat, something big was considering whether to turn the boys’ fortune around.
Smith waited, waited some more, then struck, and then sighed with relief as he felt the weight of a bill fish at the end of his 15-kilo line. It was light line for what he thought was probably a small marlin. Hopefully not too light.
But the team’s luck held, and 30 minutes later Smith had bought a 30-kilogram bill fish to the surface, surely a winner in the ‘‘heaviest other gamefish’’ category.
When the fish came to the surface, however, the boys were baffled as to exactly what it was.
‘‘To be honest, at first we thought it was a marlin, the way it was fighting. And it just went straight down real deep,’’ Smith said.
‘‘We really didn’t pickup exactly what it was until we got it right up close to the boat,’’ he said.
The monster fish turned out to be a shortbill spearfish, a rare species that most Australian fishermen would never have heard of, let alone caught.
‘‘We were going to release it, but it’d been a tough weekend for the comp and we didn’t have anything weighed in, so we were pretty excited to get a weight in,’’ Smith said.
‘‘And then we brought it in and they said ‘hang on a second, this might be an Australian record,’ and it was.’’
Smith and Kemp now hold the Australian record for this species, smashing the previous record set more than 30 years ago.
‘‘It’s an unbelievable feeling to hold the record. It’s a pretty rare fish’’ Smith said.
This weekend the boys will try their luck again in the waters off Bermagui as part of the Canberra Game Fishing Club’s 2012 Yellowfin Tuna Tournament.
Kemp and Smith are hopeful of landing some more prize-winning fish over the tournament, and the conditions are looking promising.
‘‘The weather is looking incredible for the first time in seven years. It’ll be dead flat, no wind, 18 degrees. That’s perfect for us. Our boat isn’t massive, so we can’t risk it too much (in big seas), so this is perfect,’’ Kemp said.
As for topping the shortbill spearfish: ‘‘Nah, that’s a once in a lifetime fish,’’ Smith said.