Jim Fischer describes himself as a mad fisherman and has plenty of tall tales to tell. A lifetime member of the Port Macquarie Bluewater Fishing Club, Jim explains why a “bad day’s fishing is still better than a good day’s work” …
How long have you lived in Port Macquarie?
I came here in 1975. I moved here from Sydney. I bought a block of land in 1970, with the purpose of coming to live here.
Port Macquarie to me was the best place in the world. Being a mad and enthusiastic fisherman, loving the sea, I couldn’t get here quick enough!
A lot has probably changed since you first moved here and started fishing in the area …
In those days, without the extension of the northern breakwall, there was no other way through the bar then straight through. You had to judge 3 to 5 sets of waves, and if necessary, turn around, go all the way back, and do it again. Many skippers couldn’t handle the conditions, and many close shaves and mishaps were recorded.
Only 8,500 people lived here, and at that time, only a handful of private boats went out to sea. There was an abundance of fish – after getting used to the conditions and finding the productive reefs.
When did your interest in fishing start?
When I was a boy. I think I was about 6 when I had my first fishing rod – in the river in Germany.
When did you get your first boat?
I got my first boat here in 1964. I started off with a little car-topper. When I came to Port Macquarie, I had a 13 foot Quintrex. I upgraded because of the bar and the ocean. You’ve got to have good equipment.
Now I have a Savage 16 foot six [Gunna]. Savage boats are still being made today.
When and why did you join the Bluewater Fishing Club?
In 1976. I’m one of the oldest members at the moment. I’m the Social Secretary at this time – and for the last 20 years, actually.
I joined to make sure we’d go out and come home. We go out at a certain time, and we’ve always had a 12 o’clock weigh in – which means you always had to leave your fishing grounds at 11 o’clock to be sure to come home by 12. Otherwise, you could stay out there until all hours!
I joined the club for a lot of other reasons as well. I knew I’d learn a lot of things; you get to know people – and the atmosphere was always right for me.
What’s your favourite type of fish – which species do you generally chase?
I chase mostly Kingfish, then I chase Snapper through the winter months. I go for Cobia, Dolphinfish, big game fish … Cod. I’m always very busy!
Once you are across the bar, you can either travel straight out for Flathead or a little further out to the fad in season, after Dolphinfish or further out for game fish. North there are lots of reefs in the Plommer area, which extend many kilometres to Crescent Head and South West Rocks, or south to Lake Cathie and beyond. The possibilities are endless, and you choose where to go.
Do you ever do any river fishing?
No. Too little for me! Not only that, but you need a lot of knowledge and skill to get ‘em in the river as well. There are better opportunities for bigger fish out wider.
You go a long way, you know. Every day I go fishing, I go between 50 and 60 km on the water. And I try to fish once or twice a week.
Any tips for fishing enthusiasts?
You need good equipment … and you’ve got to be stupid! If you’re patient enough, you’ll find fish, or you’ll get somebody to give you a few marks. But, it’s a lot of knowledge and patience. And, you need to know the sea. With the sea, there’s always something against you … currents, bad winds. You need to know your weather forecast before you go.
What type of bait do you use to catch the big game fish?
Only live bait. Well – we cut fresh bait up. We usually have 2 rigs, with 2 hooks on a rig, and one is with cut bait and one with live bait.
So how successful are you?
Pretty good. I’ve won the Bluewater boat trophy – I’ve had that for well over 20 years. Fisherman of the Year – I’ve lost a couple of times. Fifteen years straight, I think I won it. I was beaten this year by a margin of 150 g!
I’m a life member of the Bluewater Club.
You must have some fantastic tall fishing tales to tell …
One of my favourite fishing spots was in the little reef area where big Snapper waited to torment me. It still amazes me, when they finally decide to take the bait, they take off like a rocket – and the fight is on! On light gear, one little mistake, and the fish won! Usually the rest are very wary before taking another bait.
There’s nothing better than crossing the bar just before daybreak, going out to your favourite fishing spot or the live bait grounds, where you always find some action. Seeing the sun rising in the east … the peaceful and magnificent view.
Seeing dolphins chase live bait; the resident turtle checking you out, or some monster swell in the water telling you there is a ‘Mister Big’ down there.
Going after Kingfish … those hoodlums are the meanest, dirtiest fighters in the sea, fighting every inch of the way. Should you give them a bit of line on hook up, they cut you off on the first rock and treat you with contempt. Such is life, and I love it! Although these days, being a little older, weariness sets in – and I swear a bit when they take me to the cleaners.
Three years ago, with my daughter Michelle, after catching live bait we were just about to drop a line when this huge whale lined us up, coming straight for the boat. It went underneath, barely missing the hull. Turning around, it came back, rolling around and showing its white belly, clapping its flippers and playing with the boat. I’m sure it adopted Gunna as its baby! It came out of the water, rising a metre above the hull – we could easily have touched it. It stayed with us for over an hour and finally disappeared in the deep blue yonder. Truly the experience of a lifetime.
Of course, it’s not all gold out there. The sea is unpredictable, changing out of the blue with strong winds, wild seas and strong currents. It’s then you need good equipment and knowledge to get you home – but that’s all part of fishing.
Looking out to sea, watching the forever- changing face of the ocean; it is just beautiful and relaxing. Each day the sea changes, with big waves and rough seas and then calm waters; bait schools travelling up the coast, with birds bombarding them; dolphins playing and surfing the waves; and in season, whales travelling up and down the coast and putting on a show. I consider myself very lucky to be able to experience and enjoy that.
Do you plan to keep fishing for as long as possible?
As long as possible. I’m a mad fisherman. If you keep your eyes open when you go out to sea, you see something new every day. And that’s what it’s all about! You’ve got to comfortable with what you do and what you see, and you mustn’t be disappointed if you miss out. A bad day’s fishing is still better than a good day’s work!
Thank you Jim.
Interview by Jo Atkins.