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Montebello's Magic - by Mat Sneddon.
Piscatorial paradise:- that's where I've just spent a superb week or so.
We left Perth is a Friday afternoon and after an extended stop or two, we arrived in the sleepy little town of Onslow, about 1400 kilometres north of Perth, about 6:30 am on Saturday morning. Traveling up in a personal minibus, as we did, certainly brings a group together, and the comradery of this trip certainly won't be forgotten.
Our home for the week, "Warrior Princess IV" wasn't going to dock until 3 pm that afternoon. Killing time in Onslow isn't an easy thing to do and the day progressed slowly until the boat docked.
Anticipation mingled with excitement as we boarded the boat and set off for the eight-hour journey to the Montebello Islands. The evening started off calmly, but as the night progressed, so did the wind and the seas. I wasn't the only one to be glad to arrive at our mooring in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The Montebello Islands, (over 100 of them) are located about 80 nautical miles off the north-west coast and gained fame (or should that be infamy?) in the early 1950s when the British Government decided to test their atomic arsenal in the remotest place they could find.
As the day dawned, the easterly of the night before strengthened and after breakfast (bacon, eggs toast, cereal, etc) every morning we soon realised that a day fishing offshore behind the main reef line (not unlike that of Ningaloo) was all but impossible. Instead a couple of the group decided to stay on board the boat and relax (after all we did have three ladies in our party of eight), while a few of the others headed off to a nearby island to catch mud crabs.
I decided to take one of the two 15 foot dinghies and headed off to another nearby island. Having never been in a situation like that before, I did not know what to expect. I threw lures around some of the rocky headlands. After catching a small coral trout on a popper, I realised that things on the lure front were going to be slow.
A switch over to bait turned on the action a little bit and the next hour or so provided some memorable fish including a 5 kg spangled emperor.
About lunchtime the easterly died off and we headed offshore for a bit of trolling and bottom bouncing. The afternoon yielded spaniards, shark mackerel, trevally, various emperors, Rankin cod, etc and the fish of the day - a 6 or 7 kg coral trout.
The next morning, the easterly was even stronger so we headed off to ground Zero on Hermite Island to have a look at the spot (one of three) where they let the bomb go off. The morning proved interesting and a great experience. That afternoon the wind died off, the trend for the week, and we trolled around the reef break and landed shark mackerel and had a four way hook up on big barracuda. We then headed off to Tryal Rocks, scene of a major shipping disaster in 1619, where mackerel over 30 kg are not uncommon. Nothing much happened so we headed off to our own mooring, settled in paradise.
That's night a good mate and I decided to hold our own 'shark competition' and very early the following morning her rod and bait went off. We were using whole shark mackerel and 45 minutes later I helped her release a big bronze whaler of about 65 kg - a pretty good effort on stand up gear, I thought.
That day we headed offshore, even the terrible conditions. It was so rough we had to rope a huge table down so that it would not go flying off the boat. We caught some excellent bottom species and landed more shark mackerel when trolling. My mate who was running on adrenaline from the morning's shark episode, landed a huge queenfish which provided the change from shark mackerel, trevally and five-star reef fish - tough, eh?
As the evening calmed down we headed home and dined on fresh coral trout, red emperor and mud crabs washed down with ice cold beverages. You certainly can't get these views and such magnificent food in any five-star restaurant
We awoke early due to the lighter winds and those on board watched on, as I had won the best days fishing of my life. I went to the Monte's with the sole intention of landing a big trevally on a popper. Today was my opportunity. As I stood on the bow of the "Warrior Princess IV" the skipper Greg edged the boat into the main reef line where I could throw a popper over the reef. Nasty creatures with big teeth swim over the reefs up there, and within four or five casts I had hooked a different species each cast. On one cast I watched huge giant trevally hit my lure three times before pulling the hooks. I managed to land a nice trevally before calling it quits. Standing on the bow of a 60 foot boat and throwing lures over six foot of crystal clear water certainly adds a new meaning to "sight fishing".
As soon as we started trolling it was my turn on the rod and within minutes I landed a sharkie of about 7 kg, followed by various other fish throughout the day. Talk about a red letter day and running on adrenaline.
The next morning we headed home in a rough sea and thought about the week that just passed, and the fact we had only experienced a little of what the Monte's had to offer, certainly an amazing week.
Having never been to locations such is to Toolina Cove, Rowley Shoals, Christmas Island, etc etc. (they are all future trips) it is hard to call the Monte's the best fishing place in Western Australia. However land based game fishing, light tackle sports fishing, flats fishing and fly fishing at the Monte Bello's is on a par with any other destination in WA.
Add the magnificent scenery and wildlife - whales, dolphins, turtles etc etc. and the heritage and you have paradise. Magnificent.
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This page last updated 9 September 2001.
Display of this page was updated on 21 January 2013. Contents updated as above.