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November 06, 2006

North of Heaven

Remote Coral Sea Reefs Provide Endless Action

Soon we were all throwing topwaters, either hooking mackerel averaging 15 to 30 pounds (biggest of the trip was a whopping 75-pounder), or watching them crash the plugs and miss. We also dodged our plugs through or past the absolutely mind-boggling numbers of bold sharks that we could often watch making a beeline for a plug, only to have a mackerel dart in ahead and make off with the lure.

Now and then, of course, a shark would take its revenge and make off with half a mackerel. (Sharks can be so aggressive here that first mate Edwards says he's had them actually grab the prop at trolling speed and stop the boat.)

At one point, while Mitchell fought a mackerel at the bow of the open skiff, the line slackened suddenly as the fish came screaming back right toward the boat, then at the last minute sailed right over it. The mack flew between the angler and me, the slashing teeth and dangling trebles barely missing us. After striking the opposite gunwale, its momentum carried the mackerel into the water on the other side of the boat, leaving us both slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

All in all, it was as wild a morning of fishing as I've ever had, anywhere. Some of the strikes we didn't see nearly yanked rods from our hands, but those we saw were nothing short of amazing. Spaniards don't often jump once hooked, but when they do (most likely when taken on topwaters), it's Katy-bar-the-door. At one point, while Mitchell fought a mackerel at the bow of the open skiff, the line slackened suddenly as the fish came screaming back right toward the boat, then at the last minute sailed right over it. The mack flew between the angler and me, the slashing teeth and dangling trebles barely missing us. After striking the opposite gunwale, its momentum carried the mackerel into the water on the other side of the boat, leaving us both slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

That was, as you might guess, one of the trip's unforgettable sights. But then, so many moments of the trip remain etched in my mind. Fishing the Coral Sea genuinely qualifies as one of those oft-described trips of a lifetime. Unless, of course, you happen to be a large plastic fishing lure.