In November of 2005, Sport Fishing's Doug Olander took the trip of lifetime to fish the remote, unspoiled Coral Sea along the northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. To read more about his journey and how you can fish this area, pick up the December 2006 issue of Sport Fishing.
Anyone who considers fishing to be a quiet, contemplative or refined sport may want to give the Coral Sea a wide berth. What they'll find here is about as quiet and contemplative as a kung-fu action epic. That's particularly true when throwing big, flashy, splashy topwater plugs, known Down Under and widely these days as "poppers," while drifting the transparent waters atop the Great Barrier Reef.
The water is so clear that, when winds are light, a skiff almost seems to be floating on air; the rugged coral interspersed with sandy areas appears near enough to reach down and touch, when in fact, it's often 10 or 15 feet deep. But mere seconds suffice for powerful predators to cover that distance in a heart-stopping upward rush once they've drawn a bead on the "bloop-bloop" sound made by a cup-faced piece of plastic or wood.
"That's a big coral trout!" yelled Phil Edwards, our guide at the helm of a 20-foot skiff, as one of two other anglers aboard yanked hard on an Aussie-made OK popper. I could hardly miss seeing the dark shape as it closed in quickly from behind. Almost at once, Aussie Trad Thornton of Bamaga let out a whoop as he hauled back on his stout spinning outfit loaded with 50-pound braided line.
Such gear, with 50- or 80-pound braid, is fished in a take-no-prisoners, locked-down-drag mode; the initial moments at hook-up make it or quite literally break it for the angler who must keep the fish from the coral below. I also saw quickly enough that it is the size of your lure, as well as what you do with it, that counts; that is, the larger the plug and the more racket it makes, the better.