Fishin' with a mission


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Fishing off a PWC… are you serious? Kevin Smith says you’ll be surprised at how easy it is, especially with a Yamaha Waverunner as a weapon of choice.

Fishin' with a mission
Fishin’ with a mission

Jetskis… they’re toys for the speed freaks, right? Well that was a typical response when I said I was off on an explicit offshore jetski fishing mission with the Yamaha crew. I had seen a few of these dedicated members of the jetski fishing fraternity offshore, and on more than one occasion I’d witnessed their screaming reels and bending sticks.

One would naturally speculate that it would be difficult to land fish on such a small craft, especially the larger gamefish. If you’ve never done it, you’d be forgiven if your first thoughts went something like this: those jetskis are too small to fish off; I don’t have the balance for a ski; I don’t have the co-ords; I might fall off; I’ll have trouble controlling the ski when I’m fighting a fish; where am I going to put the fish; and, and, ah, bugger it! Seems like way too much effort to even bother consider giving it a bash, doesn’t it?

So are there any positives to fishing off a jetski, besides it being some weird type of glorified fishing? Of course there are, and spending a day offshore near Mooloolaba on a pre-rigged Yamaha FXHO Waverunner was enough to convert me.


JETFISHING

Let’s take a look at the main reasons that make the Yamaha FXHO a good fishing craft. Firstly, there’s the simple operation, from hitching up at home to launching and putting it back on the trailer.

Then there’s their tolerance for rough conditions. If you think about it, jetskis could virtually be classified as "hooning" machines. They’re really simple to right if you flip over, and they don’t fill up with water (don’t get me wrong, they’re hard to flip, and you’d have to be a clown to do this in the first place, but it’s still reassuring to know).

They’re also very versatile which is why they are frequently used by lifeguards, tow-in surfers, dedicated rescue stations, and much more. Clearly, jetskis have a multitude of applications as well as obvious safety and reliability qualities (in the right hands).



SETTING UP THE SUPER-BIKE

Whether you own a jetski of any make, or you’re contemplating getting one, rigging it for fishing is super simple. To get started, either buy a new jetski and have the dealer set it up for offshore fishing or modify your existing model to suit your style. The basics would include some type of rodholding facility, a fish stowage system, a GPS/sounder combo, and compliant safety gear for offshore voyages.

This is exactly what was dished up for the day, thanks to the Yamaha crew and Brisbane-based Custom Jet Skis. The set-up included a stainless steel frame with rodholders mounted onto the Waverunner’s rear platform by means of brackets and turn-buckles. On the inside of the frame was an Esky, secured by elastic stretch-cord, and used either as a standard freezer or, in our case as the fish hatch. On the outside of the stainless frame were five rodholders, with three facing upright off the back and the other two off either side at an angle. Each rodholder had a flexible stainless wire with a clip to prevent rods and reels getting lost. Two easily accessible flat tackleboxes were located on either side of the frame.

For those unfamiliar with the layout on a standard ski, there’s plenty of stowage under the hood up the front. We also mounted a new Lowrance HDS5 GPS/sounder combo on the front dash. Positioned off-centre to the right, the gauges and sounder were clearly visible and the sounder was also well protected from spray.



FISHABILITY AND FISH-OFF

The fishing test was held off Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. We had two fishing-ready Waverunners, and a separate boat to compete against, although given the results of this fish-off this last participant effectively turned out to be a camera boat.

The plan was to head up north in search of spotted mackerel apparently on the move. The team arrived and shortly after loading up with the armoury we headed offshore in fantastic early morning conditions. I wanted to test the fishability from different perspectives so I’d loaded one spinning stick and one trolling stick.

Not long after launching we came across birds and mac tuna doing their work. These fish are great fun on light tackle or fly, but there’s a certain technique to catching them because they can be quite finicky. For me it’s a spinning and a soft plastic combo to match the hatch. Whether you’re on a boat, ski, lilo, or a blow-up doll, you have to get within casting distance, and when it comes to spinning you’ll have the most power while standing up.

Checking the stability and the drift control on the stationary ski was the first test and I have to say I was really impressed. Standing and casting was not a problem considering the size of this craft, and you can actually lock your legs on the seat for extra stability. You can also sit and cast if you don’t have good sea-legs.

The only minor niggle for me was the ski’s natural drift, due to the fact that it didn’t have a leg in the water, like on outboards. For this reason it was difficult to get it to settle and drift in a constant direction.



GETTING WARMED UP

By this stage I was ready for some spotties on the light spinning gear so it was time to run further north towards Coolum and Noosa. The cruise control is a super handy function when it comes to the long runs, and with relatively smooth conditions ahead I set my speed at 25kts. The ride was fast, comfortable in standing and seated positions, and presumably economical.

Further up north off Coolum I came across masses of birds and fish, and here I found it was far easier to control the ski at a slow idle pace instead of cutting the motor. Yes, you might spook the fish, but it worked for me on the day.

By now I had developed reasonable ski-sea-legs and manoeuvring around was a breeze. Unfortunately we still hadn’t caught any spotties but we got good results on assorted tuna, including a yellowfin that was knocked on the head to take home.

A little later we finally found the spotties, and thanks to mobile technology we met up on the "G" spot where the action went off. Glen Gibson from Yamaha was on the troll off his ski and getting results on the spotties, so I followed suit and was quickly rewarded.

On the troll you can once again set the cruise control to your desired speed. Once it’s set you can clamp the throttle right back onto the handle grip, eliminating fatigue on the hand and forefingers. When you want to stop or slow down, all you do is release the throttle, which cuts out the cruise control. Another point to mention is that the Waverunner also has a trim setting for different conditions.



ACTION TIME

Being an avid lure thrower, I went back to the spinning stick and got stuck into the spotties, shot for shot. This is where I came across one small snag, namely what do with fish that are too long for the Esky.

Luckily the "camera" crew — who weren’t catching much at all, and who probably thought they were watching a live fishing show rather than being successful at even landing one fish — were very obliging and took our fish onboard. At least it looked like they had caught something.

Not having a suitably-sized hatch for the longer species did pose a problem for me as my first spottie was sticking half way out of the Esky and somehow released itself to swim another day.

Having said that, there are solutions to all problems, and if necessary you can lay a long fish down in the recess of the foot-wells, with a small line attached in case it disembarks.

Another solution is to have one or two PVC bags with zips that can attach to the side of the ski. I have seen it done and it works well.



THE WRAP

As the day drew to a close, Noosa was well within my sights and it was time to hit the ocean for the long ride back. By this time winds from 10-12kts were blowing in from the north so the ride back was with a following sea. 25km later we found ourselves safely back up the Mooloolaba River, and after some quick calculations I worked out that we had burnt only 34lt after travelling more than 75km on the water. By comparison, my boat would have smashed at least double that amount of juice.

One thing of which I was certain was that, while I was not entirely broken from the day out, I would definitely be feeling it the following day — and sure enough I was on the money the next morning.

Jetskis may not be super-yachts but they do have many benefits. In particular Yamaha rates the FXHO as the better of its range for fishing because the engine is naturally aspirated rather than supercharged, giving it better economy.

Regardless of model, jetskis are easy to handle alone, have good seaworthiness, and certainly come in at a lesser price than a serious offshore vessel. To top it off, as quickly as you transform one into a fishing craft you can change it back to the original family fun machine.

The Yamaha Waverunner FXHO supplied by Custom Jet Skis out of Virginia, Queensland, had a price as tested of $25,750 including a rear fishing rack, Esky setup, and sounder/GPS combo. Existing Yamahas can be rigged with a fishing rack and Esky setup for $950. A sounder/GPS combo including c-map, brackets and fitting comes to $2650. Visit www.customjetskis.com.au for more information.



ON THE PLANE

Surprisingly good stability all round

Incredible 360° fishability

Good fuel economy

Good fitness program

Easy to clean and stow

Multi-purpose vessel

SANK LIKE A ROCK

Rods difficult to get out of holders due to stainless wire (elastic cord might work better)

Some form of flush-mounted rodholders in the front section would be nice

Extra fishbags would be good options

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