Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

Wild Wonderful Weipa

Just home late last night from my annual 7 day mates trips to the wilds of Cape York. My annual pilgrimage to the mining frontier town of Weipa started back in 1986 and some of us, now on 14 years unbroken, are original. Mates are mates, fishing is fishing, we have all grown older and wiser and the trip has become as much about the company and the food as the fishing itself. That said, the fishing is pretty mind-blowing. A mix of creeks and blue water, possible in very few other places. A truly wild untamed and land, rugged beauty and iconic places like the (as you will see in the photos) Red Cliffs. We fish for barramundi and King Salmon in the creeks, have a few surprise visitors like giant Qld Grouper and queenfish, drive into literally seas of Tuna and monster bull sharks and above all eat like kings, swap stories, business philosophy, rail against the system and as a group of likeminded, self-employed “grumpy old men” have a ball. Cocktail hours (Mojitos of course) made and served in the ships stainless steel fire bucket, mountains of fresh prawns, chilli crab, fresh tuna sashimi and just soak up the atmosphere in one of my favourite spots in Australia. Once again, this is let the pictures tell the story of my annual mates trip to Weipa on the good ship Tillitoo. The ugly duckling of the entire Australian charter boat fleet.

This is NOT your typical glamour charter boat. Weipa is the kind of environment which would have your average Whitsunday charter boat too scared to leave the marina. Tough, rough, wild, untamed. Tillitoo suits as a floating, virtually indestructible fishing shack which just happens to move. The lower deck is accommodation in 10 single bunk beds. No air con, 1 “dunny” and absolutely no wood, polish of fine detail. Everything is just tough. Upstairs is a beer garden and BBQ area. 3 Large eskies, a large deep freezer and a helm, plus enough rod racks to keep 40 rods and reels out of harm’s way.

As ugly as she is, Tillitoo has one certain magical property. The moment you step on board and take off your shoes and bare feet connect with the raw aluminium, the stress leaks out through your soles. Phones, usually permanently connected to our heads, suddenly don’t matter. Vital business deals, can suddenly wait till next week. Bank managers don’t matter, being out of phone range doesn’t matter, no internet….who cares. Leave me alone, I’m fishin’; and when I’m not fishin’ I’m cookin’ drinkin’ chillin’ or just relaxin’.

So it is over for another year. Next year and the year after are already booked and we have learnt you now have tobook at least 2 years in advance to get the best tides. Anyone with fishing, boating and adventure  in their veins should do this trip as a bucket lister. It remains one of the best experiences in a lifetime on the water. This year's highlites. Catching barramundi in the cast net trying to get bait, sunset at red cliffs, tuna as far as the eye could see, fly fishing the beaches for Tarpon, golden trevally, giant herring and queenfish. The grouper I caught (and released) in Young Creek. Mates, crabs, prawns and mojitos and panko crumbed barramundi for dinner. The black Angus steaks my butcher brother brought up from Brisbane...and the rum! Till next year.