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St George Sportfishing Club

Ross Hunter

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I first joined St George SFC in '73 and for my long term fishing mates it was a great turning point in our fishing journey. We are having a celibration at the Gymea tradeys on Sat August 30th

This how I remember it so many years ago. Hope you can relate to this wild heady era of Sportfishing in OZ



We now had three kids, Glenn, Martin and Natalie. Martin, or Macka as I nicknamed him, was a beauty, I just couldn't work out why others complained about crying babies waking them up all night. We'd throw our young ones in their cots and we would have to wake them up the next morning. When they became teenagers, I was still doing the same, still trying to get them out of bed on a weekend at 10 am. One by one, my three best fishing mates emerged out of the marriage mire. Having done the norm …… had a heap of kids, bought a car, settled down, etc, they hadn't been doing too much fishing either and were fretting for an occasional day with the good old mates, that sort of male bonding thing that women can't understand.

So there we were, dressed to kill in our flared Levis, long beatnik hairstyles and paisley shirts with those collars that had more material in them than the shirt itself …… we looked so good!! To put it in The Reverend's terms:

"We were kickin' arse!"

Old mates were coming back bigger and better than ever …… we were all going fishing again. The breeding frenzy was over and now it's blokes doing blokey stuff …… we were getting excited. Having read an advertisement in the local paper for fishermen to join a newly formed local fishing club, we all decided to see what it was all about. We sauntered up to Hurstville Businessmen's Club to have a look at joining the St George Sportfishing Club. It was 1974 and sportfishing was creating interest amongst the troops.

None of us knew what the hell it was, but we were keen to find out, so for a quartet of old married men an exciting new era was about to begin. John Robertson, Brian Nesbitt, Bob Morgan and myself had spent many hundreds of hours fishing together over the years. John and myself grew up together as teenagers.

So here we've got a bunch of married baby boomers who are most happy about the way things are going in their life, except for one thing—we never went fishing any more, and we were all missing it. We entered the club that night to find 30 or so fishermen sitting around in a dimly lit smoke-filled room, it was as though it was compulsory for everyone to smoke—a pipe, a cigar or a cigarette—and going by the smoke haze in the room everyone was doing a great job. We did not care as we lit up in harmony, pulled up a chair and joined in the meeting.

What a memorable night, with Bernie Clarke as the guest speaker. He delivered a most interesting talk on fishing for snapper off the rocks in New Zealand. Combined with a slide presentation it was a inspirational night for us. So much so we joined up on the night and 35 years later we are still members of that club.

The St George Sportfishing Club was to guide us into a fresh new era of fishing, mainly because of the people we met within its ranks and, of course, the information we shared. Such identities as Bob Dunn, John Ashley, Werner Kossman, Bill Heaton, Wayne Hanstead, Joe Gospel, Les Waldock, Ron Calcutt, Bill Harvey and many others who have all gone on to become notable achievers in the sport of fishing, were already members on our inaugural night.

Bob Dunn invited us to a day's live-baiting at Curracurrang, a spot south of Marley and a few miles from my old drummer stamping grounds at Jibbon which is a little further northward on the same coastline. Live-baiting this place with yellowtail would see some pretty exciting action, from gear smashing kingfish, northern bluefin tuna, mack tuna and salmon. On our first trip there we cleaned up on salmon and kingfish. Bob had leant me a rod and I used my old trusty Penn Jigmaster. We would catch yellowtail and live bait them under a bobby cork or a balloon. Once the bait is cast out it is a matter of waiting for a predator to stalk it, this was always a time when fishermen would enjoy each others company …… time for good conversation …… maybe a laugh over a joke or two but always an enjoyable time amongst mates.

I really was hooked on this stuff, watching my bait drift out on the cobalt waters and then disappear as a kingy devoured it aggressively; it was an exciting experience. I was convinced that there was going to be a lot more of this coming my way in the near future. It is amazing how a person in one's life unknowingly introduces his fishing companion to a new facet of fishing, and in doing so opens up an era of exciting fishing: like so many beaut people that I have met in my fishing exploits. That is what happened to me on that day at Curracurrang. I treasured my friendship with Bob Dunn, and we remained great mates for many years until his untimely death from asbestosis.

One of the great memories with Bob was the day he took me to Curracurrong, a bit further south than Curracurrang, an area accessible by ladder only, because of its remoteness. Now, me and rope ladders and cliff faces just don't get on, maybe it's my fear of height and sheer drops and the sudden halt at the bottom, which certainly doesn't help. However, Bob had convinced me that it was perfectly safe. He said, "It's like fallin' orf a log, it's that easy". "More like fallin' orf a cliff", I thought.

However, I felt I would be a bit of a squib if I didn't have a go, but I was terrified as placed my weight on the flimsy ladder. I could feel a clamminess come over me as with every tender inch of descent I struggled to hold back the feeling of shear panic. So there I was, scaling a shear drop down this remarkably flimsy rope ladder with my old mate at the top shouting words of encouragement with my every step.

Eventually I made the platform, some 30 metres below. We fished for drummer and bream and had a great day, a day that would have been better if I could have taken my mind off that terrifying climb back out. I gave Bob my camera; he went up first and as I was half way up I said to him, "Hey! Bob, take a photo of me coming up the ladder?" This Bob did and as I reached the top of the cliff face he said, "There you go Roscoe, that was much easier than you thought wasn't it?" I just stood there, ashen faced, still waiting for my heart to return to its normal rate rather than racing at its current triple rate. I said "Oh! I'm thrilled you got that shot of me climbing up the ladder old mate. "That's okay" he said. I assured him, "Cause you are never going to see me on it again", and he never did.

It was time for a tackle update: if you're going to go live baiting "you've gotta have the gear" I told Judy, who could see her dishwasher drifting a few months further away. Back at the tackle shop again, this time buying a Sabre blank to build a live bait rod and a Polikansky 4/0 reel. "You gotta have the gear if you want to catch the fish" …… I kept telling my wife. I sort of got the feeling that she reckoned that the dishwasher, or carpet in the family room, was just as important—but I always got out of jail somehow, I think even at that early stage Judy knew I was a lost cause and my fishing was always going to be a good thing to keep me happy when I wasn't working two jobs.

In joining the St George Sportfishing Club a window opened up that was going to take me into new spheres of the sport that I had only dreamed about. Although I had spent the majority of my life fishing the rocks, rivers and estuaries, …… with family outings, such as trout fishing at Wyangala Dam, Currarong, live baiting for game fish off the rocks and Pretty Beach Easter weekends fishing for bluefin, kings and snapper …… there was so much more around the corner.

That is what I liked about St George: the family unit was included, that was a smart move because it took the pressure off us blokes if we were away too long on one of our many fishing ventures, those days when we weren't game to leave the spot for fear they'd come on any minute. We knew that the girls had the company of each other back at the campsite: we knew also that there was better protection in numbers …… not that a bunch of macho men like us were frightened of a bunch of women. No way! It was the 70s, men were men, and women knew their place ……Yeah!! That's for sure; we were the boss …… and that's how it should be. "Keep 'em barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen". But we still felt a little safer in numbers!!



In joining the St George Sportfishing Club I had, without really realizing it, entered a whole new world of fishing, a world that was going to rule my life. In fact, in later years I would rely on it to earn my living, however at that stage I had no idea of what the future held. But I knew one thing: my appetite to do battle with a few more big fish was becoming a very exciting part of my fishing future.

It was that trip to Curracarrang with my good mate Bob Dunn that had given me a sniff of how exciting it was to feel on the end of a rod a fish that actually had the power to extract all the line off the spool of a reel in one run.

In '75 I found myself at Narooma. I was fishing on Fred Temmink's boat Soni Two, a 26-foot Savage Sportfisherman. That was a definite upgrade—a big boat, such luxury, it even had a stove on board. Fred was Best Man at our wedding and had moved to Narooma. He invited me to fish the Montague Island area with him and teach him a few tricks; what Fred did not realise was that he probably knew more about tuna fishing than I did. He was also a little wet behind the ears to the big fish scene, so it was the blind leading the blind. However, there were few other fishermen that could teach us much—tuna fishing was still in its infancy. Every technique was basically trial and error; so expertise did not come into the equation back then. Just get out there, have a go and hang on.

Montague Island is a very pretty place. It is a remote island a couple of miles offshore, a little south-east of the tiny South Coast town of Narooma. In the '70s the Narooma lighthouse was manned, as were many others along the rugged New South Wales coastline. The lighthouse keeper, as I remember, was a guy named Bruce. He and his family lived in a beautiful heritage building on the island. Bruce was a keen fisherman and was always worth a call on the 27 MHZ radio to find out if he'd been asked questions such as "Have you seen any tuna or marlin jumping?" That question was compulsory and a reply was awaited with excited anticipation.

Have you ever noticed how fishermen are always optimistic? Their glass is always half-full, never half-empty. My great mate, Gordon Johnson, or as I named him The 50-kilo Kid, is the ultimate example of optimism. We frequently go fishing for trout and even if a river has frozen into a solid block of ice, he believes that the trout will appear tomorrow with ice breakers attached to their heads, or that a hotter day will be predicted for tomorrow—and if it is hotter the next day, the ice will melt and the fish will bite their heads off—and that's optimism.

I recall a mate telling me, when we arrived at the island, that a bunch of Victorians had been fishing there and had caught nothing at all. Upon hearing that startling information from the local angler, The 50-kilo Kid just turned his head, gazed out to sea and said, "Yeh! But Victorians never catch fish anyway." No way was he letting a bad report affect his enthusiasm.

We started berlying on the pinnacle off the north-east corner of the island. In that era big tuna were taken for granted; as a matter of fact, if someone fished that area and did not experience a fish or two that would be good reason to be very disappointed—tuna catches were very reliable back then. Tuna had no commercial pressure on them at all.

After an hour or so of cubing we got our first run, and a 30-kilo fish joined the boat. Two hours later, four more had been caught. But I could not get a bite on my newly purchased Polikansky 4/0 reel. I had it loaded with 15-kg line and had damn near spent every available dollar on both line and reel, of course remembering that I was married with kids and a mortgage that I couldn't jump over. Fishing gear was a luxury that I really couldn't afford, but one has to have some vices. Along with the new reel I had my Butterworth jig stick, which was made for me by a Californian angler who was the manager of Jim Allen's Compleat Angler in Sydney. His name was Wayne Hansteadt. He had brought with him a lot of great ideas from America, especially jigging for kingfish and the techniques for catching yellowfin tuna.

The snare was set but every strike so far had been on everyone else's rod, I was feeling like no-one loved me. Eventually Murphy's Law prevailed. The Polikansky screamed with delight, it was a blind strike, in other words we did not see the fish, but by the way the spool was emptying it had a bit of bulk to it. My Grandfather had told me—

"Good things come to those who wait"—

so my patience had paid off. I loaded up the jig stick and set the hook. The rod curved and bucked in retaliation as the fish took another 100 metres to prove that he was the boss and was not listening to any command to turn around.

My heart was pumping double time as the urge to push the drag lever up a notch or two on the Poly was almost unbearable …… line kept on disappearing.

Back then a Polikansky 4/0 reel was quite a good reel. I still have that reel today and it has served well. However the early models had an anti-reverse pawl, and in my reel it was made from fibre. The pawl had already let me down when it sheared on a kingy, thus allowing the spool to free spool leaving me with no fish and a backlash which could only be fixed with a sharp knife—scary stuff. Well I had made a new pawl out of silver steel and hardened it by heating and quenching and this was its first test. As the big tuna headed for the bottom, my engineering skills were being tested to the max.

Isn't it funny when you are playing your first big fish: I mean, something that you have only dreamed of up till know, something that other people had achieved, and something that made me feel that I would never join the club—but I had signed up for membership. I hoped that I had tied a good double, I wondered if the tuna was hooked well: God I never thought it would be this hard. The latter thought was where I was as the tuna circled maybe a hundred or so metres below.

A jig rod is not a good rod for fishermen to catch their first tuna on. As hard as it is loaded, up it rolls, off its backbone, as time and time again not one bit of line can be put back onto the reel. The facts are that when playing a jumbo one has to be patient and save the strength for the next hour because that's when the lifting process happens. In the first hour the rod could almost be left in the combing, because little line is ever gained until the tuna tires. After an hour or so I had the distinct feeling that the job was too big for me; my back was aching, my forearm was sore, and by and large I was beginning to feel that I had bitten off a little more than I could chew. I offered for someone else to have a go, but the boys wanted none of it and suggested that I was a whinger and to get on with the job. Oh well! "There's going to be no sympathy from that bunch of tough nuts", I thought to myself.

Eventually an angler fighting a big fish goes through the pain barrier and knuckles down to the task of pumping, holding and winding, gaining precious little, nevertheless gaining something. After two hours, we saw the giant fish 25 metres under our boat. The sight of the tuna lit up in gold and black with those giant fins trailing back to the tail took our breath away.

Comments such as, "Shit! Look at the size of him", or "What a giant", I have heard so many times over the years when a big fish is this close. The yellowfin always lay on their side and circle, using their weight and strength to fight like no other fish in the ocean, such is their power. Most lost tuna are lost under the boat, normally by tangling around outboard legs or the boat's rudders or running gear caused by their constant circling.

By that time, after 2½ hours, I was exhausted. But as I lay back in the cockpit and gazed in disbelief at the 80-odd kilos of tuna which had joined our boat, I felt glad that I had stuck to my guns. It's funny how the initial thrill of actually catching your fist big fish is a great thrill indeed, but I think it's the weeks and months after when the memories are relived, stories are retold to friends, photos are shown, and all that stuff, that is what convinced me that that incredibly exciting form of fishing was going to get a lot more of my attention over the next 20 or so years ……little did I know then just how much.

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Excellent read Ross,

I felt I was in the boat with you.

You're not an anonymous writer for Mills & Boon by any chance? :tease:


Thanks it was just how I remember it. A wonderfull era to live thru. They are a couple of chapters of some memoirs I have been writing.. Glad you enjoyed and appreciatted your comments and no I have never written for Mills and Boone but there's still time.


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An excellent read mate! :thumbup:

Great stuff!!



It's really funny when you look back on a long journey of the changes that happen within a fisherman's outlook. The St George club and it's members introduced me to a brand new world of fishing that I only dreamed of I probably would have persued it without the club but the members have helped me reach those goals by their teachings and that is what these sort of groups are about.

The 70's ANSA movement was timely. Fishermen catching XXOSize fish out of trailer boats that were pretty basic by todays standards and kidding there wasn't some amazing fish around in that era.

I have always felt that I was privileged to live thru it. Glad you enjoyed the yarn


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what a top read!

im still in the early stages of my learning but a few things in that story sound so familliar

thankyou roscoe for a great tale.


I don't think we ever stop learning about fishing have been at it for a while and learn something every day Glad you enjoyed the read.


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top read mate,you should send a resume to the mills and boone lot,youd be a shoe in ross

cheers arman

mr magoo,

Upon your advise I just might send of my manuscript...I have written 400 pages of yarns from when I was a five year old fishing with my grandfather in his tiny row boat, thru to the present day. I am hoping to complete it this year. It has some topics like; The best storms , people I have met that have been an inspiration as well as lots of fishing yarns. I've got to stop writing, but then I think of something else and on goes the journey again....one day ..one day I will finish. It has been great fun recalling "A Lifetime of Fishing"


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