Story and pictures copyright © 2000 Julia Hazel
Strong south easters returned and Jeshan had a fast run north to Cape Melville and then on around Bathurst Head and into Princess Charlotte Bay. There we caught up with Eureka III again and spent quite a while together, exploring some of the big rivers which empty into the Bay.
It's a world of mud and mangroves, with NO swimming (alas!) because numerous crocodiles live in these murky waters and we did not want to feed them -- most particularly not by becoming croc food ourselves.
For the keen fishing team on Eureka III these waters are full of challenges and they spent much of the time setting crab traps and casting lures.
Sometimes I went along in the dinghy just as an observer, and marvelled at their dedication. Colin, the master fisherman, together with friends Phil and Liz, searched endless miles up and down stream, seeking exactly the right kind of underwater snags where barramundi and other fishes like to hang out. Then they sat hour after hour flicking all sorts of lures back and forth to tempt the unseen fish, undeterred by intense heat, burning sun and biting insects.
Of the many fish Col and his friends caught, only a select few were kept. The majority were deemed either too big or too small or not exactly the right kind for their next dinner menu. Each of these was quickly and carefully unhooked (they use un-barbed hooks only) and gently moved back and forth underwater until it had recovered from it's struggle to escape, then released.
Since I would rather much, much rather watch fish going about their own affairs than catch them, it was quite an eye opener for me to encounter such careful and considerate fishing practices. And when I was invited to dinner on board Eureka III the unlucky "perfect barra" tasted pretty good too.
Exploration by dinghy and walks ashore were my favourite river activities, though not always easy in this environment. Anywhere on or near the water you have to keep a wary eye out for large crocs. But the crocs of all sizes almost always saw us before we saw them, so no doubt there were many that watched me undetected.
There are few convenient landing places along the rivers and after struggling up a steep muddy bank you are usually confronted with either more mud, thick bush or long tangled grass. Walking is not necessarily the pleasant stroll you had in mind and animals you are hoping to see are widely dispersed and very well camouflaged. Intriguing tracks and tantalising glimpses are your reward more often than a real life equivalent of nature documentary movies.
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