Just couldn’t get away

South West Fishing – Issue 29, 2004

By Ross Maguire

To the editor,

Matthew Toohey hails from Naringal, about 30 minutes from Warrnambool. He has been coming to Nelson since he was ten years old, in pursuit of the mulloway that frequent the estuary mouth of the Glenelg River.

Matthew Toohey with the record breaking mulloway

Matthew Toohey with the record breaking mulloway

A land based fisherman, Matthew had had little success until one cold, windy, wintry night over the recent Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Matthew was staying at the River-Vu Caravan Park with his mates: Stephen, Andrew, Rebecca and Preston. They had been up partying around a camp fire on Saturday night, but out of respect for the other campers, they decided to move their party down to the public landing on Sunday night.

It was around 10:30pm when Stephen’s reel screamed out. Rebecca, who was closest to the rod, grabbed hold of the rod handle, just to see it slip through her fingers.

Fortunately for Stephen, but not so fortunate for the fish it would seem, the rod tip dug into the bottom of the river. The reel was exposed above the water, still screaming out line.

In what resembled a casting competition, Matthew’s mates tried to hook the reel with their own lines. More by chance than anything else, Matthew retrieved his rod from the murky darkness. For the next 15 to 20 minutes, no-one could say for sure in all the excitement, Matthew played the fish.

He was almost sure it was a mulloway, but then a large stingray had been caught up river at Donovan’s a week earlier, so anything was possible. With what had already happened this night, the possible seemed probable.

Matthew was concerned, however. He had not been able to retrieve any line, and by now he had little left on the reel. With just one or two metres of 6 kilogram line on the reel, Matthew was able to turn his fish.

It was then that his mates realised they had forgotten the landing net.

While the mates stripped down to their underwear, ready to jump into the river if necessary (the cold and rain didn’t seem to matter in all the excitement, or maybe the alcohol had numbed them to everything else), Matthew played his fish towards the boat ramp that edged down one side of the landing.

As a mulloway emerged from the darkness, bleary eyes marvelled at its size. The size 1 suicide hook was so firmly embedded in its mouth, it was impossible to remove. Its stomach revealed a six inch half-digested mullet, but this was not Matthew’s bait. Matthew had been using a smorgasbord of smelly whitebait and pilchard

The mirth that followed continued into the night, and spread to the hotel.

They weighed the mulloway in at the bar. It went 18lb 12oz and was broadly proclaimed the largest mulloway to have been caught from the public landing at Nelson, at least in recent times.

It was drinks all around at the hotel that night, as people shared their own stories. Few could match this most recent one, however, of the mulloway that could not get away. Matthew is pictured here with his unforgettable catch.

Yours truly,

Ross Maguire, Nelson