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Lovely queenfish from the kayak

I’ll never forget the first time I caught a big queenfish.

I was fishing off Dampier on Ed Olkowski’s little aluminium boat when we found a school of big queenies near a small island.

We had a ball over the next few hours, catching plenty of fish around the metre-mark and enjoying the spectacular strikes and acrobatic leaps.

As someone who loves lure casting to big fish in shallow water I was immediately hooked on queenfish and nothing has changed over the many years since.

One of the very best places to target big queenies is Exmouth Gulf and the annual Western Angler kayak trip to the Wilderness Island fishing camp, on the east side of the gulf, offered a welcome chance to reacquaint myself with these exciting flats predators.

We take a group of keen kayak anglers to Wilderness each year and the local queenies are always a prized catch, especially for those who have not previously caught big fish from a ‘yak.

Rarely does Wilderness fail to deliver on the queenie front and this year’s trip was no different, with several big fish landed in water no more than a few metres deep.

Cruising the mangrove lines near Wilderness and sight casting to cruising queenfish is an awesome way to target them, but heavy cloud cover on this trip largely shut down that option, so most of our effort was focussed around some reliable spots at nearby islands.

Queenfish love current and if you can find an area with baitfish and water movement, like around the tip of islands and close to sand spits, then you are a massive chance to find them.

It didn’t take long for me to hook my first big queenie on the opening morning, with a Duel Adagio stickbait absolutely belted in a flash of silver that made it clear what the aggressor was.

Sadly, after a couple of leaps the metre-long queenie uncharacteristically ran me around a bommie and the fight was over as the 6kg line parted.

However, it wasn’t long before a switch to a 12cm Duel Slider sinking stickbait paid off when a couple of big swirls behind the lure were followed by an explosive strike.

The battle that followed was an enjoyable one on the new 8kg outfit, with a number of leaps and then plenty of hard work as the queenfish slugged it out close to the boat.

The reward was a gleaming metre-plus of chrome which made the 15-hour drive to Exmouth worthwhile.

I was only using a single hook on the lure, so it was a simple task to grab the 40lb Black Magic leader, hoist the fish aboard for a few quick pics, and then pop the hook out and release the queenie, which charged off into the depths.

I got two more big queenies during the trip – one from the kayak and one from the Western Angler Westerberg project boat – as well as countless smaller models which were great fun on the light gear in skinny water.

Everyone in the group got onto the smaller queenies and each day there were at least a couple of bigger fish hooked, and usually landed, from the kayaks.

Throw in some big golden trevally and a couple of metre-plus giant herring, plus countless mangrove jack, cod, bream, whiting, flathead and small giant and brassy trevally and it was another memorable week of fishing at Wilderness.

Caption Lovely queenfish from the kayak for Joel Tinetti at Wilderness Island.