An Afternoon with The Bat!

The Editorial Gomes and yours truly were coming back from Karumba in his trusty 20 year old Toyota Sahara (468,000 Ks), that runs a lot better than he does, when he asked “How long has it been since you’ve been to Seisia ??”.
I answered “Years mate. But tell me why do you ask pilgrim ??”. He came back with “I’m running a drive trip up and back to the tip for the bigger advertisers in Cape Yorker and I thought you might like to come along”.

Bat is hooked to a big mackerel while Paul gives him a massage. All guides are mental.

Bat is hooked to a big mackerel while Paul gives him a massage. All guides are mental.

Before I go any further I must congratulate Anthony on the Cape Yorker. It’s a top shelf magazine so do yourself a favour and buy a copy. They’ll be a collectors item in the future and the new edition promises to be even bigger and brighter than the current model.
Naturally I leapt at the chance to fly to, and drive back from the tip of Australia but quickly asked the lad was there any chance to have a fish up there. He grinned and told me he had arranged for “Bat” to take Paul Donald and I out for an afternoon.
Now a fishing guide called “Bat” could be a worry, but I held my tongue and thought “this’ll be different”.
Paul and I flew to Bamaga, and trust me, that airfare one way was more than a return flight to Sydney. Now that there is an alternative airline it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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Portrait of a “Bat” and a Queenfish.

Anthony picked us up at Bamaga around 5 p.m. and we met the other four at Seisia Holiday Village. Now I have never driven to the tip of Australia and I was looking forward to the adventure. There were seven of us with the TJM boys in that classy red Landcruiser that has more accessories than a King Cross prostitute, the Polycraft boys in their Holden Rodeo and we three in the old Sahara.
There were two bush trailers, three plastic boats, and enough recovery gear to outfit the Dacca Rally.
I could not believe how Seisia had changed and how the camping ground had matured. We had a self contained unit and it was excellent. That night we had beer and burgers at the Seisia Fishing Club and the island band was pretty bloody good.
I caught up with an old mate there, Gary Wright — G. Wright is the oldest fishing guide in Australia (both in years and experience) and his knowledge of that area and its history is incredible. Write a book Gary before you check out and it’s all lost.
We shopped for the drive home the next morning then headed out to Punsand Bay where “Bat” lives right on the water. If he were any closer to it he’d have mullet in the lounge and mackerel in the bathroom.
And so without fanfare I met “Bat”. How to describe “Bat” in words that I won’t get sued for, or beaten to death?? One word describes this man——different. While he has dreadlocks, and teeth that would terrify a dentist, he’s university educated.
Tall and wiry as a barracuda he has chosen to follow the beat of a different drum, and who can blame him there??
I’m not sure what “Bat” thought of Paul and I (probably a pair of old farts), but I laughed when Anthony said “Be an easy afternoon with this pair Bat”, and he replied “Get real Gomes. Now I’ve got a fishing writer I’ve been reading since I was a small kid and a bloody charter boat skipper. I’ve never been so uptight in my life”.
Uptight my bum!! If he were any more laid back he’d be comatose.

Bat and his trusty 6 metre Fisher boat that is anchored at Punsand Bay.

Bat and his trusty 6 metre Fisher boat that is anchored at Punsand Bay.

And so to sea with “Bat” and his close buddy Gavin Birrell. Bat’s boat is a 6 metre Fisher boat that is unpainted, but like ALL Fisher boats it’s a great platform and a U-beaut rough water hull.
As we were camping at the legendary Somerset that night (and boy is that home of Aussie history) Bat said he’d fish around to there, drop us off on the beach, have dinner with us, then drive the boat back to Punsand in the middle of the night.
That his GPS was on the blink didn’t mean a big rats rectum to him. That’s how well he knows those waters with their racing currents.
And so around the tip of Australia we cruised and started to head down the east coast of our continent. I was excited as hell about going around the very top of our land and drifted into a dream world of the pearlers of long ago who did the same.
Have you any idea of the history of that region and the Torres Straits?? Why this isn’t taught in our schools instead of crap about wars in far off lands is quite beyond me.
It soon become obvious that “Bat” is a true blue expert on these waters and both Paul and I knew we were with a special fishing guide. At our first stop he explained the correlation between wind and current and why the pelagics would (not should, I hasten to add) be where they were.
This spot looked exactly like the set up at Cape Croker in the Northern Territory and I was interested in how and where he would troll. He put over a big wolf herring on one rod and a 5 metre Halco Scorpion on the other, and trolled the very edge of the rough water as the current boiled over isolated rocks.
First pass and a mongrel barracuda chewed up the wolfie, and a rotten 2 metre shark ate the last wolfie. But the next pass yielded a nice Spanish mackerel for Paul that was destined for dinner that night.
There were a lot of mackerel in these fast waters but also a lot of sharks, so we ambled down the coast with “Bat” in full flight on the history and whys and wherefores of the various islands.
A little bitty island was next stop. It was full-on from the word go with mackerel up to 40 lbs and big Queenfish and trevally EVERYWHERE——then the sharks moved in. We lost huge mackerel to these frigging pieces of dog poop, and ended up losing 7 or 8 Scorpions and they aren’t cheap.
Never have I seen so many sharks as this year, and they seem to be every bloody where. The marlin fishermen are losing big fish on a daily basis, you can’t catch a coral trout for them, mackerel are being eaten from one end of Queensland to the other, and some ding a ling thinks the shark population is in danger.
From what??—–EACH OTHER!! Again I ask– where is this research being done, Alice Springs, or perhaps Broken Hill??
“Bat” and Paul were determined for me to have a fish, but I kept saying I was on the camera. Hey as you get older you start to fail physically, but you get a whole lot smarter than a fifth grader. Pull on big sharks??? Bullshit to you pair!
We finally got the poops with the sharks and headed into the setting sun for Somerset. That channel between Albany Island and Somerset is incredible with wild currents and I have just got to fish this area again.
Did I enjoy my afternoon with “Bat”. Is the Pope a catholic?? Both Paul and I had a ball and Paul described “Bat” as “a bloody nice fellow who knows his stuff”, and bear in mind Paul runs Kerry D. Charters at Karumba.

Paul Donald of Kerry D. Charters at Karumba with a Spaniard that was dinner that night.

Paul Donald of Kerry D. Charters at Karumba with a Spaniard that was dinner that night.

Would I fish with “Bat” again?? Put it this way Jennifer and I are going up there next year and if “Bat” has room we’ll certainly fish with him for a couple of days. There’re a couple of areas out from there that will go off like a bomb on the right tides by the way.
Would I recommend him to tourists and so called experts?? Absolutely!!! Forget that he looks like a refugee from a hippy commune this guy is great company, has a top sense of humour, and knows his stuff. When he says “I’ll stop up here and see what mischief we can get into” — GET READY because his mischief has scales and pulls like hell.
In a writing career of over 40 years I have only given three testimonials to fishing guides, and one of those was for “Bat”. I do not do this lightly and if he does do the wrong thing by clients he may wake up with a dugong’s head in his bed. Seriously you’ll have a ball with “Bat”. Check him out on www.ifishalot.com
I was going to give his God given name folks but just realised I forgot to ask him what it was. Guess you’ll always be “Bat” old mate.

By John Mondora