As an army of anglers hit the high seas over the next two weekends, spare a thought for a small team manning the radios out of the back of a truck perched atop Gan Gan lookout in Nelson Bay.
Working in conjunction with Marine Rescue and the Water Police, Neil Grieves and his daughter Leanne and her daughters Caitlin and Brianna will be calling in the boats for safety and keeping everyone updated on competition standings during the Shootout and Interclub.
It’s a system Neil and wife Lyndy developed over 25 years ago and one which has been adopted by many clubs throughout NSW since.
“We use the two repeater frequencies, 80 and 21, sign the boats on and off at the beginning and end of the day and call each boat every two hours, getting a location, and broadcasting whether they’re trolling, drifting or anchored,” Neil said.
“We also get grid references in relation to our grid charts for the area, and fishing reports – strikes, hook-ups catches or tags, species, line class etc and feed than into the computer so everyone knows where everyone’s up to in terms of competition and safety.”
With 150 plus boats on the water, there’s never time for complacency.
“Under NSW Game Fishing Associations, if a boat misses two skeds it is automatically classified as a missing vessel,” Neil explained. “In that first half hour we’ll broadcast a description of the boat, rego number, where they were last call and ask other boats to keep a look out. Often there’s nothing to worry about. Boats might be fighting fish and forget, or have mechanical problems, or are out of range, you never know, but you have to have procedures because the sea is an unforgiving place.
“If after an hour we don’t hear from them, we send a message to the Water Police who have special resources to ‘ping’ mobile phones and get locations. From there situational decisions are made on a case by case basis.”
Last week at the Lake Macquarie Bigfish Bonanza, Neil didn’t sign off until 1am Monday after a boat got caught late fighting a shark and then had to battle back to Swansea through heavy seas.
“That’s what we do, if boats fighting fish or travelling late we stay till they get home,” Neil said.