Solar Lighting: Smart Choice for Boaties.

There are several reasons why converting the lighting on your boat to LED is a smart choice which we touched on in our other post. Just to cover these again briefly; LED lights draw far less power, some up to 90% less, than their halogen counterparts. This greatly reduces the battery power required for your fishing trip, giving you a longer outing from your current battery. This can also eliminate the need for additional batteries down the track if you ever wish to increase your usage. High quality LED lighting has a lifespan of over 40,000hrs (over 4 years continuous), so be sure to let the grandkids know, it will be a long time before they require replacing. LED lightings’ resistance to shock, vibrations and heavy impact make them ideal for your boat which is exposed to weather and rough conditions. LED’s will turn on and off instantly and doing so will not affect the lifespan of them whatsoever. Halogen lights run so hot they are often considered a fire hazard. LED’s run a lot cooler, eliminating any fire risk and also increasing the efficiency of the light. Even so, it is important to recognise the safety standards set out by Australian Maritime Safety- you can find the appropriate legislation here.

LED boat lights are also proven to attract a lot of bugs and bait fish to the hull of the boat. It is suggested to use green and white lights for the exterior of your boat, slightly submerged is ideal, and red lights for the interior attracting less bugs. Green LED lights will travel further through the water as they have one of the shortest wavelengths in the colour spectrum. This then sparks a chain reaction as the zooplankton will be attracted to the light, bait fish are attracted to the zooplankton and the fish we are after will chase the bait fish.Solar Lighting Kit example

The next step which is where we’ll focus today is to go solar. There are two ways to introduce solar lighting to your boat. You can either purchase solar lights for your boat that include their own solar panel and battery power source or you can incorporate a solar charger to your existing LED lighting set up. Adding a solar panel to your existing set up can be difficult for somebody without 12v electrical experience, as it is not as simple as just connecting the solar panels to your battery. You must run the solar panel through a solar regulator, which can vary in size depending on the size of your solar panel, before it gets to the battery. The solar regulators job is to ensure the power going into the battery is not going to harm the battery. The advantage of this option is you can go solar without having to change any of the lighting in your boat and the solar panel can help with anything that runs off your battery, it is not just restricted to lighting.

Going with solar lights is a simpler option as it does not require any re-wiring and is often easier to install as you don’t have to worry whether or not you can get power to the designated position for the light. The quality of solar lights varies greatly. Because there are so many parts to a solar light, it is very important to ensure you are purchasing good quality. An inferior solar lighting kit will use low quality batteries with a smaller storage capacity and lifetime as little as 6 months. Top Frog Energy stock a variety of high quality solar lights, using top of the line lithium batteries which have proven to last up to 5 years or over, with a range of light outputs to suit your needs.

Converting your boat to LED or solar lighting is a more expensive option up front, but if done correctly will save you time, stress and money in the long run.

Pimp Your Boat With Some LED Lights!

LED Lights have garnered a lot of interest from the boating world since their shift into the mainstream. We’ve been seeing more and more colourfully moored boats throughout the canals as boat owners jazz up their pride and joy with a range of LED Arts including LED strip lights, underwater LED’s, and powerful bar lights for lighting up whole commercial fishing decks.

coloured-LED-Lights-BoatLED Lights are everything that your average boater is looking for. They’re relatively easy to install, compatible with different power sources and most importantly they’re highly energy efficient. The last point is the most pertinent when it comes to boating; where electrical power is only provided by the onboard batteries which in turn requires the engine to be run for a certain period of time so that the charge is not exhausted. There is nothing worse than getting yourself and your mates stranded, left floating with the current, 5 kilometres from the nearest harbour after realizing your batteries are flat.

Herein lies the value of LED lights. LED lighting is the most energy efficient lighting solution available using only 2-17 watts of electricity (roughly 1/3 to 1/30 of incandescent or CFL usage). Not only do they save that precious battery power on your boat, but they have a much lower operating temperature, meaning any LED lighting you install on your boat is safer and guaranteed to last longer between replacements than any other type of lighting. LED lights are also durable and contain no mercury which is another plus for the environment. Also they have the added benefit of providing better light! Previously on a average 28ft sport fishing vessel there might have been 8 halogen deck lights chewing through 800 watts to produce just 6000 lumens, whereas nowadays one LED Bar light may consume only 240 watts and produce upwards of 15000 lumens. So when it comes to lighting your boat, you could remove the old lights and save yourself over two thirds of  the energy output.

So although LED lights are the obvious choice for boaters from an energy consumption standpoint, how do they compare when it comes to practicality? Let’s take a look- If your wiring is of decent standard, installing a LED light over your standard bulb means you have 10 to 15 times the lifespan of the older bulb. Now lets think of all the places you have light bulbs on your current boat. In my experience, they’re always in fiddly spots that require you to unscrew covers, take apart panels or remove whole sections of your boat just to change a lightbulb, making the job ten times bigger as well as having to do it ten times more often. That is one job that every boat owner would love to avoid.

So next time you’re looking at changing a few of the lights on your king of the ocean, think about the time you couldn’t kick over the engine because your battery was sucked dry. Think about the time you gave yourself stitches tripping down the walkway and couldn’t use your radio because the battery was dead. Remember the time it took you to replace the stair light last time it was on the fritz. Now ask yourself? without even considering the inherent savings you’ll make, is it worth the switch? Don’t be a dummy, go LED.

Fishing Byron Bay

There are some great spots in and around Byron Bay to fish and you can get lucky with some shore based spots around broken head and 7 mile as well as heading offshore to wrangle some of the deeper water beauties. A short drive to Brunswick Heads is also a popular trip for many anglers staying in Byron Bay and is often worth the drive with some great hauls being pulled here. It is also worth mentioning that there is a habitat protection zone around these areas so make sure you are abiding by the restrictions. You can get licences from Brunswick bait and tackle, KC’s and the Ferr caravan park. long fish

Around Byron and Brunswick you’re going to be catching yellowfin bream, sand flathead, mangrove jack, snapper, tailor, and pearl perch among others depending on the season. If you’re short on time and think the locals might be able to steer you in the right direction, there are plenty of fishing charters operating either out of Byron Bay or Brunswick Heads. Get in touch with the team at Byron Bay day tours to organise a trip with the best fishing charter companies in Byron at the best rates. We used them to book our charter and it was fantastic.

fishing swag We were offered some high quality fishing gear when we arrived (although we had our favourite rods with us), if you’re not as organised as us just bring along some sunscreen a big hat and a few beers if you’re that way inclined. These guys are so organised they sort out permits and even clean all your fish for you at the end of the day! Going offshore warrants bigger hooks as you are typically looking at catching marlin, tuna, mackerel, king fish, dew fish, and wahoo to name a few. All in all we had a stellar day out on the ocean, making us all love Byron Bay more than we already do (if that’s possible). So if you’re looking for a something to do for your weekend in Byron, give one of the fishing charters a crack, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

Marine Radios and Procedures

As we touched on in our other post, marine radios are essential to your survival and rescue in emergency situations and are required by law if you are heading more than 2 nautical miles offshore. Knowing how to operate your two way radio to make your rescue easier for emergency services should be a priority for all boat owners. For a comprehensive guide on marine VHF radio operations, the Australian Maritime College has generously provided their marine radio handbook to download for free, we suggest all marine radio users get a copy of this great resource.

There are three main types of marine radio communications equipment available in Australia. The one that suits your boat’s needs will depend primarily on the ability of the two way radio to provide a suitable level of safety communications in your travelling area. They include walkie talkies using:

  •  MF and HF international marine bands
  • 27 MHz marine band (also called 27 Meg Marine)
  • VHF marine international band

Each different band has differing qualities and attributes and you should contact an experienced marine radio supplier to make sure you have the right two way radio for your application. 27 MHz has a extremely limited range therefore it is imperative you check with local authorities before using this two way radio band. VHF marine radios, available in walkie talkie style and mounted two way radio units are the preferred radio for short range. VHF Channel 16 is used for emergencies in Queensland and should be kept free of chatter. HF radios have the longest range and are reliant on outside factors such as the hull of your boat and the current atmosphere. These radios can be difficult to operate for your everyday punter without rto training and practice.

Radio Procedures

Two way radio procedures are an international standard. We suggest learning the phonetic alphabet in order to assist you when radio communication is unclear. When you are making contact make sure you say the boat you are calling (3 times), your boat (3 times), the message, “over” then wait for them to respond. Distress calls are slightly different as outlined below:

  • Mayday (x3)
  • Name of boat in trouble (x3)
  • Mayday
  • Name and call sign of vessel
  • position
  • nature of apparent trouble
  • Other info such as passenger numbers

There are a few other patterns of radio communication for safety and urgency calls but if follow a similar pattern to the one outlined above, you should be able to get your radio message across. If you would like to know more visit the marine radios page on the Maritime Authority site.

FrequenciesMarine Radio Channels

  • VHF Marine Radios: Channel 16 with 67 as a supplementary channel
  • MF/HF Radios: Distress and calling: 4125/6215/8291 KHz. Navigational warning: 8176 KHz.
  • 27 MHz radios: 27.88 MHz (channel 88) with 27.86MHz as  a supplementary channel

So if you are new to boating or just keen to learn more about boat safety, brushing up on your two way radio communication skills is a good way to ensure you are in the best possible position if an emergency situation arises. Take the time to learn yourself or visit a registered training organisation and happy boating!

Boat Safety Equipment

To ensure you have a fun and safe day on the water, it is essential to make sure your safety equipment is up to standard. Not just so you meet the legal requirements but so that if in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, you have everything you need to keep your company and yourself safe.

Check the Weather

Always check the weather before you head out on the water. Sounds simple enough but is often overlooked if you have already made plans. Queensland has heavily cyclical weather patterns that are sometimes unpredictable, and the weather can change while you are out in the bay. Make sure you have sufficient fuel for the trip including any possible detours to wait out the storm. The best place to check the weather is www.bom.gov.au and once you’re out on the water there are forecast telephone numbers provided by maritime safety Queensland (1300 360 426). They also broadcast regular forecasts via VHF radio on channel 67 which is monitored if you wish to request a forecast. If you wish to improve your radio communication skills there are a number of RTO training facilities such as the Australian Maritime College (AMC) who have a rto compliant course that certifies users of marine radio (VHF and UHF).

Life Jackets

Life jackets are a legal requirement for all vessels and each boat must have a life jacket for every passenger. Upon boarding the vessel it is required that you inform your passengers of where the life jackets are stowed and it’s a good idea to perhaps show them how to put them on if they are a unconventional design. In Queensland, if you are going to cross a coastal bar in a boat less than 4.8m, you MUST be wearing a life jacket. A list of coastal bars can be found on the Maritime Safety Website along with the different standards and types of life jackets.

Flares

There are a few different types of flares that are carried on boats including red hand held flares, orange and parachute designs. Make sure your flares are in date and stowed in a watertight container. It may also be a good idea to show other passengers how to use them in case you are injured, instructions are usually printed on the flare itself. Parachute Flares are the most effective at night and can be seen for 25-35 nautical miles. Visibility is less during the day with orange flares being visible for around 1.4 nautical miles. You can pick up flares from any boating store near you. You may be able to purchase online but regulations apply.

EPIRB’s

EPIRB’s are a requirement if you’re heading more than 2 nautical miles from land. EPIRB’s greatly increase the chances of you being found by on average narrowing down the search radius from 5km to around 100m (according to GME). Funny how this technology in every man’s boat is so effective yet they can’t find MH370 with millions of dollars worth of safety equipment, two-way radios, and satellites. If buying a new boat, you must also register your EPIRB with the Maritime Safety Authority.

Marine Radios

There are a few different types of marine radios that are suitable for boating in Queensland. Your two way radio should be used in incidences such as communicating with other boats, navigational help, weather warnings and forecasts as well as coordinating with rescue groups. It may be a good idea to check with the Australian Communication and Media Authority to see whether the two way radio you are looking at purchasing is suitable. VHF and HF radios are popular with VHF radios providing better coverage. See our post on marine radios and procedures for more specific information about radio operation and channels.

Fresh Water

Sounds like a no-brainer but don’t forget to carry at least 2 litres per person for your trip.

Fishing for Flathead

The flathead fish is one of a small group of small to medium sized fish species with notably flat heads. Flatheads are a popular eating fish here in Australia due to their high availability, especially on the Gold Coast where there is an annual flathead fishing classic held, which is now in its’ 21st year of operation. These are a great fish as you can catch them both onshore and in the rivers and estuaries that are plentiful in the Gold Coast/ Tweed Heads region.

Flathead Gold Coast

Locations

As we previously mentioned this is a great fish to angle for. You can catch them all year round (although October seems to be the best), and they are everywhere in the rivers, estuaries and creeks. Some of the better places to look for flatheads are around drop offs, channels and broken reef areas where the bottom lurking bandits have the chance to ambush their prey from among their camouflaged hiding spot.

Size

Flatheads can grow up to 12kg in weight but this is extremely rare. they are more commonly found in the 500g and 4kg range. In Queensland, anglers have a daily possession limit of 5 flathead per person with a size limit between 40cm and 75cm. Follow the link to download the Queensland Sizing/catch limit sheet.

How to Catch Them

Flatties will regularly take live bait and dead, as well as a selection of lures. Because these fish are so common, everyone has a different method to landing a flathead. Some of the techniques we have found to work best on the Gold Coast are blade baits and soft plastics with a scent when the fishing is slow. Blade baits, although small, seem to work like a charm on flathead. we recommend using TT blades, sticking with gold and silver colours. The only bad thing about this type of setup is they aren’t very weed friendly so stick to the clean river sections.

Flathead are the fish to target if your not an avid fisherman but still keen to get something tasty for dinner. I still remember to this day the first fish i ever caught was a flathead and it was such a rush. Keep that in mind all you dad’s out there! If you’re interested in entering this year’s Gold Coast flathead classic, it will be held between the 1st and 4th of October. All the details can be found at the gold coast sport fishing club.

Mud Crabs

Mud Crabs are both delicious to eat and amazing to look at. Their huge claws make for a great centrepiece of any meal and their meaty moist, sweet flesh is in our opinion makes them one of the best tasting crabs in the ocean! Lucky for us these juicy monsters are pretty common if you know where to look. We’ll let you in on a few little secrets to make sure your crab pots are always full, just don’t jump on the two way radio and tell everyone where you put your pots!

Massive MudCrab

Location

These mud loving creatures can be found along the entire Queensland coast. If you can see mangroves, then chances are there are mud crabs hiding nearby. They typically hang out in sheltered estuaries and tidal flats so keep that in mind when laying your pots. As they prefer tropical and warm temperature water, you can also sometimes find them in other locations throughout Australia including Exmouth Gulf region of WA to the Bega River in NSW. shallow waters are the key so look for those tidal flats with soft, muddy bases.

Size

In Queensland the minimum allowed take size for mud crabs is 15cm with a limit of 10 crabs per person in possession. It is illegal to take female crabs in Queensland, you can tell the difference between the two by the shape on the underside of the crab. Males will have a pointy v shape and females will have a more rounded shape. For more information on different size, take and possession limits in Queensland visit the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry website.

How to Catch Them

There are a few different styles of traps and pots out there that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pots must not be more than 1 metre in length and 0.5 cubic metres. Many fishermen say there is some very specific methods involved with setting your pots to maximise your success. Aim to point the entrance of the pot with the direction of the current, lowering the pot with the rope to the seafloor. Once it reaches the bottom, give it a few tugs to make sure it is nice and secure. Also, don’t do what I did the first time with my new pots and make the line too short on the float. If you do, when the tide goes up you’re not going to be able to find your pots! Fresh bait works best, although their is a growing trend among crabbers that they like rotting bait more- a straight up lie! Beef, kangaroo and firm flesh fish and fish heads will do the trick.

Handy Tip

If you’ve got one of those fancy VHF marine two way radios with GPS mark your pots with the GPS coordinates so you never loose your pots again!

Chasing Yellowfin Tuna

Thunnus Albacares or The Yellowfin Tuna as it is more commonly known is one of the world’s favourite sporting and eating fish. While it may not be the biggest and baddest of the tuna family, the beautiful colours of this fish make it a popular catch on any fishing day. There is nothing quite like seeing these yellow missiles breaching the water as you struggle to pull them in. Trying to get a read on these fish is almost impossible. Some of them will battle tooth and nail with the endurance of a marathon runner while others seem to give up before the fight has even begun.

Beautiful Yellowfin Tuna caught by Dan Nash

Beautiful Yellowfin Tuna caught by Dan Nash 

Locations

These beautiful fish are found Australia wide but are more commonly seen in Australian waters from Northern Territory to South Western Australia and from Torres Strait to eastern Tasmania. A variety of ocean factors such as oxygen distribution and salinity controls the distribution of these fish throughout Australian waters. Although younger fish (typically weighing less than 15KG) tend to form surface schools with the same species, adult tuna prefer to live solo and inhabit the deeper areas of the ocean on the border of the thermocline.

Size

Yellowfin Tuna can grow up to 2 metres in length and weigh in at over 170 kilograms, however the tuna caught off the east coast rarely exceed 190cm in length and 100 kilograms in weight. Even so, if you catch a fish that big, you’re going to be eating yellowfin for a few weeks!

How to Catch Them

One of the best methods for catching yellowfin is trolling. Trolling works best with skirted lures and fishing live or dead baits whilst anchored or drifting. When using this technique, it is best to set a line of lures or baits at different lengths off the back of the boat. Lures should be trolled at no more than 5-7 knots. While you’re trolling, keep an eye out for places like tide lines, areas with high concentrations of seabirds, and bait schools. If you spot a school, ignore your gut instinct to drive straight at it and slowly pull the boat around the edges of the school as not to scare the fish.

Another popular method is cubing. All you have to do is distribute a solid mullet burley trail behind the boat at anchor and wait for these beautiful fish to turn up. Once you have established a solid burley trail, set your hooks amongst it with a selection of live bait like mackerel or even some pilchards drifting along the burley trail will work nicely.

Final Thoughts

Always remember to fish in moderation. Although the Commonwealth stock status reports the Yellowfin as sustainable, this type of tuna is historically overfished. Only take what you need and consider fishing for alternatives such as mackerel or other tuna species such as skipjack. As always make sure your boat is fully equipped with the necessary safety gear including flares, life jackets and a working two way radio. Don’t forget to test your marine two way radio before leaving shore and register your trip with marine patrol.