Scratchie jumps on board with Deckee

5th March 2021 Jack O'Rourke

A local fisherman and colourful personality from the Port Stephens area, Jeff “Scratchie” Thompson has a love of the outdoors and is constantly exploring out on the water.

An enormously passionate fisho, Scratchie is a Senior Moderator for Fishraider.com.au, and enjoys taking fellow members out for fishing sessions to showcase the beautiful waterways of Port Stephens and teach them about safe boating.

Recently, Scratchie rescued four fishermen that were stranded in the ocean for almost an hour after their boat capsized. The story was covered on national news stations. His experience out on the water and his engagement with the fishing community make him an ideal Deckee Ambassador.

Deckee talks with Scratchie about his journey with fishing and boating, tips for boaters to ensure they are staying safe, and some of his most memorable moments out on the water.

When was the first time you went fishing?

My first fishing experience was at Narrabeen Lakes. While at Stewart House in Curl Curl, they took us out for BBQ and gave me a handline. I was immediately intrigued by fishing. I remember casting out, and hooking up to this fish. It ran me up and down the lake on my little handline for about 10 minutes before I ended up pulling it in. To this day it is my personal best brim. 

They gave me the option to keep it or release it, so naturally, I kept it. The chef back where we were staying cooked it up for dinner. 

What was your first experience out boating?

My first boating experience I remember, I was about 12 years old. I was on a charter out of Sydney. My eldest brother took me out. It was a day I will never forget, because when we got out of the heads, the swell was pretty gnarly. I was the youngest on board, and all the lads were sick on the boat. I ended up helping the deckhand, sitting up with the captain as he drove and I did most of the fishing. 

That day I came to the realisation that I don't get seasick. That is a big help considering how much time I spend out on the water.

What is the best part of being out on the water?

For me, It's not all just about fishing, it's about taking in all the surroundings, and reconnecting with nature. There is always something to see. Some of the sights you see out on the water are truly amazing. 

I guess most of the time it's about fishing, though! That's where the journey started for me, and I have had so many unforgettable times doing it. Driving back from Broughton Island cruising at 10 knots with a pod of dolphins under your boat, drinking a cold beer in the afternoon, is a sensational feeling. All the places fishing can take you is remarkable. 

For first time boaters, what are some common mistakes you see regarding safety?

I have helped many people buy their first boat. In fact, my eldest son is now buying his first boat. My advice to anyone, is to take your time with everything you do. A lot of the time, people new to boating let the excitement get the best of them, and end up forgetting simple steps, like not screwing in their bung plugs, or leaving their boat key at home. 

I've seen it all. I've seen a brand new Stabicraft just sitting there on the boat ramp, because they have seen other boaters take the clip of the winch and then drive the boat back in and it just slides off into the water. It doesn't do that when the ramp is on an angle, that will just crash off. That is only something you do at the beach. So taking proper care is important.  

What is the number one safety tip all boaters should remember?

Know your limits. It's important to know your boat, know what conditions she can handle, and know the capabilities of your passengers. 

What are some common mistakes first time boaters encounter regarding safety?

I have been close to falling into that trap before, but I pride myself on being a safe boater, because I take my kids out all the time. I am constantly checking my boat. 

One thing I have found really handy on the Deckee app was the reminder function. That was one of the first things I filled out when I signed up. It's an absolutely brilliant tool. It's a unique part of the app that will go a long way to helping people stay up to date. It's a great hub to keep track of all your registrations, flare and EPIRB expirations and lifejacket service. 

A good place to start is to check in on everything on the first day of the year and set reminders every 3 months, so you can stay on top of all your registrations and equipment.  

What's your tip when going through your safety checklist before heading out on the water?

Do your research before heading out, so you are familiar with the waterway you are entering into. Also consider what weather you are going to encounter, plan ahead and keep an eye out for changing conditions. Just because it's blowing 3 knots westerly, doesn't mean it's not going to be a 30 knot southerly in a couple of hours. I look up the weather 10 times a day. 

What is your perfect day out on the water?

It all starts with a hassle-free launch. The capability to launch my boat without having to wait would be a dream. I like going out in pleasant conditions; light winds with moderate swell, about 24 degrees, and it goes without saying that the fish are biting! The fish determine how long I stay out. We leave in the morning when it is still dark, and if the conditions are good and the fish are biting, who knows how long we will stay out there. I don't even look at my watch most of the time. It could be hours.

Is there a water activity you would like to try or do more of?

I like to take the kids out and tow them on the tube, and I have done some waterskiing in my time. I have yet to try a PWC and would really like to do that. A few of my mates do a lot of fishing from off their jetski. It's a different way to approach the water. 

When it comes to boating, which do you enjoy more: the journey or the destination?

That is a really tough question. I have a motto: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. That for me is a part of the journey; I always have a plan mapped out before we hit the water, but that plan may change. The way I fish is all dependent on current and winds. The planning part of the journey is something that I really enjoy doing, I know where I'm going, and I know what I’m doing. 

On the other hand, is the anticipation you feel getting to the destination, I love to just get there as well. You've got your bait, you've got everything set, so you just want to get there, drop a line and start fishing. It's great just to be out on the water, having a bit of banter. It's all part of the experience.

Find Scratchie on the Deckee map.