John Cockbain at home at the Clarence River Caravan Park after his water rat attack.
John Cockbain at home at the Clarence River Caravan Park after his water rat attack.

Rat attacks fisherman

ILUKA angler John Cockbain never used to fear the large black rats that inhabit the Clarence River’s north wall.

But since his recent close encounter of the rattiest kind, he’ll be keeping a weather eye out for the buck-toothed scoundrels.

Big John, as his mates call him, was fishing on Iluka’s main beach, hoping for a nibble from a whiting, bream or jewfish. But he never expected to become bait for a ferocious furry felon.

“I often see rats walking along the shoreline, nibbling on bits of food washed in from the sea,” John said.

And this occasion was no different.

“I saw the rat, a large one about 250 to 300mm long, walking towards me along the waters edge. It was just getting on dusk, but it wasn’t so dark that I couldn’t see the thing.”

As the rat ambled along John stepped back from the water’s edge to give the creature a bit of space.

“He was a good two metres away from me and then, next thing, he’s on the back of my legs, scratching and biting,” John recalled.

When John shook the leg being attacked by the rat its sharp incisor teeth tore deep into his flesh, and when he shook the leg again the rat let go, only to jump up and attack the other leg.

“A Queensland fisherman down the beach came over to investigate after he saw me jumping up and down and killed the rat with the butt of his fishing rod,” John said.

A trip to Maclean Hospital to dress the wound and take home a course of antibiotics took care of the medical side of things, and a week later John’s wounds are healing nicely.

“It hasn’t scared me off fishing there,” he said. “Next time it’ll be the same old story, T-shirt and shorts. But I’ll keep my distance from those rats.”

A Clarence Valley Council spokesman said introduced Norway rats were known to pinch the odd piece of bait off anglers’ lines, but he never heard of one attacking a human. “They’re normally very shy,” he said.


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