Jumping Jack Snag
  |  First Published: November 2010

With the mangrove jack dominating the bite, it has been hard for anglers to drag themselves away from Bowen’s snag laden creeks. There has been plenty of thick shouldered red fish falling victim to a variety of soft plastic and hardbody offerings.

It hasn’t been difficult to get a big red beast to jump on your lure, although getting it out of the timber and into open water has been another story. Most sessions last month saw just as many fish shredding the leader and escaping back into the timber as those that found the bottom of the net.

Last month I was lucky enough to have a fish with Chris Carnie from the Gold Coast who has had plenty of experience chasing jacks in his home canals and creeks. While I had plenty of confidence in his ability, the 15lb leader he had chosen for the upcoming ‘red’ battle had me a little sceptical; although he did assure me that he had landed plenty of big jacks before on this gear back home. I was also excited about the handful of Sebile Koolie Minnows I had acquired, as I had heard some very exciting things about this lure and I was keen to see if they were as good as their preceding reputation.

I didn’t have to wait long for the Koolie to work its magic and on the tenth cast I found myself hooked up to a solid red fish of a 2kg, which unfortunately didn’t want to leave the timber. After some heavy rod work I persuaded him away from the mangroves and into open water. With the fish heaving at the side of the boat I called for the net from my trusty companion who, not surprisingly, was a little busy retying his leader after a similar fish had made short work of it.

Being early in the trip, the fish was released and we both continued to work the bait boiling bank. The Koolie continued its fine start accounting for more jacks, while Andrew was kept frustratingly busy retying his leader with the jacks definitely enjoying the advantage he was offering.

The carnage, however, was not one sided as the Koolie eventually fell victim to a big jack which melted the 30lb fluorocarbon seconds after tearing into the razor sharp trebles. This lure is quickly becoming one of my favourites, especially for jacks, with its exceptional quality making it is an ideal heavy-duty lure that can be fished with confidence straight out of the box.

While all systems are producing quality jacks this month, the bigger systems to the north like Boat Creek are holding the best populations and bigger specimens. To the south, Duck Creek has been fishing really well especially the deep hole and rock bar not far from the mouth, and the snag heavy waters of Billys Creek and the Gregory are definitely worth the effort to fish especially if you are after the big boys.

Bait fishers chasing these fish will be happy to see the back end of the pike bream bite with these fish becoming less aggressive in the warmer months. These fish can make soaking live baits very frustrating as they will often slowly pick away at baits making them less desirable to the preferred target species. Therefore, finding a hole which is not dominated by these feisty little fish is optimal to your success.

In the blue water, November heralds another Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure that sees plenty tasty reef fish like coral trout and black spot tusk fish off the take list. This is a little frustrating as the new moon closures traditionally align with calm seas and light winds. While this can leave many a boatie frustrated, there are plenty of alternative fishing options on offer.

One species which is not on the closure list and bites particularly well during this period is fingermark. These fish love structure and Bowen has some very obvious man-made structures that hold healthy populations of these great tasting and hard fighting fish.

The Bowen Jetty’s second finger wharf is a great place to start looking for fingermark. Even though this finger is off limits to those on foot, it can be easily accessed by boat and can also be fished in relatively windy conditions. The fingermark that reside in this area live under the jetty so when they do venture out to take bait they tend to head straight back into the safety of their oyster-encrusted homes, so tight drags are essential.

The lighter the line and weight used often brings more bites, however finding a good balance is essential at this spot and using good quality leaders will see a better end result.

For those willing to venture a little further afield, the Abbot Point Jetty is also home to some monster fingermark. The average depth around this spot is around 60ft, which is ideal for big fingers, and the powerful jetty spot lights attract huge numbers of squid and fish baits from kilometres around. This is one of the main reasons why this spot is also so prolific for Spanish mackerel, as the bait it attracts makes it a massive fish attracting device.

Successful fishing for fingermark at both spots is heavily reliant on live bait; squid and herring are your best bet. Herring can easily be acquired with a cast net or simple herring jig. For squid, casting squid jigs around the well lit areas on a moonless night (which is during the closure time) is usually effective; however having your own squid light is also a good idea as sometimes the boys on the jetty leave the lights off.

A very long net is also an effective piece of bait gathering equipment as it can be used to scoop up gar and squid attracted to the light. Some anglers use a spear, however, this can often kill the bait thus eliminating much of its effectiveness.

If you struggle to secure live or fresh baits there are alternative artificial options for fingermark. Medium to large sized jerk shad style plastics are an excellent choice, however make sure your jigheads are up to scratch as these fish can often find a way to bend even the best quality hooks.

Alternatively, octopus style jigs are also an excellent artificial option and have proven themselves to be a successful option for Abbot Point fish. Unfortunately these jigs are also favoured by the many XOS resident GT which reside here so don’t be surprised if you lose a few.

Fishing on the blue around the closures dates will herald good captures of coral trout and the usual reef fish which should be in abundance in November. While they may be off the menu for part of the month, November does see these fish congregate in large concentrations as they prepare to spawn, so anglers should see success with chasing these tasty fish.

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