Out of the Box Jack Captures
  |  First Published: December 2010

School holidays are almost here and the fish have fired up pretty well after the wet start to the year.

Once the systems adjusted to the amount of fresh coming out of the river, things eventually turned around and now is a prime period to target most of the estuary and reef fish.

The bait schools and migrating tuna that have been continually passing through the bay are bringing with them a host of other pelagics and some of the biggest mackerel and trevally that we have seen around here for years.

Big Spanish were in close to the islands feeding heavily in shallow trenches hard up to the open water rock faces, similar to how they sit between Bustard Heads and Inner Rock where it is common to be slammed by a 20kg+ horse.

Several times lately lures have out performed baits of ribbonfish and bonito without an obvious explanation. The only conclusion I can draw is that they are running at a better depth or the smaller size of the lures may match the size of bait fish they are feeding on.

These days time is so valuable that more often than not the bait gathering gets left behind and the lures come out immediately.

On any given day the modern lure can outperform baits for plenty of reasons, including the ability to cover approximately 60% more ground.

When trolling a rigged ribbonfish, bonito or tailor the optimum speed is about 4km/h or as slow as you can troll. On the other hand when you pull a lure the optimum speed is usually around the 10km/h for my favourite lures.

From now through to Christmas the Spanish will slowly gain in numbers and drop off in size down to an average within the 6-10kg class.

The pick spots are Barron, Conical, Outer, Man and Wife, Flat, Perforated and Manifold.

Spotted mackerel have been chased out of the bay by the conditions out to the wider areas. Last trip we got spotties at the shoals in small numbers among the Spanish and wahoo. Unless the conditions drop long enough then the wide captures might be your best chance.

Yeppoon and Rockhampton have never been considered to be mangrove jack country because most of our estuaries don’t have the required mud areas. This year has been a little different and there have been a fair number of mangrove jacks taken in most creeks.

The one spot that does have a good reputation is the Causeway Lake, where once again there is a distinct lack of real mud country.

The Causeway is one of the regions best spots in all kinds of weather, and despite the immense fishing pressure this relatively small body of water receives, it keeps producing jacks on a regular basis.

The Causeway can switch on at times where you can catch nearly any tropical estuary species found in Australia, but just as quickly it shuts down.

The consistent feature is the effect of the run-through. The run-through happens when we get a high tide over 3.6m that pushes back in over the spillway; this is the magic switch. All fish inside the lake tune in and come on the chew at once, particularly around the bridge and nearby rock walls.

Jacks, barramundi, trevally, queenfish, salmon, bream, pike and cod are waiting ready to nail anything that comes through the entrance.

The bridge across The Causeway entrance can look like Indian Head in tailor season with anglers standing shoulder to shoulder casting lures or big live baits into the churning water. Some of the fish taken here are unbelievable, especially the 15kg plus barra and the 2-3kg mangrove jacks, which seem to be in good supply.

As well as the Causeway, jacks are increasing being taken in the Fitzroy River. Despite all the fresh one or two quality jacks were landed under the bridges right in the middle of town, a spot that is usually reserved for big king salmon and barramundi.

Further downstream at Casuarina and Connors is another likely spot where solid fingermark are the norm and jacks are rare – that is, until lately. Recently we caught our first jacks in Coorooman Creek and even the regular locals found it hard to believe.

Waterpark Creek and Corio Bay have always had an odd jack and continue on much the same. I think the change in fishing practices has led to more of these favoured species being caught. The evolution of lures and plastics, as well as increased skill levels of the average angler are probably why more of these fish being caught.

Jack love live baits and generally quiet conditions so night fishing is a top option and during the week is even better as the crowds stay home and watch the news.

Fingermark are another favourite target species for the majority of CQ resident fishers. These fish love the rock bars and headlands with a bit of currant and of course plenty to eat. Greenback herring, yorkies, prawns and poddy mullet are the pick baits and the closer you can get the baits to a structure the better your chances are.

Just like jacks, fingermark will go very hard very quick trying to get back into the cover. I use mainly 30lb braid with a 30lb leader and that is just not big enough sometimes if the concentration lapses.

The mouth of The Fitzroy down through the Narrows is great country and any rocky ground between there and army territory is worth a crack. Trolling for fingermark can be very rewarding so always put lures out while looking for structures with the sounder.

My top fingermark lure is the same as my jack and barra special: a 110 deep diving Richo Extracta. This is my go-to lure on all occasions, even for Spaniards, until more durable moulded jobs became available. Trolling just over idle speed is the best for fingermark and if you can bounce the lure off the bottom or the structures every so often then you will get fish.

In the salt

The Keppels look beautiful at this time of year and the temperatures haven’t reached boiling yet, which means all the trevally and queenies around over there are somewhat appealing.

Offshore grunter have appeared at The Pinnacles, Cape Capricorn and The Rama, so keep them in mind this month. Salmon, flathead, dart, whiting, bream, queenies, trevally and all the reefies are in some quantity making the rest of the month reasonably promising.

Remember the barramundi closures are now in full swing and will continue until the season re-opens at midday February 1. This isn’t all bad news for the barra guys because the impoundment fish are still a big option at places like Awoonga, Monduran and Peter Faust.

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