Big tides, big grunter
  |  First Published: December 2010

It’s funny – as Queenslanders we are quick to whinge when we have had no rain, complaining about how hot it is and how dry the yards are looking. But when it does rain it doesn’t take long before we are wishing it would end!

The Wet Season is a vital part of our yearly cycle that not only doubles the growth rate of our tropical backyard, but also produces some of the best fishing one can possibly experience!

January this year will see a majority of the creeks running fresh for a lot longer than normal, which is good news for those who love to chase a few crabs. 2010 wasn’t the best year for crabbers with hot and cold patches throughout the year, and a lot of checks between bucks to show for their efforts. But with the fresh around at the moment, the big bucks should be pushed out towards the mouths and flats of most systems, with some good crabs to be expected over the coming months.

The shallow flats in Cleveland Bay are a favourite hotspot at this time of year. The best spot to place your pots is out in ‘no man’s land’ between the major creek systems. All crustaceans like crabs and prawns flee the influx of freshwater to find some decent saltwater to mingle in. Regular checks of the pots will yield more crabs and reduce the risk of crabs fighting inside the pots. Remember to check and see if the crabs are full and return empty ones back into the drink. There’s no point eating a crab if there’s no meat in it!

Another crustacean soon to make an appearance is the humble prawn. They, too, also get flushed out from the rain, and you should start looking for them on any foreshore between creeks and rivers. The best time is on the run-out tide as the prawns are forced out of the mangroves are a left hard up against the shore. From now until April is the best time to expect big prawns and in good numbers, with areas such as the Bohle River already producing bag limit numbers of good quality, eating-size prawns.

If you’re keen on devoting some time to catching a few prawns, concentrate your efforts around the moons and be patient. Once the big banana prawns come in, the size and quality of these prawns will impress you! When targeting these prawns it helps to use a big drawstring monofilament cast net, as these nets easily bag prawns towards the top of the net and are much easy to drop prawns straight into the bucket.

With the big tides and the abundance of prawns around at present, the grunter seem to have moved in and have been caught at popular land-based locations such as Pallarenda, Toomulla, Toolakea and Balgal Beach. As a rule of thumb all the headlands and beaches tend to come alive on the bigger tides and fish better on the run-out tide, right to the death.

There have been some good fish caught too, with fish up to 70cm not an uncommon size to expect on the beaches. There’s also the surprise inclusion of monster queenfish that are quite a handful in such shallow water and spend more time in the air than in the water. Once again, the big tides from now until March will favour these land-based hotspots, and they’re not a bad spot to take the family either!

Magnetic Island and Cape Cleveland have seen plenty of attention over the last month with many targeting the infamous fingermark (golden snapper) of a night-time. Although reports have been good around Cape Cleveland, the Maggie hotspots have produced more grunter than fingermark – but I haven’t heard of anyone complaining as yet! Live baits have been the key. Live squid in particular have been absolutely lethal, but remember to take other live offerings in the event that the squid don’t come to the party.

January also means many anglers are gearing up and dusting off the barra gear as the closed season comes to an end at the end of the month, bringing with it hopefully another successful barra season. This has to be one of the most important times of year where you should pay special attention to your valuable fishing equipment. Even a $500 reel can feel the effects of sitting in the shed for three months and should be given the pampering it deserves and be put in for service. Not only does this free up bearings and remove any salt deposits within the reel, but also may help prevent any major problems that might be lurking in the near future. This should see you at your favourite run-off spot come February 1 with everything in good working order!

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