Calm after the Storm
  |  First Published: March 2011

This year we have had everything from floods to cyclones stopping us getting out amongst the fish, but now that those severe weather events have passed, we are in for some cracking fishing that should last for a few seasons.

In Keppel Bay where the Fitzroy dumps its overload, the shape of the bay and islands directs the flow up or down the coast depending on prevailing offshore currents. This leaves a distinct dirty/clear line in the water that attracts lots of pelagics looking to score any easy feed.

The lines can be up along Cape Capricorn in a big arc back towards the islands or following the island chain past Conical. We have had plenty of success finding the lines and trolling lures along them in a zigzag pattern travelling from clean to dirty.

Northern blues (longtail tuna), bonito, Spanish mackerel, spotted mackerel, mac tuna, wahoo and cobia have had a feeding bonanza keeping them here longer in areas where they aren’t normally found. March is mackerel time and Spanish are the top dog for the next month or so.

Reef and bottom species are also taking advantage of the situation where prawns and other small critters are getting washed out of the local systems in large quantities. Grunter, scarlet sea perch, grassy sweetlip, black jew, trevally, and cod have taken residence in shallower than usual areas to get the free feed.

All this can make for a great fishing trip if you can work out where to look. Studying the charts and looking for structures and contours in the path of the flow is a good way to find where the fish are feeding. The Pinnacles and Liza Jane are a couple of examples where the fishing is above average during or immediately after a change in conditions.

The reefies are in good numbers and as usual the bigger fish are found in the deeper spots from the islands out to the shoals and beyond. Red emperor, scarlets, rosy jobfish, red throat sweetlip, grassy sweetlip and coral trout make up the better part of captures as a rule.

Many fishers try to fish right on top of the bombie or pinnacle and end up with lots of small fish. The bigger reds and scarlets prefer the rough bottomed areas adjacent to the structures especially if there are higher fern patches. Big baits mean big fish and red emperor will take a bait big enough to choke a horse.

Half mullet, hussar or a whole squid pillie cocktail will do the trick. When we use a two hook paternoster the top hook holds a sacrificial soft bait that breaks up creating berley to further attract fish to the bottom bait. Big reds prefer baits fished directly on the bottom or just off the sea floor.

Coral trout have been pushed by the fresh in the system to the back side of the islands looking for cleaner water. There are quite a few in close to the main islands among the big corals and plate type rock structures.

Trout favour livies over nearly everything else and don’t be shy on the size either. Rosy rock cod, just legal hussar, mullet and whiting are up there with the best baits for coral trout. Most anglers don’t get close enough to the rocks and corals to get trout regularly and sometimes it pays to be almost on the rocks for success, even if it means trying water only a few metres deep.

The closer offshore wrecks continue to work well particularly towards the new moon and the full moon for big grunter and cobia. This year already some of the locals have done extremely well using large green prawns, pilchards and squid on either a standard snapper rig or a big ball running right to the hook. Night time is grunter time and normally that also deters the majority of anglers from chasing them leaving more opportunity for those that do like to fish at night.

Large cobia have been on the chew lately at spots such as Man and Wife, the Pinnacles, Liza Jane and nearby wrecks. Though not in plague proportions as previous years, they are plentiful enough to specifically target at the moment. Anything from floating pillies to squid or flesh baits work well and cobes do take live baits readily.

Barramundi hold top spot in local estuaries and as an Aussie icon everyone wants to catch one. We have the chance to catch both saltwater and impoundment fish within easy range of Yeppoon and Rockhampton. The Fitzroy River is still flowing hard and this makes it very difficult for anyone not knowing the river to locate fish. On saying that there are a couple of tips that may help the inexperienced barra fishers get onto their first barra.

Barramundi are a lazy fish and ambush is their primary method of feeding. The Fitzroy has more than enough spots for shore-based anglers starting right in the middle of town. The bridges and rock bars make an ideal location for barra to do their thing and this is where to start looking.

Look for eddies and structures where the barramundi can get out of the main run. Barramundi not only hide behind rocks, pylons and logs, they also sit in front where the pressure wave holds them without any effort and baits are virtually pushed straight at them by the current. Barramundi feed anytime but on daylight and on dark seem to be the best times.

Lures are my chosen option because working from a boat you can cover lots of territory over a session. We cast at every stick, rock, tiny creek mouth, pylon, car body and anything else that may be a hiding spot in any depth of water that can cover a fish. Sometimes they hold in as little as a half a metre and almost right on the shoreline.

However the Fitzroy is better fished with the deepest diving lure you can get, specifically to get the lure deeper quickly. The slower you can twitch and retrieve your lure, therefore keeping it in the zone long as long as possible, the more strikes you will receive.

Lures painted in gold, pink or wite do the trick and the locally produced Richo lure is designed for local conditions. Any of the local tackle shops will point you in the right direction.

Live bait is near impossible to catch in the river at the moment so get it somewhere else. The young guys in town go down to the creeks behind Kmart and the Norman Road cricket fields to catch large silver perch. While these are freshwater fish, they do stay alive for a long while especially with the amount of fresh coming down the river.

The other option for people wishing to use live bait is to go down stream a bit from Nerimbera and cast net along the mud banks for prawns, which are in huge numbers now. Any of the creeks down the beach also hold lots of bait including prawns and mullet so all you have to do is keep them alive until you can use them.

Bream, whiting, salmon, steelies, flathead and queenies are all working at the moment giving us a variety of targets to choose from. Mud crabs and prawns thriving in the nutrient heavy waters are on the go as well. All looks to be good as the area recovers from the disastrous start to the year, I hope everyone has a better rest of the year.

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