We started the week with the scorching heat and energy-sapping humidity of summer and by the weekend the weather had turned to the dry, cool climate of winter. Not only has the weather changed and the southeasterly trade winds have made a grand entrance, but also certain species have followed suit with the signs that winter has well and truly set in.
Within the estuaries the barra have now taken up residence into newly relocated snags and have been easily found on both live and dead baits. With the water clarity slowly clearing up, it has ideally favoured those trolling deep diving lures with brightly decorated colours.
Areas such as the Haughton River, Morrisseys River and even the casino rock wall have rarely failed to produce quality fish trolling close to structure. Other popular locations such as Cape Cleveland and Maggie Island will also become ideal habitats for barra as the water slowly regains its salinity, and should co-operate with live fish baits even when the water cools.
If a mangrove jack burger is more up your alley, then this is the best time to target this aggressive species. Although live bait will find a hungry jack, a few old timers that I have spoken to, still swear by half a pilchard or mullet fillet on a lightly weighted rig.
For the hunters out there, there couldn’t be a more brutal fish to tackle on a lure than the mangrove jack. Small hardbodied lures work fine although soft plastics generally prove more successful at the end of the day. Once again rig these as light as possible for the best outcome.
Further offshore the wrecks and shoals have been at full tilt now for the past two months proving the best year of fishing yet for many years. Small wrecks and lone rocks around Maggie Island and Cape Cleveland have been responsible for monster fingermark both day and night on live squid and with lures. Live squid and herring are a simple bait and rarely fail to produce quality golden snapper.
Day sessions have seen the same fish surface to the boat but only with help of a 7” Gulp jerk shad married perfectly with a strong jighead. Remember the lighter you can fish a plastic the better the presentation therefore producing more fish.
As for colours, fluoros generally work a treat for fingermark but it pays to carry a whole arsenal of lures as what works one day may not work the next.
Also if the water column allows try trolling crazy deeps over this structure, as it has been a very popular method of extracting big fingermark over the years.
With the shoals continuing to show off the spectacular reds on offer this time of year, there’s only more promise of what the cooler weather will bring us. Large-mouth nannygai and red emperor have already been found in good numbers on the shoals and winter generally draws big fish into the shallower water. So the fishing should only improve over the coming month.
Mackerel reports have finally become more than just a consistent rumour with fish around 6-8kg now found in good numbers off Cape Cleveland and Maggie Shoals. I have heard word that the bigger Spanish mackerel have wreaked havoc over the Bowen region in recent weeks, which should mean these fish won’t be too far away from our shores.
The reefs have been nothing short of amazing with record hauls of coral trout caught during the day and still some of the best red fishing going on by night. Isolated shoals and lumps found in ‘no man’s land’ have been electric with big red emperor now almost a guaranteed catch, along with large-mouth nannygai.
There has also been a surge in number of big reef jacks caught in these areas as well, and you don’t have to go far to experience it. Areas around Keeper Reef and Lodestone Reef have been responsible for mind blowing red fishing, while popular daytime grounds such as the Slashers group and Grub Reef have been a safe zone for good numbers of coral trout.
This month should continue to produce the superb reef fishing we are having at the moment. With the mackerel season just around the corner, it will probably be in your best interest to work on your stocks of wolf herring before they actually arrive.Reads: 2002