Cold Clinches Catch
  |  First Published: July 2011

For the first time in years we have had a cold snap before the start of June. This has predictably brought a lot of the winter species into play.

An early run of flathead in very large quantities has had the estuary fishing crews raving about them. There has been a high percentage of very big fish, many of them well oversize, and were released to further the population. Flatties are a sucker for almost any plastic, hardbody or bait that passes their nose. Lately we don’t even bother to take the cast net, or bait for that matter.

I usually use my all-time favourite lure, a deep diving Richo Extracta, for just about all my luring from barra to fingermark, flathead, jack and any other species likely to grab a decent size lure. By using a deep diver in shallow water you can adjust the twitches and retrieve speed to keep the lure at virtually any depth in the water column. For flatties it pays dividends to work your lure very slowly and get it so that it nudges the bottom kicking up little plumes of fine mud or sand that attract the attention of any fish nearby.

This time of year the bigger flatties lie along the channel edges of the deeper drop-offs. Many fishers troll these areas with their electrics or drift wider and work the plastics or hardbodies from shallow into deep water covering a large part of the territory flathead prefer. While the bait fishers normally target a particular spot, such as an eddie, pressure point either end of a sand bank or structure.

We have an abundance of easy to get live bait including greenback herring and poddy mullet that flathead find too hard to pass without taking a chomp. When the herring are small I hook three or four of them together by passing the hook through them at the top front end of the eye cavity. This keeps them alive and all the herrings move in different directions creating a much bigger looking feed for any hungry critters in the vicinity.

The other day I saw, and was part of, an unusual situation while chasing flatties. We stumbled onto a few barra in approximately 600mm of water in between some oyster rocks, which is fairly normal, however, we were all wearing tracky dacks, jumpers and beanies and that is not normal when barra fishing! The water temperature in the main part of the river was about 23°C, the water in-between the rocks was around 25°C and the air temperature was a chilly 12°C. The run of barramundi locally has continued despite the change of season and looks as if it will continue.

Cold weather fishing for barra means looking for country that will have higher temperatures than surrounding water. Rock bars act like giant solar heaters and as long as the sun is up they will warm the water immediately against the rocks where barra and jacks like to lay.

The heavily food laden systems (from the floods) has been a bonanza for crabbers as the mud crabs are still feeding in all of the local creeks and the river. Phenomenal catches well out of the norm have been made recently and we got 17 from six pots in one run on a small tide, and I can’t crab for nuts.

The early winter prawns have been doing very well also and they have kept the estuaries in good form so far without a sign of slowing.

Bream numbers have risen considerably over the last month making them a great target for the shore-based fishers around the mouths of nearly all the systems in CQ. Anywhere you see rock bars and mangroves near headlands or creek mouths there will be bream there at some stage of the tide. Go back to the old tricks Dad taught you, like planting berley just under the sand or mud adjacent to the rocks at low tide so that as the tide rises it washes the covering releasing a fresh burst of berley at set intervals.

Silver bream and black (or pikey) bream are in fine form and will eat most baits from prawns, flesh strips, pipis, yabbies, mullet gut and small live baits. Plastics take a bit more finesse and it takes practice to become proficient. Apart from trying different retrieves until you find the one that works, the closer to the structure you get you lure the better the chance of catching a fish.

Offshore the fishing has been exceptional all year and the better class fish are being taken in very close. Nannygai are at many of the local rubble patches starting just wide of The Keppels and some of the patches inside the bay. They seem to bite better on the incoming tide using big baits. They like fresh flesh baits, squid, pilchards and small live baits.

Nannies respond very well to berley, so if the fish aren’t on the chew drop down a berley bomb and they will come on quite quickly.

We have gone hunting a few times recently with mixed results as far as species goes and around the last new moon we had a heap of trouble getting past all the juvenile black jew to get to the red fish, snapper and grunter. In several local spots, boats have had to move to get away from these great little fighting jewies in the 600-700mm range.

Large snapper have started arriving on cue and as the temperature continues to drop they will come into shallow water around the islands. Virtually any rubble type area over 10m stands a good chance of holding knobbies at present. A very light rig and fresh bait increases the chance of a decent fish particularly in the shallow water.

The bigger black jew are arriving on time to each of the local jew spots, especially Ironpot, Double Heads, Rita Mada, The Pinnacles, The Barge and Corio Heads. Double Heads is the best spot for shore-based fishers at either the blow hole or the front bay working all the time during the past month. Four days before to four days after the full or new moons is the best time. On the full moon they appear to come on just as the moon peaks above the horizon. Big squid baits are up there with fresh flesh strips as the better baits.

Last trip we did was a special for squid coming into the circle of light from the deck lights. As soon as a squid took the jig it was brought in and sent right back down live on a pair of 7/0 hooks. Almost immediately each squid was smashed by either a huge black jew or a nanny, until the flood of juvenile jewies came back in to haunt us and prematurely ending the brilliant session of large fish.

Doggies and greys have started to arrive a little later than normal, but we have been getting the odd fish on bottom rigs at some of the northern rubble reef patches recently. This means that they are going to move in close and with those winter glass off days in the bay. All the headlands and most of the islands hold mackerel, and now is the time that the little tinny brigade gets their opportunity to get some quality fish whenever the conditions drop out.

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