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Schooled and Spooled
  |  First Published: August 2011



Unlike last year where winter really didn’t eventuate, this year has seen some very cold mornings and a definite change in the water temps.

Last month saw the mackerel schools arrive in better numbers and catch rates soared from the reefs to the islands and everywhere between. Big schools of bait are spread throughout the channel extending right out to the reef, which is a great sight for any angler.

My only problem was finding out the hard way the mackerel had arrived when a 12kg Spaniard ate my intended mac tuna slug. All would have been good if I wasn’t using a 6lb trout rod; the Spaniard spooled me in less than 30 seconds. You live and learn.

Hinchinbrook Channel

Surprisingly the small to medium size barra are still there to be caught especially on the warmer days and on the big tide runs (big high to small low). August is normally the hardest month to catch barra as water temps are normally at the coldest and the barra seem uninterested in eating. Just think about how keen you are to get out of bed or off the couch to eat something when you’re warm and content.

So the secret to getting bites is to use offerings that appeal to the fish. In the cooler months I will use small very slowly worked plastics in prawn patterns as small prawns make up the majority of their daily food intake.

Drains along the mud banks that are flushing out bait and warm water will attract a lot of fish sitting right in the mouths of the drains; fish locations like this with soft plastics for the best success.

The cooler months are best spent targeting fish such as blue salmon and silver grunter. Both these fish are about in good numbers and can be caught fishing in the same areas and using the same techniques.

Look for defined sand bars up the bigger creeks such as Deluge and Mendel; these sand bars look like a finger running across the creek. Anchor above the sand bar on the first of the incoming tide and make sure your baits are drifting over the edge into the deeper water.

Fresh bait such as butterflied herring and prawns are the best by far. Fished on light gear and using just enough weight to keep your bait in contact with the bottom and slowly moving with the current should see you hooked up. Both fish are clean fighters so back the drag off and enjoy the fight.

For those wanting some great visual fishing using artificials the mini GTs are stacked up on most snags with good currents hitting it. Although rarely reaching a kilo on normal bait casting or spin gear these fish go hard and are great fun. Use small poppers and enjoy the aggressive nature of these fish. Just be warned that large barra and jacks love to ruin the party by quickly stitching you up, but that’s fishing.

The jetty

After Yasi you must keep 100m off the sugar loader jetty due to the destruction and repairs being done but it is still worth having a troll around the end for mackerel.

Mackerel don’t hang in the structure like the GTs and queenfish but can be found hanging in the strong current lines wide of the jetty. During August the bait schools should be thick between the jetty and the islands so the mackerel will be there for sure.

Reef and Islands

We are at the hands of the weather at this time of the year. The persistent southerlies may never stop blowing, or at least that’s how it feels when we are again looking at another week of 20-30 knots on the computer screen.

When the chance comes to get out wider there are some great fish to be caught. Good reports of big red emperor are being boated at night as well as some monster nannygai from some secret shoals that hopefully will remain secret for awhile.

Good trout are also still being caught in decent numbers for those specifically targeting them. You will catch them using the traditional paternoster rig but using a small weight sliding straight down to the hook or no weight if possible and a nice slab of fish or pilchard will see your catch rates soar.

Again if we get the weather most boats will be chasing mackerel in the first few hours of light then hitting the reefs for some tasty additions to the icebox. Mackerel can be caught all day but the few hours around sunrise and sunset are the best times to target them as this is their peak hunting time.

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