Early bird catches the fish
  |  First Published: August 2011

August is generally known for its westerly winds and clear water, which can make fishing the shallow reef edges tough, especially for those who don’t like heading out pre-dawn and braving the cold winter mornings. However those that do will definitely reap the rewards of an early start.

The colder temperatures can produce some really good fishing in the bay including species like snapper, bream, tailor, jewfish and flathead. In early July the winter snapper season started with a bang with plenty of good fish being landed in the 35-55cm range, and the odd fish coming in over 70cm.

With the winter breeding cycle beginning, the snapper will be starting to congregate in numbers over some of the deeper reefs in the bay. Spots such as Mud Island, the artificial reef west of Peel Island and the artificial off the eastern side of Coochie, should all hold good fish over the next month.

Working soft plastics and vibration style lures such as the Threadybusters, Sebile Flat Shad 66 and Jackall Mask Vibs, over the tops of these reefs can be a very productive way of producing quality fish.

When fishing these areas I always drift and make my casts down current; this ensures I’m always in direct contact with my lure without any bow in my line. It also allows the lure to sink at a slightly slower rate, as it is sinking against the current. This in turn gives the fish more time to take the lure while it is descending through the water column.

Snapper are quite predictable in their feeding times. It is just a matter of finding a pattern of when they are most active. Take into consideration the moon phase, tide, barometer and time of day, all of which affect their feeding habits. Keeping a diary of your trips with the above information and details of your catches will help you find that pattern.

Whether you are targeting these fish on bait or soft plastics, the trick is to fish light. The mistake that so many anglers make is fishing with a heavy leader and sinker or jighead.

Snapper feed throughout the water column, so if your bait is sitting on the bottom with a heavy sinker, you are decreasing your chances by a significant margin. The same applies with soft plastics; you want the lightest jighead possible to get you to the bottom.

On those good winter days when there isn’t a breath of wind and it seems like everyone who owns a boat is out on the water. Trying to get away from the boat traffic; fishing up in the shallows around all the bay islands is a great way to pass time and catch some great fish. Places like Peel, Goat, Bird and Macleay islands are ideal.

Fishing over these shallow rocky and rubble areas, you can encounter many species such as bream and flathead. I like to target these fish on small surface lures like the OSP Bent minnows 76 and the Maria Pencils. These lures are worked with a high rod action and a slight twitch of the wrist, pausing the lure every meter or so, giving the lure a ‘walk the dog’ action.

If you haven’t tried surface fishing before, it is definitely a fun way to fish. There is nothing better than seeing a fish’s bow wave behind your lure, then all of a sudden the fish decides it likes what's on offer and – bang – you’re on.

Remember when it is clear and shallow the fish will spook really easily, so a quiet and stealthy approach is required for maximum success. An electric motor is ideal for this type of fishing, but even without one you can still catch plenty of fish. Line your drift up with the wind, so you can get a nice long drift over the target area.

Putting in long casts will also increase your chances. You want to be fishing away from the shadow of the boat as this also spooks the fish. Never be afraid of fishing in quite shallow water, as you will often see fish with their backs out of the water feeding, as there isn’t enough water to cover them.

When fishing around other people this month, just remember a little bit of courtesy goes a long way. No one likes having another boat coming within 10m of you, trying to see what structure you are fishing on. There are plenty of spots around, so have a little respect for your fellow fishers and I’m sure it will be repaid.

If you have any queries or questions on anything that I have written in this month column, please don’t hesitate to come down and see us at Fish Head in the Victoria Point Town Centre.

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