If I had to pick the best all round time of year for fishing Central Queensland it would be October. The temperatures are about right and nearly everything is on the chew.
Last week one of my regular crew went for a cruise up the coast hiding under the westerlies that seem to have hung on a little longer than usual. He only managed a few fish but they were all brag quality including a 10kg snapper and a largemouth nannygai 12kg plus.
As a rule the few snapper we get in the cooler months have moved out in to the deeper fern country well offshore where they get taken among the schools of big red emperor. The inshore rubble patches and shallower reefs are going really well with a bundle of different species from tuskfish, sweetlip, cod, nannies, trevally, and grunter.
When fishing these closer spots you can improve your catches by trying a few easy tricks that will almost guarantee a quality feed. The first is to use the lightest weights possible to get to the bottom, even if that means anchoring further up current and letting more line out until you get your baits back to the zone. Drift until the bait schools show and then drop a couple of baits to see what is there. If you get any decent takes we move back upstream to anchor up and set out the burley pot.
Drifting can be quite productive but it can also work against you by spreading the fish over a much bigger area and reducing the numbers around the boat. The use of a drogue – or sea anchor - may slow your drift down. When you set it at the right spot on your boat you can get the perfect drift even when current and wind are working to make life difficult.
Most of the time I’ve found that many of the reefies will take big green prawns over just about anything else. This year the local chain stores have had big local banana prawns for $13-$14/kg, making them way cheaper than the scummy bait prawns from the servo down the road. My boss has a standing order of a carton every couple of weeks when she does the shopping and they pay for themselves after the first decent fish or two. Fresh flesh strips, squid and pillies all do the job and last a fair bit longer than prawns so they get a run on the other hook.
Jewies are still on the menu and the closest spots to Yeppoon seem to be the better option. Places like The Blow Hole at the harbour and Ironpot have black jew either side of the full and new moons. The common rig is the old paternoster with a squid or pilly cocktail on an 8/0 hook. The majority of our black jew are caught at night although spots like The Pinnacles produce the odd fish during daylight hours, particularly towards high tide.
Pelagics in all forms have been pretty active over the last month when conditions allowed them to be targeted. Doggies never really hit top form although they continue to be picked up randomly around the area. The better catches have been at spots like Corio Heads and Farnborough. Spotted mackerel are moving into Keppel Bay from wider parts and should reach solid numbers this month. Spotties landed at Quartz Rock is generally a good indicator that they are in town, so keep an ear open for any whispers. Once they are in full swing the numbers increase at Ironpot, Rita Mada, Forty Acre and Findlays.
Many of these spots also hold ribbonfish and bonito, which will be obvious when you are either getting your pilly shredded or getting small nips out of the tail. If this is occurring just change the rigs to suit. It pays to have a few different sized flashas to cater for different eating habits.
Sometimes when the spotties are thick you can use any lure in your box but at other times you may try several before picking the right one. Varying the retrieval speed can also change your luck. By letting the chromies sink to the bottom on a long cast you can keep the lure in the zone much longer.
Greys are hit and miss at present and they should pick up in coming weeks mainly at spots like Findlay’s. In previous years there have been greys over 10kg taken on lures meant for big cobia which hit the bay this month.
Cobia can turn up anywhere at any time making them a bit unpredictable at many locations. There are exceptions including Findlay’s and Barren. A few cobia show up nearly any morning as the sun comes up. The wider reefs have concentrations that annoy mackerel fishos by mugging troll baits meant for the more favoured Spanish mackerel. They prefer baits over chromies and sometimes a change in tactics or a move is the best option when they are thick.
Queenies have hit their straps and are showing in numbers around the Keppels and Corio Heads. They follow the schools of herring and hardyheads along the beaches, herding them into the deeper holes or up against the rocks where they smash the baits in a frenzy.
Our best sessions have been at Long Beach or Wreck Beach at Great Keppel where they hang most of the year just behind the breakers. You can see the black shape of the travelling bait schools over the white sand so all you do is flick a livie or a small flasha in front of the baits. Small fish type plastics go off at times with the added bonus of picking up a flatty or a big bream in the same spot.
Little Corio Heads is another big queenfish haunt and the methods to catch them change. The last of the run in and the first run out are the best times and getting a clean drift past the headland between the bombies is ideal. Drop an unweighted hardyhead or herring on a 3/0 hook behind the boat and stand up the front casting poppers. The best poppers are 100-125mm in mackerel blue. As you drift past the rocks toss your popper in as close as you can, let it settle then haul it back as fast as you can.
My favourite reel for this is a TSS4 which is light and has the best paced retrieve. Over the years plenty of other outfits have been trialled with nowhere near the same results.
The estuaries have been hotting up as more fingermark, jack and barra are being landed. With barras going into closed season at the end of the month now is the time to chase them.
Flathead remain in great shape in most of the estuaries and most of the local estuary crews are still getting a couple every outing.
Whiting are still thick, especially along Long Beach at Joskaleigh. This area just outside the mouth of the Fitzroy is deadly for whiting and blue salmon when everywhere else is a bit quiet. Word has it that the council is going to make a new beach access to Long Beach much to the delight of the local fishers.
Mud crabs are moving again after the very small layoff over the cold period. Lots of the crabs about are not full yet so check them before wasting an effort on floaters.Reads: 1047