Spaniards show in shoals
  |  First Published: April 2012

A lot less wet and higher than usual temperatures have put different prospects on the forthcoming winter. The exception is The Fitzroy which is still running hard with waters from rain received out west.

In the localised systems there have been far less prawns around, but the baitfish schools have grown in quantity. In fact, they have grown so much that poddy mullet and herring are now in parts of the creeks they have rarely been before. The upside is that we are getting species normally found down towards the bay moving up into the back reaches. Fingermark in recent weeks have been caught in almost freshwater high up in Waterpark Creek.

If you follow the rule that wherever there is baitfish there will be a predator to eat it, try out-of-the-norm areas.

Bream, salmon, queenies and flathead are all feeding well and should be in form over the next month or so. Mud crabs are down a little on last year but they probably are still recovering from the severe hammering they received, especially at Corio and Port Alma.

Large grunter have been running lately on and offshore. Grounds like Findlays and The Barge are firing quite regularly, especially over the full and new moons. A fair number of locals looking around in the evenings for black jew came away with grunter instead. A welcome by-catch that is much better eating than the original target. Squid, pillies, flesh strips and big green prawns proved to be the best baits.

I prefer an afternoon to evening rising tide to chase grunter at the wrecks or The Pinnacles, and Findlays always works better towards the high. Grunter don’t usually hang hard against structures and most often they will be in the pressure point trench or just behind the eddy.

It doesn’t make too much difference which rig you use but the majority of grunter landed take the bottom hook on a paternoster. Sometimes a big ball sinker running down to the hook works as good as anything else. Spots like The Pinnacles can have big grunter away from the structures and big nannygai on the higher parts. It pays to have a lightly weighted bait hanging that bit further back against the structure to nail a nanny or two.

Barramundi are still going strong, mainly in the river and down around Gladstone. Quite a few of the Rocky guys have ventured well south of here trying to get one of those Awoonga escapee big fish. There were numerous big barra that made the trek north in the last year since the big overflow from Awoonga giving the regions breeding stock a great boost.

While the river is running strong, the crew at the North Side Caravan Park have set up camp at the junction of Moores Creek and The Fitzroy. They go out to the freshwater lagoons and creeks to get a bucket of silver perch for the session’s baits. These guys score more quality barramundi than just about anyone else and, while the river has so much fresh, the baits can last for ages in between hits.

The main flow in the river is a bit fast for barra at present so any of the little creek and gutter mouths will be where they are waiting for a feed to be washed towards them. The rock bars along the northern end of Curtis Island have started to show some very healthy silver-sided yellow tailed barra lately and as the temperatures drop more fish move out of the river to hold up in the slightly warmer water of the bay. These areas can often yield the fish-of-a-lifetime if you get to know when they are likely to be there.

Lots of very large female Spanish mackerel caught lately have had roe in them. This shows that they spawn twice or more a year. The big fish taken this month have been in deeper water than the October spawn. The deeper rock face drop-offs into 20m or more is where they have been hanging. The leading current edge of the islands and the shoals is producing the better numbers over the past weeks.

Pillies are the optimum bait for Spaniards this month, surprisingly bypassing ribbonfish and bonito to grab a pilchard. This indicates they are feeding on small baits. We have scored several Spanish over 20kg and a couple well over 30kg on the smallest of floated pilchards coming into March.

Live bait jigs have become an essential part of the tackle box on any fishing trip, from the river to the offshore reefs, because of the results they can produce. Live bait is nearly always the way to go and often when things are quiet on dead baits a livie can trip the switch that gets all the big critter attention.

I also have another rod rigged and ready with a Taipan or a Flasha in case there is activity on the surface, or as a backup when all other methods aren’t working.

When slow trolling baits for mackerel try jigging a Taipan or heavy Flasha in between the troll lines. Let the jig sink right down before retrieving as fast as you can. This creates interest and can often draw half-hearted fish into grabbing the jig or following it up and smashing one of the trolled lines.

Manifold Island, Perforated, Flat, Conical, Outer, Man & Wife, Barren and Liza Jane are the closer spots to pick up a trophy Spaniard. The wider shoals all have plenty of Spanish so we always have a livie or a pilchard floater hanging out the back while we are bottom fishing; sometimes the floaters are the major contributors to the day’s catch. If you haven’t got a bait floating out the back then you might miss the fish of the day.

With any luck we should see the run of spotted mackerel return to the bay this year. The continual fresh flow from The Fitzroy over the past year has pushed them out around Keppel Bay and past the shoals where they became a bycatch for some of the guys chasing Spaniards.

The southern end of the bay from Quartz Rock and the islands off Emu Park are normally the first to show when spotties are about. Then they move to Rita Mada, Ironpot, Forty Acre and Farnborough as long as the conditions allow.

Spotties will take pillies or Flashas and can be in quite shallow water on the frothy current edges or holding in the coves at places where you usually target ribbonfish, like Ironpot. When the lesser mackerels are in town you can see all the tinnies lined up around the headlands and the harbour, if they are there for any length of time then the mackerel are on.

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