A real northern winter
  |  First Published: June 2012

If the last couple of days are anything to go by we may get a real winter this year.

Plenty of our local species require the change in the water and air temperatures to trigger breeding, schooling or migrating; the last few years have only been mild winters, so hopefully this year it’s a little chillier. The southerners will probably laugh at anyone from Central Queensland talking about a cold winter, but we do get some days below 10ºC, which is a shock to the system as most of the year is low 30s or high 20s.

Black jew are starting to peak in the local area at present. They usually arrive as the temperatures drop; we had a few show last month but now they are coming on strong.

Catches have been all over the area from the closer spots like Ironpot, Quartz Rock, Double Heads Blowhole, Findlays, The Barge and Corio Heads Jew Hole to locations further out like The Pinnacles, Perforated, Cape Manifold and Cape Capricorn.

The black jews are mostly caught from boats or from the rocks at Double Heads, but lately a number have been taken at Keppel Sands from the headland and from the wall at Ross Creek giving shore-based anglers a shot at them.

They come through in schools of similar sized fish, which means they are the same age. The schools circle the holes and structures picking off anything in their way. Fresh or live squid are one of the best baits you can get, along with good pillies, fresh bonito and ribbonfish strips and if these won’t get a jew then they are not there.

The four day period either the full and new moons are the best time to chase them. I like to arrive at the spot just on dark, set up and generally as the moon peeks over the horizon, they come on like a switch was turned.

These jewies can be very dirty fighters and will waste you on any type of structure they can find, especially pinnacles and rock edges. Any set up with a decent drag and 30lb braid will at least give you a fighting chance; the old guys up here still used 100lb+ handlines and in the dark you can hear them grunting as they hook one.

Berley is a great option to concentrate the school in your proximity and once black jew have a sniff they won’t leave until all the scraps are cleaned up.

Cold weather also means snapper in these parts. June and July is the only time of year we see snapper in water shallow enough for the average boatie to get at them. When the water temperature drops a degree or two it triggers the big reds to come in to water around 8-20m, which is shallower than the 45-60m range they hang in the rest of the year.

Spots most likely inside Keppel Bay are Ironpot, Conical, Findlays, Forty Acre and Ross’s Reef. Many of the places they prefer are renowned squid areas and when we get our winter run of squid the snapper aren’t far away. We often stop at North Keppel to grab a handful of live squid before proceeding to our chosen spot.

The shallow water requires tactics that many of us hardly ever have to use up here, so we rely on techniques used by the guys fishing for Moreton Bay snapper. Anchor a long way back, use lighter line, smaller sinkers and almost float the baits down to where the fish are holding. Berley is definitely the go when snapper are about; they will follow a berley trail right back towards the boat when it is quiet.

If you can’t catch a squid or two for bait, pillies and frozen squid are good alternatives. Finely chop some of the frozen squid and add it to the berley mix.

Snapper don’t tend to school in large numbers like they do down south, they are mainly caught alone or in pairs with the occasional capture of three or more. However the berley often attracts grunter and large-mouth nannygai to the boat as very welcome by-catch.

Spanish are doing the rounds again as reports of midsized fish come in across the whole area. There are plenty about from the Keppels and out to the Shoals or north to Manifold. Bigger tides always work better at the pinnacle type spots; reef passes and current lines trailing the local islands also work well.

The fish in the passing bait schools have increased in size lately and the Spaniards are going after the bigger bait, so now is the time to bring out the stash of bonito and ribbonfish baits. On cool glassy mornings these fish can be caught at all the lesser mackerel spots, including the harbour wall, while they are chasing doggies and ribbonfish almost at your feet.

There is a run of doggies happening just offshore and as the weather plays the game and the bay cleans up should come inside and smash a few of the closer spots like Rita Mada, Farnborough and Ironpot.

Last month after catching those big Spanish I received quite a few emails on what rigs I use chasing mackerel. I am mostly a mono leader fisher these days and compared to others in my crew I get the most Spanish. I do get bitten off occasionally when there are lots of fish going for the one bait. For the risk, the catches far outweigh the losses. Unfortunately no one makes a tooth proof leader that isn't 3-4mm diameter, other than wire.

If you're casting Flashas or Taipans use about 300mm of 100lb Jinkai attached to a 60-80lb crane swivel because they are black, small and don't flash. The shorter leader allows you to cast much further, especially with a spin stick.

With floating live baits I just run 120-150cm leader right to the top hook and I do the same when trolling with lives baits. When trolling mac tuna, tailor or big sea gar I tie the leader directly to the jig head because I hardly ever get bitten off and the majority of strikes hit the bigger target down towards the tail. Trolling lures and small baits like pillies is just about the only time I use wire these days and it is usually around 120cm of 80lb brown, single strand piano wire.

Quality barramundi are being taken around the area at the moment. The barra may slow a little now, but any of those warmer periods in the middle of the day are worth a shot. Last year we were catching barras while wearing gloves and beanies, so you never know.

A run of blue salmon has begun at a few different locations in the previous weeks, mainly along the beaches and in the mouths of some of the bigger systems. The timbers at Coorooman Creek, Corio Bay and the mouth of Ross Creek from about half tide up are the go. They are feeding on small baits that look like very small herring, so small lures and baits should be the go.

Bream, flathead, whiting, trevally, queenies and king salmon were in the reports from many of the estuary fishers. This bit of a chill should turn the fish on and with catches already rising, prospects are looking great.

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