Snapper lift angler spirits
  |  First Published: July 2012

Winter has certainly hit us with a bang and even here in paradise we have had to endure a couple of sub 10°C nights; very chilly for us north of the Tropic of Capricorn. That being said our daytime temps have been up around the 20°C mark, providing very comfortable fishing conditions.

The end of July should see us through the coldest weather and before you know it spring will be here. For the moment we are still experiencing our winter fishing season, which is either very good or pretty ordinary.

Snapper is one species that hasn’t disappointed with a really good run of fish coming into our waters since late May to early June and I expect they will hang around until probably mid September. So for those anglers who have not yet had a chance to get amongst the snapper, there is still plenty of time left yet.

Like all fishing it seems more and more anglers are chasing snapper with lures, specifically big soft plastics in a variety of types and colours. It seems everyone has a favourite, but I suggest a chat with the local tackle store staff will soon reveal what lures are proving the most popular. If you then buy a packet or two, the information keeps coming. Remember it is a two-way street, with tackle store staff very willing to help with advice, but sales keep them in a job and help the local economy.

The snapper have been found at all the usual spots from south of Sarina to the waters just to the north of Mackay. The fish are scattered throughout the region and can be found on hard rock reef and also low rubble bottom, which can be found in the Hay Point area. There are also a few old wrecks in the area that produce good snapper, but they’ve mostly broken up and almost disappeared. That being said, if you happen to stumble on part of an old wreck, fish it. There have been a number of yachts and other larger boats sunk in the area and a search of maritime records will get you pointed in the right direction.

Closer to Mackay, the reliable snapper spots are around Flat and Round Top islands, and when the weather is calm it’s not too hard to find these spots. Anywhere you see more than a couple of boats in one area is likely to be a good snapper spot, but have some manners and don’t barge in on others fishing. By all means try nearby or go and find your own spots.

A quality sounder is an essential tool for identifying rock/reef areas and also finding baitfish and the snapper themselves. If you find a school of bait on the sounder, I suggest you fish it hard even if they are nowhere near reef areas as the snapper will follow the bait like any predator. We have caught snapper on the sand shoals out from the harbour and kilometres from any rocks, but the schools of bait were the give away.

Snapper will take almost any bait from big prawns to slab baits and livies. Even the humble pilchard scores plenty of them. If you are using pillies, I suggest cutting the tail off at the wrist, as that stops the bait from spinning and also lets out that lovely little berley trail. Whole fresh squid is probably the number one bait; they can be jigged in the harbour around the jetties at night and are also pretty reliable around Flat Top and Round Top.

So if you are a small tinnie angler looking for some quality fish, the snapper run offers a great opportunity, provided the weather gods smile on us.

Winter is not just about snapper; the trevally clans are around in numbers and there are still plenty of good size queenfish in close as well as around the river and creek mouths. Craig Breadsell recently weighed in one nice queenie at 8kg, which he caught on fly. This was his first fly caught queenfish and what a start. He used a 12wt Loomis and the fish took a large black and white Deceiver.

The trevally will often be found in the same area as the snapper, and can sometimes be mistaken for snapper when they show up on the sounder. They are good fun but not in the same culinary class as snapper. We get a fair mix of trevally here, with goldens being one of the most common. There are plenty of GT, tea leaf trevally and the aptly named diamond trevally in our waters. A big diamond is quite spectacular looking in the water and they regularly run up to about 10kg.

All the trevally clan will take baits like slab fish, pillies, prawns or squid. In fact there’s not much they won’t hammer, including plastics and hardbodies either cast or trolled, as well as poppers around the islands or rocks like on the eastern side of Slade Island.

Spanish and greys mackerel start to turn up in numbers during the later part of June and are worthwhile targeting, mainly from larger trailer boats. Later in the spring these big macks move closer inshore and provide the tinnie brigade with some mighty action. Plenty are also hooked and a few landed from the Harbour Walls too, with one hot spot being the very end of the southern wall, which intersects a strong current. Look for Spaniards in similar spots around the district, particularly where there is fairly strong current.

It’s a bit early for the smaller macks but a few turn up during the early part of winter. However like the greys, they can be here one day and gone the next. It’s best to wait for more settled late winter to early spring weather for the small macks, and hopefully we will get a good sustained run of them.

Creek fishing has been a bit hit and miss, with reasonable catches of salmon coming from all the local creeks and estuaries. One surprise has been the number of king salmon caught in the Pioneer River up around the hospital area. I haven’t heard of anyone catching kings regularly in the River for probably 30 years, but Clinton Hassan from Tackleworld assures me kings up to about 80cm have been caught. Several have also been caught near the newly duplicated Forgan Bridge, right in the centre of the city. You can have live music from several venues playing while fishing in the River near the bridges.

Barra have understandably gone very quiet as they don’t seem to like those sub-10°C night temps too much. They are still around and obviously have to feed but it seems their metabolism slows down a fair bit and they get pretty dozey. The same story applies in the dams, but if you can find warm water, like up on an estuary sand bar or around rocks, then you’re in with a good chance.

The usual fare of whiting, flathead, bream and cod have kept the estuary anglers satisfied and there are still plenty of muddies around, so don’t forget to drop in a pot or two. Don’t stray far from them as the pot lifters are around. Mongrels!

That’s a round up of what is on offer here at the moment. The action may not be absolutely red hot, but there are plenty of fish and options for the winter angler here in paradise. See you at the ramp.

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