Spanish focus reaps rewards
  |  First Published: July 2012

Spanish mackerel are the focus this month and they have been around in good numbers, from the inshore reefs and wrecks, to the outer Shelf.

The large majority of Spaniards have been schooling fish in the 6-10kg range, with a smattering of horses over 15kg. Halco Laser Pros and other lures that get down deep are a pretty sure bet for the lure trolling brigade, while gar and wolf herring have been the most popular trolled baits. The good old pilly has also been accounting for its fair share and there have been quite a few taken as incidental catches by bottom bashers.

The more dedicated Spaniard chasers have been focusing their efforts on using live baits and when the smaller school fish allow, have been taking some of the bigger trophies.

When targeting Spanish mackerel, any pinnacle that is holding bait is worth a thorough going over before moving on. Spaniards will sit at various locations in relation to structure, but generally they sit up current of a bommie. However, sometimes they are in tight against a pinnacle or wreck and other times they are sitting up to a few hundred metres wide. Make sure you work likely looking structure over thoroughly from all directions before moving on, especially if there are bait schools showing on the sounder or the surface.

A good plan of attack when targeting Spaniards is to troll back and forth into and with the current. Then do the same into and with the wind (if coming from a different direction to the current), with a few criss-crosses as you change tact. If you still luck out, try circling from about 300m out and gradually reduce the radius.

If you are still win-less after all that, then it’s time to move on or change baits/lures/depth. If you troll with the deeper lures/baits in close and the shallower running ones out further, you should be able to cover varying depths at the one time and also be able to turn without wrapping lines around each other.

The lesser mackerel, like doggies and spotties, will be in full flight around the inshore reefs and wrecks, especially in the area from the Franklin Islands south to Mission Beach. These areas are within reasonably easy one-day fishing access of Cairns but are even better visited for a weekend. Stay overnight in the numerous caravan parks, economy resorts, units and even houses, that are available for rent and pump a bit of money into the struggling economy. The Cassowary Coast is still on its knees after Cyclone Yasi and the downturn in tourism, due to the tough economic times, has compounded the problem.

The serious blue water anglers will be able to find plenty of action out around the Shelf and Lindon Bank when the weather permits, with plenty of Spaniards, along with a smattering of cobia, monster GT and yellowfin tuna. It’s also not uncommon for a few small black marlin, up to 200lb, to start showing up on the Continental Shelf and the Paddock, in July.

Coral trout will be the main bottom catch at the reef this month, as they start to feed up in preparation for spawning. They will mainly be in the shallow water, under 30m, along with a good smattering of sweetlip, stripeys, various trevally species, Moses perch and spangled emperor. The trout will range in size from just legal to 6kg thumpers, that will really test your terminal tackle.

In the deeper water, especially on the rubble patches and isolated bommies, large-mouth nannygai will be on the chew, along with some cracking red emperor. While there will be a few reds caught during the day; dawn, dusk and overnight fishing is definitely more consistent.

Winter species will be dominating the estuaries, with trevally, queenfish, bream, cod and grunter the main players, along with the usual shovel-nosed rays, small sharks and catfish. Provided queenfish haven’t been decimated by the netters, the mouths of all systems, especially the bigger rivers like the Daintree and Russell/Mulgrave, will see magnificent specimens, over 1m in length, on the rampage.

Rising tides will generally see more action than the run-out tide, with live sardines the number one temptation. Trevally will be mixed in with the queenies but generally of a smaller size. There will however be the occasional horse-sized GT taking baits meant for queenfish, just to create some serious mayhem!

Bream will be on the menu this month and it's not hard to find a bit of action around rock walls, man-made structures and rocky/rubble bottom. There will also be a few just-legal mangrove jack kicking around but the barra will only be an occasional catch, along with fingermark.

Lure fishers will still be able to cast up the odd quality barra if they find shallower pockets of warm water or deep water structure-holding fish. Grunter and flathead will feature on the flats, along with bream and whiting, which will be concentrated closer to river mouths. In the estuary snags there will be small jacks, cod and bream on offer for bait soakers.

Mud crabs should be the ‘play of the month’ in the estuaries, with the bucks quite active as they seek out the jennies for a bit of romancing. With the high salinity levels usually experienced in July, the muddies will be more concentrated in the upper reaches of streams and in the tops of the smaller arms.

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