We kept getting little wet spells all year this year; even though it’s not the big flows of previous years it has been enough to freshen the local systems.
Captures inshore and offshore have continued in the same vein. Red emperor, large-mouth nannygai, coral trout and sweetlip turned up in droves at many of the rubble fern patches between the islands and the shoals. They all should be available in the same numbers in close for a while yet.
Spanish mackerel haven’t appeared to have moved as the local catches are getting better not dropping off as expected.
The special at present, which will continue for a while yet, is grunter. We get both types of grunter in CQ and they rank very highly in the table fish scale.
The most popular is the spotted or silver javelin fish, which is very bright silver with a few random black spots on the flanks. These fish are mostly in the estuaries and the rivers and some of the closer rubble patches. They will take fresh prawns over everything else but flesh strips, squid, herrings and yabbies also work well. The typical rig used to catch them is the same as you would use to target bream either a small ball sinker running down to the hook or a swivel with a long trace so the bait moves about in the current.
Being a relatively lazy fish, grunter will take advantage of features in the systems where they can get out of the main current and wait for food to come to them. Many of the larger creeks and the river have an undulating bottom in sections mainly at bends or along the deeper edges of sand or mud banks. The sharper bends seem to be the favoured location. The bottom looks like swell lines where the grunter sit in the hollows below the flow.
The Fitzroy River, Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek are prime locations for grunter and can hold them pretty much all year. Watch your sounder and try anywhere the bottom isn’t flat. Like the offshore grunter they school up around the full or new moons and some locals don’t bother to chase them any other time.
The other species of grunter is the barred javelin fish, which is distinguishable particularly in the juveniles by the dark shaded tapered stripes running vertical on their sides. They spend time in the estuaries but definitely move offshore as they get bigger.
Wrecks and pinnacle situations attract grunter for the same reasons as the estuary fish; the fish can get out of the current either in an eddie, pressure wave or trench. They never seem to move up the structures like other species and many of the anglers chasing them for the first time make the mistake of fishing the higher structures instead of the lower areas around the bottom.
Spots like The Pinnacles have trenches formed by the current on the lee side where grunter don’t have to work for a feed. One particular spot we fish is like a flat plateau where the current creates an upstream at the front where the grunter line up right behind the swirl and at the other end where they sit below the flow as it runs off the top.
Recently we found another spot not far from Rosslyn Bay Harbour that suits grunter and finally the weather conditions came good with the full moon on the rise. The first couple of hook ups were very big black jew and they both managed to break us off on the sharp rock lumps in front of the spot. The bottom suddenly came alive with a school of grunter that must have been at least half a hectare in area and a metre thick. With that came the first bites and immediately double hook-up of 750mm grunter.
The grunter came on as we boated a few more and even one fish that went 945mm on the brag mat. Then as quickly as they started feeding they stopped, when the westerly wind arrived. The sounder showed that the school had not moved on and despite trying everything from berley to jigs and a range of different baits, nothing worked.
The two types of rigs we used were a big ball sinker running down to a 6/0 circle hook and a paternoster with glow beads above the hooks. The fish took both the bottom and the top hook equally.
The best baits for offshore grunter are squid, cuttlefish, pillies, flesh strips and large green prawns. When they are on the chew there are no pickers about and you only seem to catch grunter, or the odd lost small-mouth nannygai. Use soft baits and also berley up.
Best spots are Cape Capricorn, Quartz, Findlays, The Pinnacles, The Rama, Manifold and Ironpot (all the black jew holes).
Jewies are also on the go through the cooler months and are likely to give you trouble if your gear isn’t up to scratch, so we often use the jew gear for grunter just in case.
Flathead have made a charge particularly in the mouths of the creeks and the deeper edged sand bars. Coorooman Creek and Corio Bay are our two best spots because of the large area and the amount of bait fish present all the time. The bigger flatties have been holding in the channels alongside the banks while the mid and smaller fish were taken right up in the shallows on the incoming tide.
Live baits and lures do the job for lizards with good fresh dead bait as a handy back up. Spots like Greenslopes at Corio or the timbers at Coorooman work very well for casting lures as if you were targeting barra. The main difference is working the edges of the snags instead of inside the trees. The yabby banks at Solero, Kellys and Fishing Creek make great starting places and there is always plenty of bait on tap.
Steelbacks, steelies or flat salmon are all over the place at the moment and the bigger cleaner estuaries are the pick spots. These little fellas grab anything that flashes from lures to small live baits. They hang in current lines and eddies where they fly out and smack the baits.
A successful method for catching them is slow trolling small bright lures along tall banks and channels.
On advice from a Rocky local I tried trolling one on our last mackerel trip. They swim very well as a troll bait; being so skinny the hooks come out the other side of the fish resulting in a great hook-up rate and Spaniards love them.
Blue salmon have taken over from kings as the catch this month with reports still coming from all the beaches north of the river. They are schooling up and running all the beaches once again, particularly around the mouths of the larger estuaries. Best baits are whiting fillets, yabbies, pilchards and small live baits like herrings and poddy mullet. They are also taking Flashas and Pegrons; cast out, let sink and then twitched and paused all the way back. The bonus is that flathead, steelies and queenies can’t resist a small chromie either.
Whiting and bream round out the top of the estuary stuff and even on the warmer afternoons lately the odd barra made a guest appearance. Muddies and prawns have slowed a little as the first of the frosts arrived but there are still a few good bucks in the deeper sections of the local creeks.Reads: 950