The warmer temps and the drop in rainfall have already had an effect on local fishing especially in close and the estuaries.
The Fitzroy has been running fresh for most of the last few years but not now. This means that plenty of fish which prefer the saltier parts of the system have moved right up into the town reaches and surprising the locals. Flathead and fingermark are the two standouts that rarely ever get much past Devils Elbow as a rule. This season so far I have seen several decent flatties caught between the rocks and the mouth of Moores Creek. This territory is usually for barra and salmon with the odd bream, catfish or shark to vary the catch.
The banks along the stretch behind Callaghan Park Racecourse are another spot where more than one fisher expecting a salmon has been taken unaware by a quality flathead grabbing their prawn. Fingermark have been caught around the rocks near the old bridge pylons and along some of the rubble bottom patches in the middle of the river heading down stream towards the moorings. Downstream, the area around Port Alma is another prime location for fingeries. The submerged rubble lumps and rocky ridges are great spots for decent fingermark as a rule and this area has loads of them. Many anglers target fingermark by trolling the known areas with a lure that will just touch bottom occasionally. Fingermark go well on livies with small herring and poddy mullet two of the best. The size of tides can affect the look of the river drastically and the smaller tides make the river run clearer while the bigger tides stir it up a bit. We always take this into calculation when choosing a spot to fish for a particular species.
The next favourite fish to barramundi in top end of the Fitzroy is the king salmon. At present they are going well at several of the more popular areas. I say areas because unlike some other species targeted in the river, kings have a much broader range. They cover quite a lot of country stopping to feed in certain spots as the tide levels reach a point where they can access the critters they like or when an eddy works better for them. King are one species that land-based anglers can target from plenty of spots both sides of the river. The wharves, jetties and platforms on the south side are favoured by the jetty rats who have a knack of pulling some outstanding fish. The northern side has lots of long mudbanks broken up with rocky patches and small drains where the abundance of fiddler crabs keep the salmon coming back regularly, Other good places to try will have congregations of prawn fry or small poddy mullet, two of the kings preferred meals.
King salmon will take live baits best of all or dead baits but it must be fresh and look very natural or they won’t bother. Lures are more hit and miss, although plastics are gaining some fine fish as the fishers gain experience on how to fish them for the different targets and locations.
Right down the river to the mouth has vast expanses of mud banks and high walls where the salmon continually work up and down with the tides and, by looking at the dints they leave over the small crab holes, you can tell where they are going to be on the next tide. I’ve said it before but it doesn’t hurt to remind you that the fresher workings have sharp edges on the golf ball dints and the older workings have worn, rounded off edges. Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek are both other spots for Kings with plenty of good country and by using the same tactics to locate them you could almost guarantee a feed.
Some quality grunter have been taken in the local creeks and the river recently. Grunter are a fish that definitely becomes more active with the moon phases and the anglers who target them specifically will only chase them over the full or new moon periods. The Fitzroy, Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek have the ideal spots for grunter which like a fast current but need to be able to shelter in an undulating bottom out of the main flow waiting for food to drop in. Cockle beds and rubble patches are the other most productive areas. Grunter love prawns and small herring but will take flesh baits and squid when they are hungry.
Offshore grunter have stayed on for longer than normal and several of the top spots like Quartz, Findlays, The Pinnacles and The Rama fired in times when the grunter were not expected to be there. The common factor this year has been the larger size of the average fish landed. Squid, pillies and strip mullet come in as the most popular baits. Just about any rig that reaches the bottom will work for grunter including a running sinker right to the hook or a paternoster whichever you prefer.
Blue salmon have shown in the majority of creeks and other spots including the Fitzroy River, Rosslyn Bay, Coorooman Creek, Corio, Ross Creek and the beaches heading up to Corio Bay. We are getting small runs of them in many of the regular spots whenever we get a bait run of smaller-type fish like whitebait and greenback herring or prawns, which incidentally all make great frozen baits later in the season. A few of the old blokes around Yeppoon who target blues will chase whiting during the day and use whiting fillets in the afternoon for salmon. Any yabby bank is a readymade salmon restaurant. Blues love yabbies and the smaller fish like whiting that also chase yabbies. The deeper beach gutters are always good for a salmon or two as long as there is a bit of white water around. We use the standard gang hook, lightly weighted tailor rig with a whole pilchard. The trick is to throw further out into the white water and let the waves do the work pushing the pilly back into the gutter where salmon cruise the edges waiting for a feed.
The deeper waters out past the main islands into the closer shoal country is firing at the moment and should over the Christmas period. Sweetlip, nannies, emperor, coral trout, cod, hussar and parrot are the common captures with a few large rosy jobfish in the deeper fern country. The warmer months usually have the better fish moving into closer grounds opening the chance for the smaller boats to get amongst them if the weather plays the game. Schools of passing Spanish mackerel are due any time now and will continue over Christmas. Conical, Outer, Man & Wife, Barren, Liza Jane, Humpy, Hummocky, Flat, Perforated and Cape Manifold can all have good shows of Spanish early in the morning from now on.
Lately the big schools of cobia have been doing the rounds, visiting just about every pinnacle-type structure in the vicinity of Yeppoon. Places like Farnborough Reef, Findlays and Liza Jane shoals are a special. The Pinnacles, Outer Rock, Man & Wife, Barren Island and even the close in spots such as Rita Mada, Ironpot and Forty Acre Paddock have cobia coming through almost any day.
Have a great Christmas and enjoy your holiday, catch you next year.Reads: 1373