Get kids over the doldrums
  |  First Published: December 2012

By now the kids will be bored with their Christmas presents and looking for something to do. Why not hit one of the plentiful fishing spots or even a run up one of the beaches?

This year will be totally different to the last few years as rain is becoming a scarce commodity. The floods in the previous years have boosted the area’s fish stocks considerably and left the start of a good legacy.

When the floods first came everyone whinged and said the systems won’t recover for a long time; in fact the exact opposite happened as the systems more than recovered and turned up quantities of fish across a whole range of species from the mud crabs to prawns and the best barramundi seasons anyone can ever remember.

With the distinct lack of big rain, the creeks have a higher salinity level much further upstream than normal, which brings on the crabs and the usual coastal species in places they haven’t been for a long time. It is time to cover old ground and check out areas you haven’t fished recently. Especially after I saw a couple of golden snapper taken under the railway bridge last week, it has made me look towards another tack.

The school holidays are in full swing. A few storms and some hot weather means that mud crabs, mangrove jack and golden snapper will be on the chew in the estuaries and along the coast.

Mangrove jack are doing well in the some areas, but the only real hotspot has been the The Causeway Lake. Other areas that hold jack locally are Waterpark Creek/Corio Bay, Coorooman Creek and parts of The Fitzroy River.

The Causeway Lake has a little area of shallow water and rock bars that seems to have that something that holds a very healthy supply of decent jack all the time. We have always fished for them around the bridge and the hole just in from there with consistent results. In recent times I have had a chance to cover the whole lake, its many branches, little creeks, mangroves and rocky outcrops looking for other jack spots. I found that virtually any location that looked like it should hold a jack, did! The interesting thing was that unlike other places elsewhere, the jacks here seem to be in lots of very small schools spread out over the whole area and not bunched in particular places. This is probably a contributing factor to their survival making it almost impossible to over fish them.

Mangrove jack will readily take lures, mainly sizes like Reidy’s Little Lucifer and Richoes Little Terrors. The last of the run-out and the start of the run-in is a good time to target jacks in the creeks. Keep an eye out for submerged logs and rock bars where baitfish can take cover. The mouths of run-off creeks with any features are worth a shot. Live bait including greenback herring, yorkies, prawns and poddy mullet are thick at the moment and all of these are prime jack fodder.

The Causeway Lake is one of the safest places to take the kids either land-based or by small tinny or even kayak. There are so many options available to land a quality fish but the best time of the lot is on a run through where the tide is a high over 3.6m. This is when the tide comes over the causeway at a pretty high rate turning on every predator fish in the lake like a switch. You can fish off the bridge, along the rock walls either side of it or find a spot to anchor the tinny on the edge of the fast incoming flow. Over the years there have been loads of very fine fish caught on the run through including barramundi upwards of 20kg and mangrove jack in the 3kg class. Bream, flathead, whiting, trevally, tarpon, barracuda, pike, mullet, mud crabs, sand crabs and small grassy sweetlip are other species that inhabit the lake, making it a prime spot to blood the kids into fishing.

Mud crabs have finally lifted their game as catches of decent crabs have risen in the last few weeks. At present right up the back of the little creeks and run-off gutters is the best although that can change with a few inches of rain if we get some.

With barra still off limits until 1 Feb, plenty off locals have hit the dams – Awoonga, Monduran and Peter Faust are all within 4-5 hours drive. Reports from Faust and Monduran have been pretty good but Awoonga seems to still be in recovery mode and the fish are very hard to come by. It may be time to book one of the local guides for a run or ring the Gladdy tackle shops for some tips before heading down there.

The best times to fish the dams in my experience are sun up and sun down. The big barra go for deep divers along the tree lines when there is still a bit of light. Shallow divers cast over the shallow banks just before the sun rises or after it goes down. The preferred time of the month is around either side of the moon. Talk to the guys at the caravan park or the rangers for extra tips.

The estuaries have been fairly consistent over summer so far with fishing quite hard and the better catches taking a bit of work. It isn’t all doom and gloom because some quality fish are still available, especially along the beaches where dart and whiting are doing well.

From Long Beach coming out of the river mouth up, Kinka Beach, Main Beach, Farnborough Beach and the Five Rocks beaches have a decent number of whiting right at your feet. They move up with the incoming tide combing the flats, soldier crab holes and yabby beds. Beach worms, peeled prawns, yabbies and pipis are great whiting baits and can still get bream, flathead and salmon when they are about.

Swallow-tail dart are abundant around the coast at the moment, especially along the northern beaches and Five Rocks. All the surf gutters and frothy waves make great dart spots. Dart like yabbies and beach worms best but lately I have been using the smallest Mr Twister and it is working a treat. That means any of the tiny shiny flasha type lures will go well.

Dart aren’t the biggest fish around but they do eat well if bled on capture and eaten fresh. They are one of the best entertainment fish because the fight brilliantly on light line and when you find the schools they keep on hitting for ages.

Grunter continue to be around the area with a few caught lately. They were caught at Manifold, The Pinnacles, The Rama, Quartz and The Barge for offshore fishers. The estuary crew caught them at Waterpark Creek, The Fitzroy River, Coorooman Creek and The Causeway Lake. Either side of the moon is the pick period and I prefer late afternoon into evening, although others prefer early mornings. Squid, pillies and peeled prawns do the damage on all grunter and most feed close to the bottom so a running sinker down to the hook works as well as anything else.

Spanish mackerel and the reefies are both going off their heads lately and if the conditions are favourable then January is going to be one of the best months of the year. Plenty of great reports came in from the wider areas over Christmas. Patches with any sort of rubble or solid reef and particularly red fern areas are firing.

There are loads of just-sized red emperor and small- and largemouth nannygai and scarlet sea perch are at many locations including Liza Jane, Jim Crow, Perforated, Flat, Karamea and The Dog Leg. There are plenty of sweetlip, cod, parrot, rosy jobfish and trout at most of the shoal country. So it looks like we are in for a great start to the year.

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