Good stock still around
  |  First Published: February 2013

This year could be a dry one and only the boost from wet seasons in the past few years has kept the river’s fish stocks in good shape. We probably won’t get the catches of 30 or so barramundi a day like 2010 and 2011 but there will be lots about.

No cyclones and no rain means that the fresh flow into the river hasn’t begun yet. For many of the locals that makes it a bit easier to get a feed in a much bigger part of the river. Crabs, prawns and some of the fish found down at the delta have worked their way right into the town reaches.

Barramundi are about in pretty good quantities from town all the way down to Port Alma. The average size fish is a bit larger than previous seasons and that should mean more keepers between the little boys.

Without the fresh flow the concentrations of fish have dispersed over a much wider area and spots that went hard, like the mouth of Moores Creek and Gavial Creek, won’t be as effective. At the moment the deeper spots are holding the bigger fish during the day and they are moving up into the shallower areas just before dark.

Plastics and hardbody lures are the best way to cover large areas and locate the fish. Lately there have been large amounts of baitfish in the river where it has been extremely difficult to get livies previously, especially towards town.

Over the closed season we went up to the fresh side of the barrage and worked our way up and down from Alligator Creek looking for fresh species to fill in time and learn a bit about the area. It turned out to be a great experience as we must have sighted hundreds of big barra, a bundle of perch and even a couple of saratoga, which I never thought would be around here.

We started off with our regular lures (barbless) and hooked a few barra before taking the hooks off altogether on every size lure. Just about every feature from the thousands of fallen trees to the large waterlily pads held fish. With the clarity of the water you could see fish coming out of the shadows under logs or out of the branches making us gasp as they smashed the lures. It took me a while swapping lures and retrieval methods before working out how to get the perch but I couldn’t land a toga for love or money.

We originally planned on another trip but after seeing the amount of barramundi in the system and the fact that you can’t target them in the closed season anyway the trip can wait until later in the year. Baby vibes were the pick lure for the little perch and the barra hit nearly everything we threw into any sort of cover.

We also saw a couple of pretty decent sized crocs, which shut down any plan for a kayak fishing day in the near future.

I highly recommend The Fitzroy River fresh side to anyone wishing to catch a big barra and see another beautiful part of our region. The average sized fish we saw was between 60-80cm nothing, like the beasts in Awoonga, but a whole lot easier to find.

Good sized prawns were caught at lots of spots this week and many of the local creeks had signs that it would only get better from now on, particularly if we get some rain. There should be a few prawns at Coorooman Creek, Ross Creek, The Causeway Lake, Waterpark, Greenslopes, Solero and Statue Bay during the low tides on the moon. In coming weeks they will probably be big enough for a decent feed. Keep an eye out for blokes working the incoming tide at Statue Bay as the prawns move right into the beach.

One fish doing well at present is grunter with lots of quality fish caught in The Fitzroy River, Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek in recent weeks. When trying to find grunter look for signs that the creek has a rubble or cockle bottom.

Grunter come on towards the moon or just after and the guys who target them don’t often try other times. The abundance of prawn in the area makes them the best option for bait at present.

Offshore grunter are still about, like their inshore cousins, mainly over the moon. Quartz, Findlays, The Rama and Manifold are all worth a shot with the better catches coming in the evening. Squid and pillies along with prawns are the best baits.

Big queenfish are schooling up around Corio Bay lately as the schools of hardiheads and greenback herring have moved in. They are easy to find when you see hundreds of baits jumping and scattering along the mangrove edges in the mouth of Deep Creek, Greenslopes and out along the heads. They go ape over poppers or small Flashas using a fast retrieve.

Not generally known for their eating quality, queenies do taste pretty good if they are iced and bled on capture then eaten fresh.

There have also been plenty of small GT and the odd decent golden particularly right out near Corio Heads.

The queenies and trevally are also smashing the big schools of hardies around The Keppels with the pick spot Wreck Beach on South Keppel. They move up and down the length of the beach all the time and create quite a spectacle when they launch themselves out of the water with a mouth full of hardiheads.

King and blue salmon were both caught around the Cape Coast late in January. Some horse kings were taken along the banks behind the racecourse and further down the river in Reidy’s Creek and Inkamin. Blues were at Coorooman Creek between the boat ramp and the mouth near what’s left of the timbers.

We are in the middle of the summer mackerel and reef fish run. Plenty of fish are within easy range for most of the tinnies in Rocky and Yeppoon. There are stacks of mackerel, sweeties, cod, parrot, trevally, cobia or coral trout at different spots all around the local islands on most days. There was the odd Spanish mackerel at Farnborough, Iron Pot, Ritamada and Corio heads, though the better quality size fish are definitely at the wider grounds.

There is the opportunity for great catches of school mackerel just off the local beaches and headlands on the calmer mornings. Doggies have started moving in from the wider areas. They should increase until they cover most of the spots in the bay in the next month or so.

Coral trout are on the boil again right around the local islands and out at the shoal country. They hang in reasonably shallow water using the shale type rock structures and reef for shelter and ambush spots. Floating down lightly weighted flesh baits or fair sized livies works well on trout.

One of the locals who only uses big banana prawns and usually only targets big blue tooth told me this week that he is flat out getting his favourites because of all the juvenile trout flogging his prawns. He said that about one in four is a keeper.

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