Fire, flood and feast
  |  First Published: March 2013

The rain finally came but when it did it gave a lot of areas almost their yearly total in one hit. We go from bushfires to flood, feast to famine around here!

Last year, and other years, the flow from The Fitzroy made great freshwater plumes go out a long way, but it had severe consequences for the closer reefs and even some of the wider areas. On the positive side we had very successful breeding seasons for many of the local species which we are still reaping the benefits.

Prawns and crabs are species that these events help immensely, by adding an endless food and nutrient smorgasbord. The bonus for us is they grow at a fast rate, feeding us and nearly every other thing in the food chain. Part of the reason we are getting large grunter and nannies into the closer patches is the amount of critters, especially prawns, pushed out by the rush of flood water.

As the water left a clear colour change in lines of different shades, the outside edges of these plumes fished extremely well for pelagics. While some of the closer spots like Findlays and The Rama never had the amount of quality grunter as now, during the drought years.

Barramundi are another fish that goes really well with regular floods and the captures over the last year or so have proved it.

Awoonga Dam, which is still recovering from the massive barra losses in the last couple of years, took a beating once again with reports from some of the locals that the water went metres over the top. With it went a fair percentage of the fish that managed to stay behind during the last flood. The bright side is that a large number of these fish do survive and become breeders in the local systems. In previous summers, barra from up this way were reported at The Sunshine Coast.

The fast flowing Fitzroy is difficult to fish if you don’t know it very well. The best tip is to take a drive along the south side of the river banks and check out where all the fishers are situated on either side. The prime spots for land-based anglers are: the rock shelf area right along the bank between the bridges; the junction where Moores Creek flows into the river; and the bridges and wharves along the banks heading downstream.

Barramundi being a very lazy fish will use the current to travel and the eddies to hold their ambush positions. The fresh flush has pushed thousands of bony bream and spotted perch into the river. The barra will be in the town reaches gorging themselves stupid over coming weeks before the salinity levels rise again and the freshwater baitfish all die off.

Corio Bay probably needs the freshwater to slow before it will be back to its best, but spots like The Causeway and Coorooman Creek that are only fed by local catchments are back to normal as the rain stops. That means both of these spots are worth a visit in coming weeks.

Coorooman Creek was one of the beneficiaries of the increased barramundi numbers in the last couple of seasons providing the locals with many more fish than usually expected. The Causeway Lake is much the same and reports from locals are they are even getting caught occasionally on old prawns and mullet strips.

Salmon, mangrove jack and bream have been the other estuary highlights as many species have shutdown temporarily. Once again The Causeway has been the best jack spot in Central Queensland. This little spot continually amazes everybody with the supply of jack that never seems to run out. Salmon on the other hand are all over the area with Coorooman Creek and the lower end of the river the pick options at present.

Golden snapper have been feeding actively both inshore and up the coast line in recent weeks. All the headlands heading north and south from the Fitzroy Delta are spots worth checking for these fish. Any of the coastal wrecks are specials at present and on a prospecting mission last week we found them in some numbers at local mulloway holes in between some horse-sized grunter.

I have never seriously tried with soft plastics for golden snapper before and with the results I got last trip they should be the ‘go to’ from now on. A couple of us scored specimens to 800mm in fairly shallow water with Berkley jerk shads on elevator heads. Live squid and big whole prawns also went well but the thrill of a big jigged placcy getting smashed is hard to beat.

Golden snapper are normally a school fish and once you find them they will be in the same sort of area nearly anywhere you are likely to fish. Before I found my favourite spots I trolled for hours along rock walls and ledges in the river and around every headland on the coast north of Gladstone right up into army country. They also like the same rubble bottom type country as black jew and grunter, which also makes it easy to look for the features they prefer.

They will take any type of deep diving lure and by adjusting the size and lure depth it doesn’t take long to find the colour of the day. The other important tip is that any lure that touches bottom regularly without constant dredging will perform well at that particular depth and you can shorten or lengthen your line to make the lure go a bit deeper or shallower as required.

Apart from grunter and mulloway, which are both going hard at the moment, many of the other species have headed out of the dirty fresh to the wider grounds. The big reds and nannies are out past the plume although without any further major events the region should settle back to usual in a few weeks.

As referred to above, the plume line is a draw card for pelagics. We were heading wide to look for reefies and mackerel in 2008 just after the rain slowed enough not to swamp the boats when we spotted the distinct colour change line. At loads of spots along this line were bait schools getting smashed by different predators. After matching the lure size with the average bait size we started catching all sorts of tuna, mackerel and trevally. Every time we get flood run-off and the fish are a bit quiet in the bay the first place we look for is the colour change. Five years in a row this has proven to be no fluke as the capture tally just climbs.

Among the schools of juvenile mac tuna there have been a few Watson’s bonito turn up (there were arguments about ID until the first one came aboard). Bonito don’t normally show much before winter. Both of these fish make exceptional mackerel baits and store well in the freezer until the big Spaniards come back to town.

My heart goes out to The Bundy People and I hope they suffer no more dramas for a long, long time. The rest of us got off reasonably unscathed apart from the almost yearly flash floods or the expected slow rise of The Fitzroy.

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