Head fades and rain finally leaves
  |  First Published: April 2013

April in Central Queensland is my favourite time because the heat of summer have faded and the chill of winter hasn’t got here yet. But most importantly the fishing is great from the wide grounds to right up the estuaries.

The fish that signal summer like barramundi and jack are still here and the winter fish have started arriving. This year we have had a late run of floodwater boosting the prawn stocks and encouraging stacks of different species to come in much shallower than normal.

Findlays, The Barge, The Rama, The Pinnacles and Quartz have been the better grunter spots with the Cape Capricorn Jew Hole performing very well over the full moon period for all of our major reef species. Lately they have been on the chew whenever the weather was kind enough to get out to the spots.

Like most times we go offshore it pays to find where the bait schools are hanging, even when you’re chasing grunter, which are not known as predatory fish. Forty Acre Paddock, Conical, Findlays and Liza Jane are performing well on the lower end tides. Big black jew are in great form at present, which is a bit earlier than previous years as they are normally considered to be at their best over winter.

We also tried some different location over the past month or so and they have been paying off. Any of the headlands where there are deep holes or big eddies can hold jew even in the middle of the day. On a recent run the wind was blowing quite strong from the west making conditions less than ideal so we hugged the coast and did some exploring. We found jewies at nearly all the headlands and most of the closer wrecks. Fresh bait is the one thing that makes the most difference between getting fish and not when things are slow. Cuttlefish, squid, pillies and flesh strips can all do the trick. When the doggies are on and you have a few onboard, take off a couple of fillets and use them as strip bait. The two common rigs are the standard paternoster or a big ball running right down to the hook. When the jew are chewing hard any rig will work, if they are quiet the running rig is the go.

Bar cheek coral trout are thick around The Keppels in water as shallow as waist deep out to 20m. Trout prefer plenty of cover in an area where currents and seas push in. Any headland and rock shelf that is exposed to all the conditions is probably a good trout spot. Lures, either plastics or hardbodies, will catch trout while fresh bait is also very good. Live bait is the best of the lot for trout and even small coral trout can eat a decent sized livey.

Grassy sweetlip have moved in close lately around the islands and some of the patches inside the bay. Forty Acre, Findlays and Liza Jane have been turning out some quality sweeties among the nannies. We find that sweetlip tend to be a bit cautious at times and the softly, softly approach can get them chewing. I use the lightest running ball sinker that will get my line to the bottom. even if it takes a bit of extra line to reach it. This makes the bait move a little more naturally. Parrot, red emperor and cod are also pretty actively feeding at the moment. We have been getting big banana prawns at the local supermarkets for around $13 a kilo so they make a great bait and are way cheaper than bait prawns. These prawns, peeled, are among the best bait you can get especially while there are so many prawns in the system.

Mackerel should be going well with a few resident Spanish and doggies around the main islands. The better weather and lighter winds in April allow them to come in very close around the local headlands, rubble patches and Rosslyn Bay Harbour. Spotties are increasing in number all the time. The islands out from Emu Park and Keppel Sands are always among the best lesser mackerel spots. Then moving north to Rita Mada, Ironpot, and Farnborough Reef are spots just off the shore of Yeppoon. The next batch of spots a little further out include Forty Acre Paddock, Ross’s Reef, Humpy, Conical and Half Tide Rocks. Last year some of the biggest doggies around hit the wider islands such as Outer, Man &Wife and Barren. The channel between Barren and Child was full of huge dogs at times.

Barramundi are an amazing fish with their ability to take advantage and thrive in conditions most other species have shutdown in. The perfect example is the flooding of the Fitzroy. Lots of locals have actually landed their first barra in the past month in a fast flowing, flood affected river. The eddies caused by the small creeks and rock bars give the lazy old barra great ambush spots where they don’t have to work hard for a feed. Once you find a location where they feed you can use that and find other areas with the same situations and they too will hold fish. Trolling for barramundi has really taken off while there is so much fresh in the system and the flow making it hard for the casting anglers. In one session I saw eight fish over 750mm taken by different boats between the bridges right in the middle of Rockhampton.

The water has been too dirty for plastics so live baits and hardbody lures are the choice. Lures with lots of vibe so the fish can feel the vibration are the go at the moment. Live bait is usually hard to find in Rocky except for silver and spotted perch in nearly every freshwater containment in the region. There is so much fresh in the river that these freshwater baits can last for as long as it takes to get a barra. Recently I saw some young guys with shortened bait jigs topping the hooks with bread. They caught all the perch they needed for an afternoons fishing in a short time.

The estuaries are finally starting to fire after a slow wet in early March. Queenies, steelback, bream, whiting and flathead

King and blue salmon are on the rise after a slow start to the year. Reports from the Rockhampton jetty rats is that some very nice salmon have already turned up in the city reaches following the prawns and working the eddies behind the boats resting in the shallows. This month signals the start for serious salmon fishers to dust off the equipment and hit the river.

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