Typical tropics, top targets
  |  First Published: August 2013

It’s been a case of full-on winter fishing in the tropics. The days are mostly sunny, there’s very little rain, the nights are rather crisp, if you are a local, and we’ve had our stint of southeasterly trade winds. When the trade winds abate we experience our best fishing on all fronts and quite often this trend has occurred during the neap tides.

When we are amidst the new or full moon phase, the winds have generally coincided this year. This maybe coincidental, but you add to this massive tides on top and what you have is a very angry sea and not at premium clarity.

On the reef, calm seas and neap tides only mean one thing – fish deep. Fishing open grounds across rubbly patches and isolated bommies in the 40-60m range has produced some cracking large mouth nannygai in recent times. The large mouth are a true performer during the cooler months and when they come on strong the action is fast and furious.

Paternoster rigs seem to be the preferred rig amongst the charter fleets nowadays and, armed with good slab of squid and a bit of pilchard, the large mouth are insatiable over this offering. On a good day you can hook into 7-10kg models one after the other and sticking to bag limits becomes a reality.

There’s also been a lot of 4-5kg nannygai caught this season which indicates we have healthy stocks at the moment. Nannygai can be a roaming fish as a school and I’ve got no doubt that in certain areas they travel in and out of the protected green zones, which would assist with keeping the numbers up.

It’s not only been the nannygai on the deeper hangs but there’s been a good sprinkling of red emperor, reef mangrove jack, gold spot trevally and Spanish mackerel, which are caught on the floating rig as well.

When the winds have been up and the tides have been ripping, fishing closer to the reefs has also had its rewards, especially on the coral trout. They have been the saviour fish on those wild days at sea and they have been in really good form. There’s been the odd monster trout caught but in these shallower waters they have mainly been between the 40-50cm mark, which are perfect for the plate.

If you can access them, pinkie bait fish with a bit of pilchard are dynamite on the trout. You can only source these pinkies from the local prawn trawlers, which are a by-catch for them but are in demand by the charter operators. Quite often when gutting a coral trout it has been noted they already have the remains of a pinkie inside their stomach contents.

Other delicious species on offer for a trout on the bite include spangled emperor, sweetlip, stripeys and Moses perch. Even though they are smaller in statue their eating qualities are absolutely top notch.

On the light tackle scene locals and charter operators are enjoying the spoils of having a good representation of Spanish mackerel on the local reefs. They are concentrating on pressure points of major reefs and have been caught in a wide range of sizes from your just-legal, to your most common size, between 8-12kg, and right up to 25kg brutes. The bigger fish have generally fallen while trolling for a rigged garfish with a skirt or wog head over the head of the bait.

Quite often there is a mix of sharky mackerel in amongst the Spanish and even though they are seen as a nuisance they at least keep the reels turning over at a rate of knots. Game operators are taking advantage of their numbers and stock piling them away for the heavy tackle season as they are the primary skip bait for luring in big black marlin later in the year.

Speaking of marlin the juvenile species have already started to turn up on open grounds around Pixie Reef and Fitzroy Island and August was their prime time last year with terrific numbers caught and released. It is anticipated that similar results are on the cards this year.

Closer to home our coastal rivers and creeks are definitely fishing better on the neap tides when the water clarity is much better. There’s been a variety of fish on the chew including mangrove jack, golden snapper, medium-sized trevally, some thumping queenfish in the bigger rivers systems and there’s been reasonable numbers of javelin fish, golden trevally and blue salmon across the flats.

Along our coastal reefs and islands, Spanish mackerel have been caught while trolling spoons and really solid bar cheek trout have been caught bottom fishing.

August should see similar results unfold with the added value of some more small black marlin to target and add to the plethora of fish that we have on offer in the tropics.

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