Burn back the fun
  |  First Published: August 2013

“Quick, drive!” was the order given as my little Stradic screamed and bright yellow braid stretched out to the horizon. Once again temptation had gotten the better of me and I found myself in a horrible (but extremely fun) situation as 20kg of Spanish mackerel turned the afterburners on and went for the horizon, and freedom.

In the background my mate was ‘helping’ by pointing, laughing and heckling me about WHY I would drop my plastic in the face of the monster on my 6kg spin stick when we had a small tackle shop of rods on board at the time. After an hour we hadn’t gone close to seeing the fish and I was sort of regretting my decision.

Fishing the tropics in August means drags have well and truly been tested over the last few months and will continue to do so for a few more. Hang on, what am I saying? We live in tropical north QLD – drags are always being tested!

Hinchinbrook Channel

Mixed results are common at this time of the year and anglers have been left frustrated on plenty of occasions. Persistence will pay off in the long run and having faith in your technique and location is key to getting a bend in your rod.

Winter barra are still an option but spending time looking around and finding warmer waters will help, along with downsizing your offerings. The smaller Zerek Prawn is a dynamite little fish catcher – remember everything will eat a prawn! They also come weedless, meaning you can throw them right into the snags and let them drop straight onto fish sulking within.

Also when using artificials in winter, it is important to make several casts into the same spot to try to provoke a fish to attack out of being annoyed. I had a lot of joy in turning up at a recently fished location and pulling fish that the previous anglers have ‘warmed up’ for me. Slow it down when retrieving and keep it in the strike zone for as long as possible.

Live baits or fresh baits will be your best chance of bringing home a feed, especially on fish such as grunter and threadfin and blue salmon.

Blue salmon are a common occurrence during the cooler months and they travel in packs, if you find one you will normally find more and it is not uncommon for every rod that is set, to go off. Blue salmon cop a lot of bad press on their eating quality but if eaten fresh (not frozen) they are great, just be careful as they can be prone to getting worms that will ruin the flesh.

Rigs for salmon are not complicated and a simple floating bait or a running sinker rig will get bites. If you encounter them in big numbers then it is as simple as lobbing any lure, plastic, slug or popper in their direction – they are extremely aggressive and will compete to hit your offering!

If sports fishing is your thing, then head up the channel on the morning high tides and chase the GT, queenfish and small mackerel that will be harassing the vast schools of sardines and gar. A stealthy approach will help improve your hook up rate, instead of racing into the feeding frenzy hang back and check which way the school is moving and set yourself up for a drift. Also if possible rig up 3 rods – rod one will have a metal slug (small), rod two a small/medium popper, and rod three a plastic, such as a Z-Man 5” Streakz rigged on a TT 1/4oz or 1/2oz jighead. You will get some kind of action using one of these techniques.

Islands and Reef

As I learn more about reef fishing in the tropics, it is becoming increasingly obvious that knowing good spots can mean putting quality bends in your rods or coming home empty-handed. I am filling the GPS up slowly but I still look at others GPS systems with green-eyed envy! Especially after I hear the stories and see the pics, or get invited to help clean the fish.

When your spot is fishing slow or the ever present sharks move in, it is so helpful to have another mark to head to. For all those heading out into the deep blue, keep your eyes on the sounder. I am finding out the theory of ‘less is more’ (the bottom does not have to have major structure to hold quality fish) holds quite true.

Trout have been hungry and some solid fish have been pulled from the wider grounds. Water in the 35-25m depth range seems to be producing the better fish. Recently playing around with the octo-jigs has been plenty of fun and they seem to be able to produce bites on an otherwise shut down location.

Reds between reef systems in the deeper water are meant to be about in good numbers, but knowing the spots is the key.

The mackerel have really bitten their heads off for the last 3 months and will continue to do so for the next few. Plenty of schooling fish in the 8-10kg range have blacked out sounders in some locations with the odd XXL fish emptying reels in the blink of an eye.

As always stay keen...MAD keen!

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