The tide dropped out of the mangroves and the mullet seemed nervous – so much so that they were starting to beach themselves on the mudflats on purpose.
Watching them, I decided that I didn’t blame them one bit. If I were in their position I would do the same, and the reason can be summed up in one word: BOOF.
Yes, the Hinchinbrook barra are back in action. These fish are hungry, and are getting more aggressive as each day passes. The last few months have seen barra being captured more regularly on both artificial and live baits. Most conversations at the ramp have been about this iconic tropical sportfish.
The first thing you’ll notice when fishing the channel in October will be the increased boat traffic. During the cooler months the barra crews spend more time cleaning their reels and sharpening trebles then fishing, but when the waters warm they’re all over it. And it’s not just the barra that will be bending rods this month, with jacks, grunter, salmon and fingermark all about in good numbers.
The snags in the creeks should hold better numbers of barra then the drains and banks. When the water was cooler it was easy to spot schools of barra just sulking in the sticks, and it was difficult to get a response. These fish are still there but at this time of the year they should be ready to smash your offerings.
On the bigger tides when the water is pouring out of the flats, you can get into some action by fishing the drains with shallow lures and fish or prawn imitation plastics. If bait is more your thing, gather some live mullet, gar or herring and set them in a creek mouth or along a sand or mud bank. This should produce results if you stay patient.
For barra, don’t be scared to leave your rods in the rod holders. Barra normally hook up better when the rod is in the holder rather than in your hand. Plenty of charter operators use this method so it obviously works.
Mangrove jacks are available all year round if you use the right tactics, but as water and air temps are now increasing these fish will really be sharpening up their teeth. Heading right up into the snag-ridden creeks will put you in jack territory. Screw your drags up tight or you may head home with your tail between your legs.
Live baits can be excellent for jacks. Smaller mullet or herring suspended under a float get serious attention (especially from larger 45cm-plus fish) but the humble mullet fillet or half pilchard is very hard to beat. Running a small sinker straight to the hook will help with snagging and get bites, but it’s important to use just enough weight to have the bait ‘flutter’ down the water column. Jacks will hit you hard and fast, so you’ll have to hold onto the rod or be very quick to a rod holder, other wise you’ll be rigging up again.
It blew in that annoying 15 knot plus category for most of the cooler months, aside from some magic windows every now again that allowed anglers to head out into the deep blue. This month, as always, we can only cross our fingers and hope for the weather to be kind.
Nannygai, both largemouth (saddletail snapper) and smallmouth (crimson snapper), have been about in great numbers. Now is the perfect time to chase them on plastics and lighter gear. It still amazes me the amount of people that are surprised when told that nannygai eat plastics! These fish just love them, and are a great species to target for those wanting to start off fishing with plastics.
Fish in the 40-60cm range will provide plenty of fun on lighter spin gear, and when they are on it can be mayhem. Any plastic in the 3” to 6” bracket will get bites, and the Gulp 5” Jerkshads and Gulp Jigging Grubs are very hard to beat. Make sure they get to the bottom and slowly work them, the key word being slowly!
When you find these fish schooled up it is easy to reach your limit in a short amount of time. When you catch a nannygai in deeper water, or if you rip it up fast when you’re racing sharks, the fish has no chance of survival when released. For this reason, it’s good to stop fishing for nannies when you have enough for a feed.
When fishing plastics for nannygai you can also run into golden snapper (fingermark), plenty of trevally species and the odd trout using this technique, not to mention mackerel on the drop.
For those boats heading wider, the spectacular king of the reef, the mighty red emperor, has been dragging anglers around their boats. The two key factors to gracing your ice box with reds are to fish into the night on the bigger tides, and get a good anchor right on the spot. Over the last few months I’ve seen plenty of juvenile emperor in amongst the larger specimens. I’m not sure if it was just the time of year or the spots I was fishing, which is a great sign for the future.
If I can pass on one tip for increasing your chances of an emperor, it’s to up-size your bait. Bigger is better, and fresh is always best.Reads: 2638