Reef species going strong
  |  First Published: December 2013

The end of last year was one of the driest for a while, and if we don’t get decent rain soon it could be hard fishing.

Still, things aren’t all bad. Most of the summertime species are on the chew at the moment in the estuaries and offshore. Many estuary fish are fat because of the long run of prawn fry. The prawns are growing slowly and haven’t been pushed out into the ocean, as has happened in the wet years. Having said that, it will only take a few weeks of wet weather before the prawns grow up and leave home.

Little prawns have still been caught at lots of places lately, such as Greenslopes and Solero during the low tides over the moon. Other places that will have prawns are The Causeway Lake, Coorooman Creek and Pumpkin Creek. The young prawns are continuing to build in size and quantity, and it should soon be worth the effort to chase them.

In the river they are holding along virtually any of the sheltered banks downstream of Nerimbera, pushing up into the little muddy creek mouths on the edge of the tide and coming back out as it drops to spread out in the very shallow water. Here they can be found hiding behind any mangrove root or stick in the water. This is prime territory for big king threadfin salmon, which love to congregate in front of these gutters and along the tidal front, pigging out on the little prawns.

Apart from prawns, the best option for catching threadies are small plastics. I keep going back to the old Atomic Prong in the smallest size available. Last month I had to resort to doing surgery on my dwindling supply of Prongs, using a razor blade to make them even smaller, because the kings would not touch anything bigger than 25mm.

A good alternative is an unweighted yabby worked in a similar way to a plastic. These have been producing good catches right down the river and in all the creeks with yabby beds. Waterpark and Deep Creeks were top examples.


Down in The Fitzroy Delta, reports of some quality blue salmon reached me. I decided it was time for a visit.

Before I continue, a word of warning: you can access the beach at Joskeleigh, but it is very risky if you don’t have local knowledge (or bring a local with you). This part of the river mouth is home to many LandCruiser and Nissan skeletons. When you hit the wrong part of the beach any vehicle can sink, and the more you try to get it out the quicker it can sink.

The sandy/muddy beaches such as Rundles and Long have had quite a few blue salmon at times, and yabbies and prawns have been the pick of the baits. On one occasion the fish were schooling up and you could see them running the shallows. Out came the Flashas and small chromies, which blues will readily take – almost like tailor.

The Harbour and Ross Creek can be flooded with blues when the large schools of yorkies or greenback herring pass by. Often over summer the small tinnies work little Flashas in the harbour mouth just after work, taking home some quality fish in a short session.


Whenever we have little rain at the start of summer we get a few out-of-season squid in close around or inside the harbour. The year before the last run of annual local flooding was pretty good, with regular catches right through until the first decent rain event, which moved the squid on. This is one activity that will get the kids busy.

Any type of squid jig is fine, and any basic rod does the trick. If you look for lights shining on the water, the squid won’t be far away. They like to dart out of the shadows whenever anything resembling food passes by. The main launching jetties or the old fuel wharf corner are usually the pick spots.


Both the estuary and the blue water grunter are fairly active and nothing should change as the month proceeds. The Fitzroy River is again the preferred spot for the average local and there are enough spots to give everyone a shot.

Heading downstream from Devil’s Elbow there are a couple of holes and a heap of undulations that grunter use for ambush points. Port Alma and Connors Creek both have rubbly, rocky patches where grunter have been caught regularly this month. Coorooman Creek has quite a few muddy banks dropping off to deep cockle beds that produce quality grunter at any time, although the locals prefer either side of the moon.

The Causeway Lake, Corio Bay and Waterpark Creek are a couple of other spots worth a mention. The banks between Corbett’s and Kelly’s Landings hold plenty of standard grunter when they are around.

The best baits for grunter are herring, prawns, flesh strips, pilchards and squid.

The common summertime bonus with all these grunter spots is that at the right time they hold big golden snapper (fingermark). Golden snapper are often found in spots where you catch grunter in the estuaries, or grunter and jew along the coast and offshore.

Last year we scored some huge fingeries up to 900mm at the coastal grunter spots. They didn’t take the pillies and squid lines meant for the grunter, but they did take live squid and jigged plastics (we deployed those as soon as we knew the fingeries were there).

Over the years some of the best estuary golden snapper I have seen were at Port Alma and Coorooman Creek in the grunter holes. They love slow trolled deep divers, live baits and slow jigged plastics.


Many of our favourite reefies are normally about in numbers offshore at time this of year. Two of the best are red emperor and saddletail snapper (large-mouth nannygai), which are going strong, even in areas much closer than usual. The grounds starting around the 45km mark are showing good signs that we could be in for a very fine month or two ahead, if the conditions allow us to get out among them.

Big baits mean big fish when you target red emperor. We use half hussars or iodine bream, both of which big reds love. Other guys fishing local stop at the servo on the way to the harbour to buy 6 or 8 whole mullet and then cut them in two for baits. The traditional squid and pilchards do work although the bigger baits always get the most fish.

Coral trout, parrot, sweetlip and cod are all handy this month and even the islands are holding decent fish. As usual, the wider areas are the best option for the bigger stuff.


The Spanish mackerel run is continuing into the new year. Reports have been coming from all around the local area, from in very close to the shoal country and further. If the bay stays clean the Spaniards could move back in to places like Forty Acre and Conical, where some quality fish are taken in good conditions.

Cobia have been reasonably consistent over the past few months right around the islands and reef grounds. They hit Findlays, Man and Wife, The Pinnacles and Liza Jane with regularity in summer, particularly when there is plenty of run in the water.

All the best for the New Year.

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