Fish flood the Fitzroy
  |  First Published: March 2014

The Fitzroy River was the place to be for barra opening last month and since then we have had some rain giving a fresh boost to the system and improving the catches all the way from The Barrage down to Port Alma.

The only downside of the fresh was that until the barrage was opened we were still getting black jew and grunter almost to the town reaches. But the upside is that the barra, salmon and crabs have turned up in quantity downstream.

Salmon continue in form in The Fitzroy River, in both good numbers and size. As the prawns move downstream with the fresh flows the salmon follow them gorging themselves until the prawns move into the bay. They have left the town reaches and taken position around the delta and shallow creeks of the narrows. We went for a run looking for golden snapper and came across kings smashing prawns in hardly any water along dirty muddy edges and up into the small tide channels coming from the mangrove edges.

Coorooman Creek has been delivering again plenty of things including muddies, grunter, salmon, flathead, barramundi and the odd golden snapper. The usual holes should be worth a gander for grunter coming into the full moon. The Causeway Lake will be flooded with anglers on the weekend and might not be the normal standard we've come to expect, on saying that it continually surprises us with the amount of great fish all the time. Mangrove jack, barramundi, trevally, pike, bream to name a few are here most of the time.

Prawns are coming on well after the boost from recent rain and storms. The past few years we have had too much rain and they were all washed out into the bay before we had a chance to get amongst them. They have been going off at many of the area’s waterways and as you'd expect there is not a better live bait for virtually any fish anywhere.

The hardest thing with all livies is to keep them alive long enough for them to do the job. Pretty well all the local tackle shops have pumps, aerators and gear to make livies last as long as possible. But even more important is water temperature. If the temp of the water rises, you can kiss the live baits goodbye. Shade and insulation is a must and I have even seen some live bait freaks wrapping their livey bucket in hessian and keeping it damp in the old water bag style.

When using herrings, either greenbacks or yorkies it pays to rinse them well before putting them in the tank. This gets rid of the loose floating scales that block the gills. Keep a decent sized aquarium net nearby to get the fish out quickly and keep the stress levels down.

Whenever the water clears in Keppel Bay this time of year there will be queenies and trevally around Corio Bay, especially out at the heads. They can be targeted with poppers or live baits and are among the best shallow water fighters around.

The last part of the run-in is the best and white water foaming over the head bommies is the top local spot. We often use the drift angle to take us along the bommies’ edges and while we are casting poppers there is always a trailing live greenback herring held down near the bottom with a small pea sinker. The added bonus is the chance of 1kg+ bream that haunt this area in big schools.

Cod and golden snapper can be out here too at any time. Unlike most of top trevally spots I have never caught them on poppers here. They seem to school around the base of the bommies grabbing herrings and hardiheads that stray out of the main schools, which also use the rocks and bommies for cover.

Golden, spotted and giant trevally are here all the time and this part of the season they are around in quantity. They are definitely one of the top sportfish in our region. Any of deep sheer rock walls around the islands with bommies and other pinnacle type structures will hold trevors. Current lines and white water attract them more than clearer calmer areas.

Lots of our nanny spots are around under water ridges, wrecks and plateaus and the trouble is that trevally like the same country. They can be quite annoying when you are chasing better table fish. The fighting qualities of even small trevally is their major attraction. Trevors will grab lures or bait in shallow or deep water. We have some numbers of super big trophy size trevally in local waters that aren’t hard to find if you know where to start looking.

I would get shot if I gave any of these spots away after some grubs recently stumbled onto a few 15kg+ fish and took them all instead of releasing them. Big trevally are not great table fish and to do something like this should be a crime.

Trevally like poppers from about 100-200mm in green, gold, pink or red and white colours.

March is usually quite windy and outside trips are rare but we do get a few good days between blows. There are usually plenty of mackerel, sweetlip, cod, parrot, trevally, cobia, coral trout all around the local islands and nearby reefy patches.

As the local temps start to drop the fishing on the closer patches rises a bit. Much of the year the wider the better is the rule for big reds, rosy jobfish and bigger sweetlip. Once the prawns get washed out of the local creeks and systems many nannygai, grunter, mulloway and sweetlip come in closer for the free feed, although from now until August the fishing in close and out wide is normally good.

Those little black marlin that were here at stages last year have appeared again travelling in the same area as the passing mackerel schools on the 30-40m contour line. Lately there have been a few sighting and a couple of hook-ups. Last week we were just wide of Flat when we saw one leave the water about 20m from the boat.

There was a fairly good mackerel season through Christmas and into February and there seems to be quite a lot still hanging around locally. The amount of freshwater coming down the river and into the bay has pushed them out to Barren and the wider spots for the moment.

Doggies and a few spotties have started to show up just outside the area so it could be the year that they come back again. The floods over the past few years has kept them from their regular passage through the bay and if the year shapes up to be a drier year there is a chance of a decent season.

Now is probably the time to nail a big tuna because the bay and surrounds are chocker block as the endless schools pass continually. Northern blue, mac tuna and bonito make very good flesh bait for the bottom bashers and bonito are hard to beat for Spanish mackerel. The northern blues are not too shabby as table fair if cleaned properly then marinated for half an hour in a basic mix (2tbsp of tomato sauce, soy sauce and 1tbsp of honey). Cooked quickly on a high heat as soon as a fork passes through the fillet easily it is cooked; overcooking makes it taste like rubber.

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