Brave the rough stuff
  |  First Published: April 2014

The fishing has been tough in the last few months due to unstable weather bringing rain and wind matched with some large summer tides. This is normal in the tropics and you need to roll with what mother nature throws at you.

Fishing has been pretty much confined to the channel and there haven’t been many chances to go wider. Even shooting across to the islands has been rare. But with the summer months behind us hopefully the weather will settle down a little, providing plenty of opportunities to get out and into some awesome fishing.

Hinchinbrook Channel

The two stand out species for the last month have been mangrove jack and fingermark bream (golden snapper, chopper). With barra being on everyone’s wish list but not really coming to the party, it has been great that the jacks and fingermark have been hungry and about in good numbers. Both give a good account of themselves in the fighting department and they both taste amazing (better then barra in my opinion).

Mangrove jacks are a territorial fish but can be found schooled up when there is plenty of bait about in the one area. For some reason during summer it is common to catch several jacks from the one spot if you are lucky and find bait and structure, especially on the outgoing tide. Early in March I was lucky enough to find a single rock on the side scan that had baitfish hanging all over it, and this find resulted in several jacks around 43cm. Solitary structures such as rocks or logs should not be overlooked and can produce great fishing.

Jacks have been smashing big live mullet set for barra which can be pain if bait is scarce, which it has been for the last few months. Sometimes it takes a few hours to get good live baits, and by the end you’re covered in a mixture of sweat and muck and the boat looks like it has been in the middle of a mud fight. It is much better to use smaller live baits such as herring or mullet or the humble old half pillie or slab of mullet if you’re specifically chasing jacks. Any hard creek corners that have good, solid structure in the water at low tide are good places to start looking.

Fingermark can be found in the deeper holes in creeks but the Channel itself will hold better numbers and size fish. There is no shortage of rock bars and holes in the Channel and slowly sounding around in the middle of nowhere will have you finding a suitable spot. It is important to make sure there is some kind of bait hanging down there as well. Anchoring over these areas for the incoming tide especially around sunset or sunrise (darker hours seem to provide better bites) and fishing live herring (two or three on a hook) or if possible live squid should see you hooked up to these tropical trains. They fight really well, and fingermark over 60cm really light up the afterburners on their first few runs.

I must remind you that fingermark are extremely slow growing fish, and the current size and bag limits are a joke. I have an self-imposed limit of 2 fish and not over 60cm (unless it won’t survive). Fingers are a special fish and when you see them glowing in the early light you will understand they are too good to catch only once.

For the plastic fanatics like myself they will smash the heck out of plastics. The standouts lately have been Gulps (7” Jerkshad, Nemesis and Squid Vicious) and ZMan 5” JerkshadZ and GrubZ. Match the plastic to a jighead that will get it to the bottom, and simply lift the rod tip and put some action into the plastic. There is no perfect way to work a plastic or jig so experiment with different retrieves and see what works on the day.

Jetty, Islands, Reef

Not much to report at the moment as the weather really has not let up for long enough to get out wider. We bashed to Britomart reef last month with a few other boats and it payed off with some amazing trout into the boat. The only problem was getting our baits through the ravenous red-throat emperor. The trout were biting their heads off in the 25-30m depth range, but from all reports as long as you were over reef you were smashing trout.

There are still plenty of cobia around, and these fish will stick about in good numbers for a few months to come. Sending a live hussar or fusilier out under a float will attract attention very quickly, and if there is one cobia there will probably be plenty more. Using a berley trail also will bring the cobia right to the back of the boat, along with a host of other species such mackerel and GTs.

Given the constant rough weather we’ve had over the last few months, if conditions improve in April the fishing out wider will go off, mark my words. If I have learned one thing about fishing the reef it is that the fishing is better when it’s rough – or if you can get out ASAP after it settles down.

It is also no secret that the sugar loader jetty is a fingermark hot spot. Over the next few months, especially around the neap tides and in the dark hours, the fingermark will be ripping boats through the pylons. They grow huge and they’re nearly impossible to stop when they are amongst the pylons. My tip is to pre-bandage your thumbs as they will get burnt!

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