April is the time of year when I realise that all the fishing plans I made back in November never eventuated. I tell myself I need to get cracking on that bassing adventure or trout trip up the hill, and get a few more jacks, mackerel and longtail on the board before it’s all over.
Apart from this pressure to get some fishing done, I do always love the fishing in April. Most of the summer fish are still on but there’s a few temperate species turning on a bit already. There are also fewer crowds due to the summer fading, and we anglers can enjoy some time off during the Easter break and ANZAC day (and maybe even a few sneaky days off to join them up).
Clear conditions in the estuaries and offshore have led to some spectacular fishing over the last couple of months. So far this year we have only had around 200mm of rain or about a third of our average rainfall expected for this time period. In this period last year we had already had almost 1000mm, so it’s certainly a dry one on land but a bountiful year so far in the water.
The offshore fishing has particularly benefited from the lower rainfall. The bait and summer pelagics have been happy to hang around clear inshore reefs and so have been readily accessible to small boats and kayakers. There have been plenty of mackerel caught but they have been a little hit and miss. I have noticed that many of the negative reports have come from more popular wide marks at the very same time shallow water reports have been noting plenty of fish, so it may be a case of many boats driving over fish on their way out to popular, but less productive reefs this month.
Many of the spotties last month have been almost as big as their Spanish cousins, with 7-8kg specimens being common. The Spaniards have averaged around the 8-12kg mark but there are still plenty of larger models being caught mostly on large, trolled live or dead baits.
There are cobia being caught from the inshore reefs, the headlands and out to the islands. However, as always, they tend to turn up here and there, being caught by anglers targeting other fish such as mackerel, kingies or tuna. Around the headlands are the go-to locations, and live yakkas or pike are a gun bait if you want specifically target cobes this month.
The snapper have been plentiful on the inshore reefs and have been the saviour for many fishing trips that have failed to bag a mackerel for the table. Either freeing your live bait to swim deeper or downrigging will increase your chance of some snapper while still being able to fish for mackerel. There are plenty of hammerheads and reef sharks that will be as willing as any other fish, so be prepared to deal with some bycatch.
In the estuaries the clear water and lack of rain has meant the salt and brackish water is pushing well up into the upper reaches. Fish have sometimes been a bit spooky due to the visibility when fishing the lower estuaries but the whiting continue to fire on the surface lures around the weed beds.
Further upstream, bream and trevally are chasing baitfish seeking cover in the snags. Hardbody lures, especially surface lures, have been working well out in low light, while diving lures have been the best during the day.
A live bait drifted around a snag is a sure fire way to bag something decent, whether it’s bream, trevally, mulloway or mangrove jack. I wouldn’t say this year has been exceptional for jack fishing as I have heard of fewer fish being caught than normal. However, the lack of reports may just be due to changes in anglers’ attitudes; a jack capture is becoming more normal every year and so talked about less, and the gun jack anglers may be getting more secretive as jack fishing gets more popular.
The last of the cicadas will be almost gone by now but expect the surface walkers to continue working on the bass throughout this month. Perhaps it’s because bass can’t resist a surface shimmy, or maybe the bass think there’s one last cicada for the year to still be eaten. Either way, you can’t beat catching bass on the surface. It may take some time and logistical organisation to gain the river access, but with the lack of water in the rivers, finding those deep holes that haven’t been fished is what it might take to catch that big bass you’re after.
This drought has certainly led to some great fishing, but for the sake of suffering farmers on the land it’s great news that we should get better rainfall this month. Hopefully the extra rain will be spread throughout the month and not in a big dump. Whatever happens, make sure you get out there and wrap up all those summer plans before it’s too late.Reads: 910