Changing expectations
  |  First Published: May 2014

What a year so far, but as we move into the cooler months the expectations have changed somewhat. A dry start led to the bay clearing up and the once regular schools of lesser mackerels were moving in on cue. Then the big rain event last month stirred things up and pushed them wide again.

The late rain events haven’t been all bad as some of the favoured species benefit greatly from the additional feed getting washed out into the bay and just beyond. Grunter, largemouth nannygai, black jew and cod have all moved into the bay at various locations feeding on the flood bounty of prawns and other tasty critters.

The next rain event halfway through April will dictate the fishing over the next month or two. The rain probably affects us in this area more than many other places due to The Fitzroy River having the largest catchment area of any east coast system. System recovery depends on not only local falls but those in a large part of the state. I always concentrate on weather when selecting species to target or areas to fish because of the above reasons.

Spots like Quartz Rock, The Barge and Findlays inside Keppel Bay have fired with some of the best grunter around in recent times. There once used to be regular seasons but the past few years it seems that any time the tides and weather conditions allow there are plenty of fish for those who take the opportunity.

I have tried and tried with plastics for grunter with only limited success. My favourite was a no brand hardihead look-alike, which I can’t find in any shop or the net. Lately I have been trying the Z-Man 4” SwimmerZ and results are starting to show. In saying that, fresh bait is still miles ahead on most days. Squid, prawns, pillies and butterflied herrings are top of the list although fresh flesh strips definitely work well.

Liza Jane, Greasy Alley, The Pinnacles, The Rama and nearly all the closer wrecks have been the go for nannygai. One of my mates just bought a new drop down camera with a depth of 60m specifically for fishing wrecks. Last trip out and the cameras maiden voyage he hardly put a line in the water because of all the activity on the screen. His biggest joy was realising his spots do hold fish in decent numbers, he now has to work out when the best times are to fish them.

The local wrecks he has covered so far were all thick with nannies. The common feature was that none of them would touch any of the livies or baits he dropped until they were ready. They tried berley and cubed pillies, live baits and fresh frozen slabs and prawns for very little interest while the current slowed at the bottom of the tide. The nannies came up to the baits and the camera and just swam past as though there was nothing there. As soon as there was movement in the water the fish turned on like a switch grabbing the previously ignored baits.

The other lesson learned was that sounders see a different view to the camera. By comparing the two you get a much better idea of what the sounder pictures are actually showing, the results are quite surprising.

Black jew are a species that thrives in the cooler months. We have a fare number of spots within reach of the tinny brigade from the north and south end of our coastal range. Ironpot and Double Heads are two great black jew spots, which have the distinct advantage over any of our other spots of being under 1km from the harbour. Corio Heads, Rita Mada, Findlays, Quartz, The Pinnacles, Cape Manifold, Double Rocks and Cape Capricorn are among the best of the rest. Four days before the full moon to four days after the moon is the go for jew in shallow water, although you can get black jew in the deeper spots on any night outing.

The Pinnacles, Cape Capricorn and Double Rocks are the better deep spots. Squid, pilchards, mackerel, bonito and ribbonfish slabs are fantastic black jew baits as a rule. A snapper type rig with HD 6/0 plus sized hooks is what most fishers use. In the more snaggy areas I use a number 10 ball straight above the hook on a 50kg leader.

Barramundi are still producing regularly even as the temperatures drop a bit. The warmer days are the best option and fishing the town reaches from the start of the run-in seems to be the better time. Live bony bream and spotty perch have been doing most of the damage as far as baits go while Transams and Threadybusters are scoring the most fish in the lure department. At present the deeper holes around the rocks and bridges are the pick locations in town while further down stream the shallow oyster rocks are holding some fine fish.

Whiting are going strong in both Coorooman Creek and Corio Bay, the sandbanks and yabby beds around the mouth of both are whiting city as winter approaches. As expected, yabbies usually work best with beachworms and prawns as good back up. The schools move about following the leading edge of the tide. When walking the banks you keep just ahead of the tide and don’t cast out too far as they will be right at your feet.

In the boat we usually drift until we find them. You can keep the whiting around with a very fine berley thrown out in very small amounts regularly. Ross Creek is again producing fish of surprising quality. The whiting schools have been running the incoming tides in front of the local Council chambers.

There are a few flathead and bream also using the surge over the front bank to score a feed. Other spot to look for whiting are Long Beach at Keppel Sands where they move the entire length of the beach with the tides particularly around the little gutter mouths and the mangroves at the end. Five Rocks and Three Rivers have among the biggest whiting in the area most of the time.

The best part of fishing up here, apart from the magic of being here, is the availability of big beach worms. Plenty of times we head up to Nine Mile for a fish and end up with a bag of worms over the low tide.

Last but not least are the beaches around The Keppels, because they all hold big whiting. Some families take small handlines, a couple of packs of salted beach worms and spend the day walking the beaches nailing a top feed of whiting.

Fitzroy River has come on the boil with king salmon immediately after the last rains. They have been running the dirty current lines where the saltwater is pushing up through the fresh run-off on the incoming tides. Lots of guys are using soft prawn imitations in the smaller sizes, representing the large amount of prawn fry in all the local systems. Any of the high banks heading downstream with access from the roads can do the job for the land-based anglers. Balaclava Island and Connors Creek are choice spots for the serious fishers in the past few weeks.

Blue salmon, bream and trevally are all worth a crack this month.

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