Cool water, red hot drags
  |  First Published: May 2014

The end of summer has seen a change in the air and, more importantly, in the water. Last month I started getting bitten off regularly on some of my closer inshore rubble patches, and there were mackerel shows all over the sounder screen amongst the massive bait balls. All this is great news as it looks like the cooler months (pelagic time!) could be a cracker.

I have all fingers crossed as Lucinda is pelagic heaven with its secluded rocky bays, tropical islands and numerous wrecks and shoals as well as the reef only a short boat ride away. Let us see what fish will be bending rods this May.

Hinchinbrook Channel

Although there is still a chance of the odd shower, the bulk of the rain is over and done with. The channel had a few flushes during the wet season which meant the barra were able to breed, and the prawns and crabs got flushed down in better numbers. It would have been better to get more rains and flooding but in the tropics you never know what will eventuate.

Barra have started to be caught more regularly, which is probably due to the weather settling down. It has been a tough few months chasing barra on lures, and live baiting has been the best option for those looking to get amongst better numbers. Finding plenty of good live bait has been difficult on some occasions and I recommend heading out an hour or two before low tide and throw that cast net like a mad man (or woman). You really want a live bait tank full of mullet, herring and gar, and you should take the time to change the water and keep them alive and healthy. Find a creek mouth, rock bar, snag or hole and deploy plenty of baits. Then sit back and relax while waiting for the tide to start pushing in. The barra should follow the tide and swim straight by you. It can be like clockwork as you watch each rod go off as the fish swim by them! It is also quite amusing to watch the faces of friends or family when you predict which rod will go off first.

May also is a great month to start spending more hours trolling the deeper sections of creeks or the channel itself looking for big blobs and arches holding down near the bottom. Use big lures that will swim close to the bottom (just touching every now and again) as it will put you in the zone to get smashed by barra, jacks and fingermark (golden snapper), all of which love slow trolled lures.

For those anglers who are into lobbing lures and plastics around, you will be treated to a smorgasbord of aggressive fish in May. As the water becomes clearer and cooler, fish such as mini GTs will take residence in the snags and drains and provide plenty of excitement as they smash anything and streak off with super speed. I guess it can be a little disappointing for anglers hoping for a barra or jack, but the trevs certainly break the boredom. On light gear they are insane fun.

Jetty, Islands and the Reef

Dropping water temps mean ‘bloop... bloop... SMASH!’ as queenies whack poppers. Sometimes they’ll scream off 50m then jump and throw the popper, and as you wind it back it will get hammered again.

The Jetty should start going off and it really is a fishing fun park when the pelagics start sharpening their teeth, lining up your offerings and leaving your tackle box looking bare. It is also a good time to float out a pilchard in hopes of an early Spanish mackerel.

Wrecks and shoals will offer the best sportfishing opportunities for those who enjoy that type of fishing. Gulps such as 5” and 7” Jerkshads, Nemesis and Squid Vicious rigged on 3/4oz to 1oz jigheads are good options. When fishing Gulps it is important to remember they should be fished slowly, as they are essentially a bait that you gently put action into. Gulps will get eaten by anything that swims. ZMan 5” JerkshadZ have also proven to be very effective and have the added bonus of being able to be fished harder and jigged and ripped through the water column. They are also tough as nails, and even on toothy critters it is possible to go entire sessions with the same plastic.

The reef fishing will as usual be going off, especially after rough weather, with all species coming to the party. Trout in particular will be biting their heads off and they will be about in good numbers and size in the shallower waters. Fishing for them using plastics is very rewarding and can see some great action. There is also plenty of bycatch in the form of red-throat emperor and stripies, as well as passing mackerel and cobia that are willing to smash your plastic. Lightly weighted Gulps are hard to beat on the reef due to the amount of scent they release. Once again, having a floater out while fishing the reef will pay off with mackerel.

Bring on those cooler currents as it means drag will tear and arms will be stretched!

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