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Bait brings the predators
  |  First Published: June 2014



The Capricorn coast is fishing as well as ever at present. Because of the drop in rainfall from the big wets of previous years and the Fitzroy not pumping massive quantities of freshwater into the bay, it has given the bay the opportunity to clean up a bit. This has bought back the big bait schools that travelled wide avoiding the almost fresh dirty water.

When bait returns the predators follow. We are getting huge quantities of grey, doggy and Spanish mackerel at almost all the bay’s reefy rubble patches. Some of the closer patches have been producing consistently whenever conditions allow them to be fished. All the regular methods have proven successful, from floating pillies to trolling baits or lures and jigging chromies. Stevensons Rocks, Double Heads, Claytons, Forty Acre Paddock, Ross Reef, Iron Pot, Rita Mada, Pelican, Wedge, Quartz, Farnborough, Findlays and Conical are great starting points for anyone fishing inside the bay.

Past the islands and right offshore there have been schools of mackerel and tuna passing very regularly. We always have diving lures rigged on one pair of rods and a couple of Taipans or Flashas on another pair. Trolling past the travelling fish has been proving successful, with either Spanish or yellowfin tuna caught at nearly all attempts. We set the troll lines a fair way back so we don’t scare the fish into sounding, and troll past their direction of travel. There seem to be more schools of everything passing through than I can recall seeing for many years.

Mahi mahi (dolphinfish, dorado) are a regular species in our area all the time. These much sought after fish will hang off floating objects as they drift up the coast. We always look out for large debris such as containers and fuel drums or anything that may hold dollies. A few weeks ago a friend of mine saw a big danbuoy tied off several lengths of bamboo (probably from an Indo fishing set) drifting past his boat. Under the structure was a fair size school of mahi mahi keeping pace with the drift. The guys threw all sorts of lures at the dollies to find that the old chromies did the trick. They said there were loads of fish there and it appeared there were more than one school, with several large bulls in attendance.

Mahi mahi are quality eating fish that can be cooked in any way you like, or even as a firm texture sushi. It is a very family friendly eating fish with no little bones to worry about in the fillets.

BLACK JEW

Winter time is black jew time (although technically we get them pretty much most of the year around the area from up in the Fitzroy, Corio Bay and offshore spots like The Pinnacles and Manifold). The cold months are the time they school up around the shallow jew holes at Ironpot, Corio Heads, Double Heads and Quartz Rock. They sometimes school up along the outside rock wall at Fishermans Beach Emu Park, where I watched one fellow score half a dozen from a little tinny during the day.

These guys are tough fighting fish, especially in our shallow holes. They fight dirty and will often break you off on any structure below the water line. The can be released when caught in water under about 14m but studies have proven that almost all big black jew caught in water deeper than 15m die from barotrauma. It doesn’t matter if you swim them or lower them on a weight or even spike the air bladder – they will die not long after release. For this reason, once you have caught your dinner it’s time to move somewhere else. Black jew aren’t good sportfish unless you’re keeping them to eat.

Jewies like fresh cut slabs of mullet, mackerel, bonito, gar or bream. Their favourite food is school mackerel strips, especially when the doggies are around. They will also take pilchards and squid, the fresher the better. Most local guys use a standard paternoster rig but in the spots like Corio Heads some guys use a number 10 ball straight over an 8/0. Jew will circle the bommies or jew holes, making it seem like they have gone off the bite, and then they’ll suddenly show up, catching anglers off guard.

UNDERWATER DISCOVERIES

One of my regular offsiders recently started using big plastic vibes, Transam style, for mackerel after some recent trials. He also purchased an underwater camera with a long cable and a viewing monitor in the boat to check out the areas we fish.

The first thing I noticed was how different the bottom looked on the camera than it did on our sounder screens. It was reassuring to see though that when our sounders showed fish there were actually fish there, even though the sounders didn’t show everything.

The surprising thing for my friend was how many quality fish were at spots virtually abandoned by the locals, who had given them names like ‘Starvation Reef’. The other thing he learned was how huge the bait schools are that hang around them. He found there was so much bait at these spots that the well-fed predators were not interested in baits or lures most of the time.

This discovery led us to experiment with techniques out of the ordinary, as well as trying different times of the tide and so forth. That’s why we tried big vibes for Spaniards. The plastics are remarkably resilient to the toothy critters. It does pay to keep a pack of cheap super glue in the tackle box to do on-the-spot lure repairs though, just in case. Plastics can be repaired or modified with super glue and they’re back to as good as new very easily.

CREEK AND ESTUARY

Barramundi might have slowed a little due to the cold, but there are still plenty being taken around our area. From the middle of town all the way down to Port Alma decent fish have been caught lately. Coorooman Creek has been the quiet achiever, turning out some of the best barra of the year after the cold snap. Lures and live baits have both been doing the job, depending on where you want to fish.

We went looking for barra recently and every shallow spot we hit with a lure yielded quality flathead. From rocky points to sandy and muddy run-off gutters we scored decent flatties. If you have never caught a flatty on lures or plastics, now is the time to give it a shot. Big bream, steelback, whiting trevally, queenfish and lots of salmon are on the chew at present as well, making this June one of the best for a long time.

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