Revelling on the reef
  |  First Published: September 2014

Flathead have been going strong in recent weeks as they are now congregating for the upcoming spawning months. You will often find large numbers of males and just a few females in any particular spot. I only take one or two reasonable males and leave the females to their job of continuing the species.

The pick spots for flatties are usually eddies, around structures, mangrove bases, creek mouths, sand bank edges and channel drop-offs. Hardiheads, poddy mullet and greenback herring are the main baits schooling in the estuaries at present so they are going to be the best baits. Pillies, prawns and flesh strips are the better fresh/frozen baits for flatties.

Lures are by far the most productive when targeting flathead for a couple of reasons: from their ability to cover a fair-sized area and locating the fish, to flathead finding a moving object almost irresistible when they are in feeding mode.

The Fitzroy Delta area is probably one place where there are lots of flathead that aren’t really targeted due to the availability of the glamour species barramundi or golden snapper. There are some serious flatties in this area, down through The Narrows or up along Rundles and Long Beach. Coorooman Creek and Corio Bay are the best option overall for a feed of flathead. The beaches, Ross Creek and The Causeway hold enough flatties to keep the locals happy without having to travel any distance to go fishing.

There must be plenty of barramundi in the local estuaries and in the river if the amount of fish caught over the winter months is anything to go by. We usually have a quiet time where they are only half-hearted in swiping at lures or baits and even then it is in the warmest part of the day. This winter there were more fish landed than I can recall in recent years.

Most of the creeks, including Coorooman Creek, which is normally hard work to get barra consistently anytime has produced some cracker fish around the metre-mark and a fair number of smaller fish to back them up. We got smashed by a couple in the shallows near the ramp targeting flathead last week. A small prawn style lure and Little Gold Reidy’s were hammered and lost in consecutive casts at the mouth of a shallow run-off drain (I don’t target barra with 1kg main, as a rule).

The Fitzroy has also been performing from the town reaches right downstream with lots of quality fish at any hour of the day. Corio was much the same as Coorooman Creek with plenty of little fish among the big girls.

Grunter have kept up their amazing run both inside and offshore. The Fitzroy River, Corio Bay and Coorooman Creek are all working for grunter at the moment. While there are the odd fish taking plastics, large prawns are getting the best returns. They have been in the deeper holes or cockle beds in the estuaries. The saying ‘no run, no fun’ certainly applies to grunter. Though they sit out of or below the main currents, grunter rely on the moving water to bring a feed to them. Offshore spots are similar because they hang in trenches and dips made by the current generally at the frontal pressure zone of a structure or where the current converges at the back. Offshore grunter like prawns, pillies, squid and fresh flesh strips.

Salmon, whiting and bream are also going well at the moment. Spring is good for most estuary fish and the temperatures make September a great time to get among them.

Spotted mackerel are due in anytime now. With the return of regular dry type seasons there has been a steady improve on all the mackerel and that should mean a decent September run of spotties. They travel quite close to the coast giving anglers an opportunity to land some quality table and sportfish. Quartz Rock, Cave and Wedge isles off the southern end of our coast seem to hold spots for longer than the other mackerel spots. These places are great bait holding spots with decent current runs, eddies and obvious current lines. Spotties love current lines and will often school where the cleaner flow and the frothy waters meet.

Shiny slugs and Flasha type lures work the best as a rule using a quick erratic retrieve. Our best results come from casting across the run and letting the lure sink for several seconds before retrieving. This method works for pretty much all mackerel because the sink time allows the lure to stay in the water for longer periods giving the mackerel extra time to chase and grab it.

Ritamada, Ironpot, Double Heads, Claytons, Forty Acre, Findlays, Bangalee and Farnborough reefs are all great spots for lesser mackerel and are all worth a shot when the spotted mackerel move into Keppel Bay. Spanish mackerel have not gone away or hardly even slowed down this year as catches from Liza Jane, Barren, Outer, Conical, South Keppel, Man & Wife, Flat, Perforated and Manifold can testify.

Doggies are also clinging on, although the majority of fish are hanging just outside the bay at present. We can’t go to Barren or Keppel without getting dogs lately. Ribbonfish are still going off and some of the fish taken off Emu Park in recent days are as big as they get. One Cawarall local showed me a metre-plus ribbony this week. This big ribbon may be a little large for a Spaniard troll bait but it will slice up nicely for great reefy or mulloway baits.

The last month or so we have been getting rosy and banded jobfish in shallower waters than previous years. Big jobbies are found in the deeper fern country (55-60m) among schools of red emperor or large nannies. Lately they have been caught at spots not far from the islands, in depths of 25m or less. Rosies or banded jobs are very good table fish and easily rank with reds and other reefies.

Offshore, golden snapper have been a regular in recent times at many of the spots favoured by grunter hunters. They like country with plenty of shelter and plenty of run. With more people using big plastics they are catching more quality golden snapper. We try all the colours of the biggest Gulps on the biggest Nitro Heads until we find the colour that works on that day. Up to date, the old nuclear chicken is still my go-to until someone else gets a fish on another type and I haven’t been touched.

I always put out a bait jig and a squid jig out the other side of the boat when I get to spots where there are likely to be golden snapper – they pay for themselves in no time if the fish are there. Live squid are probably the top ranking bait for nearly all fish at rubble patches or wrecks. Any of the local wrecks, mulloway holes and headlands are all areas to consider when you are looking to target them. Headlands and rock walls are perfect spots for trolling deep diving lures. I prefer a lure that bumps the bottom either kicking up a bit of mud or rattling off a rock, especially in water with low visibility. Like always, use fluoro lures in dirty water and natural colours in clear water.

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