Getting heated
  |  First Published: November 2014

Really? November already? How time flies when you have a rod in your hand. I’ll cut straight to the point and say that I hope everybody got into a few barra before the closed season at midday November 1.

We hope that the wet comes early this year and allows the barra to do their thing and breed up for the coming years. The late wet we received last year played a big role in a tougher barra season. Although it doesn’t matter, as now that barra are off limits, it is time to start brawling with plenty of other awesome fish we have swimming around in our tropical waters.

Hinchinbrook Channel

At this time of year there are a few fish that spring to mind when heading up the channel, these being mangrove Jack, golden grunter and golden snapper. They all fight well, taste great and if targeted correctly plenty of fish can be brought boat side for a feed or be released to fight another day.

Mangrove jack are the thugs of the creeks and most will agree that a ‘jack attack’ can leave you feeling weak at the knees. How jacks can generate so much power still amazes me and their aggressiveness is plain scary. To target jacks I find it best to head up the creeks when the tide is about half way down (low tides 1m or less are best) heading up into the top sections of the creeks puts you well and truly in jack territory. Those creeks that are a few boat lengths wide but still have some depth (3-6m) and have plenty of big scary looking structures still in the water at low tide are the ones you want to find.

Techniques to get them biting are vast and live baits such as mullet and herring will get smashed (smaller model mullet are like lollies) but these baits filleted and used as fresh cut baits will also get hammered. The secret to fishing baits is how to present them as you want them to appear natural and also not get snagged constantly, which is a concern as jack country is normally not very forgiving. Floating your baits in unweighted is a deadly technique, using the current to allow your bait to sit in the structure will see you get hammered. I just can’t promise you will pull the fish back out. When using livies, a small float keeps your live bait swimming freely above the structure and right in the strike zone. With both these techniques, have your drag set and be ready, as it can and will be over in a blink of an eye. As they say screw the drag up tight then use your thumbs!

Grunter and golden snapper are both suckers for the same baits and the same rigs. The only variable to change really is the location. You can catch both fish together but grunter will prefer feeding on gravelly, rubbly ground and snapper like some kind of submerged structure, usually rock. Live herring are dynamite baits for both species fished simply on a running sinker rig through to a trace. If not live then fresh herring or fresh squid are great too. Keep weight to a minimum, with only enough to keep your bait on the bottom but not too much to be unnatural.

Grunter can be difficult to hook, as they like to mouth the bait and slowly swim off with it, so if you strike too soon you will come up empty-handed. Fish for grunter with a little slack line and when a bite is felt, drop the rod tip slightly, let the fish run off for a few meters and then set that hook. Both fish will bite better on an incoming tide and night, I believe, sees better quality and quantity with both species.

Islands and Reef

Warmer water temperatures means anglers should target fish in deeper water.

Trout will still be in good numbers, but it is important to find a location with good depth (25-32m) and plenty of bait such as fusilier in the area. Catches will slow down so get some of these delicious fish in the freezer. Trout are suckers for plastics worked along the bottom, the old Gulp 7’ Jerkshad is an effective trout catching weapon but will also catch all manner of other species.

Nannygai and eemperor are heading wider and after a cracker winter on these fish, we hope summer will continue with great numbers. Sourcing some good baits is the key to getting emperor to bite and collecting live baits or at the very least using some fresh fillets of hussar, stripey or fusilier push odds more in your favour. Finding some good ground in 50m or more that has bait and structure and then fishing it at first or last light should have line ripping off your reels.. Sharks have been a massive problem of late and the taxman has ruined plenty of trips.

The juvenile black marlin from reports have diminished in numbers inshore, but now is the time for the big girls to be hanging out wide on the shelf. I will be trolling some big skirts and baits when heading wide and moving from spot to spot just in case. I can only imagine the sight of a few hundred kg of marlin muscle-carving up the ocean! But when one door closes another opens and it is time for the summer run of sailfish to hopefully turn up for fun and games.

Shoals and wrecks will have cobia taking up residence and berleying them to the boat and feeding an unweighted bait or plastic is great fun and visually amazing. A live bait swimming a few metres under the surface will have a limited lifespan, trust me!

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