The silly season has been and gone and if you are like me, you would have over-indulged in food and a few bottles of festive cheer. The weather has been kind to us up here over the last month with fair seas and some much needed rain brought on by storms. The New Year should bring some more rain and hot temperatures, perfect for getting out there on the water and enjoying the tropics.
The estuaries are a fantastic part of the tropics and have been producing quality numbers of mangrove jack, with some big fish being landed. They are falling to live mullet and prawn, and also on the artificial prawns and plastics. Mangrove jack are awesome fighting fish and are great on the pallet if you intend on keeping one for a feed. With the recent rain the mud crabs have been on the move as well. We should see better numbers this month, and the crabs being more full of meat. When the crabs do run we often see massive numbers with 5-10 crabs per pot a regular occurrence. This does not mean you have to keep every crab you get. Just keep what you need for a feed, and don’t take a stupid amount of crabs that you will just waste. There are plenty of tasty crustaceans for everyone.
The islands have been producing large numbers of tasty nannygai and red emperor, and this should continue into the New Year. These elusive reds are best fished on the running tide. Flesh baits are the go rigged paternoster style, however the old frog in the sock (pillie inside a squid tube) will also suffice.
If you are lucky enough to catch a small legal hussar or fusilier, try dropping these down live for an excellent reward. Be ready though to crank overtime to get the fish to the surface, as now the water temperatures are heating up, and so are the shark’s appetite.
Shark activity increases as the water temperature does. So if you find yourself losing fish after fish to sharks, it is a good idea to move and find a new location.
One fish that is often mistaken for a shark is the cobia, which we have been seeing huge numbers of throughout the islands. Make sure to double check when you are raising a fish from the bottom you may think is a shark! A dead give away that you have a cobia on your line, is when you nearly have the fish to the top, they head to the surface wide of your boat. Cobia make for an excellent table fish, and have a great yield. They can be found around the islands, and shoals wide of the islands, and targeting the bait schools that hang around these areas.
Also amongst these bait schools we have been raising good numbers of sailfish with some nice sized specimens being landed. A diverse spread of lures and baits have been nailing these impressive unicorns (as we like to call them) with our Pakula skirts doing the damage. Frustratingly though, when targeting these ‘sailies’ we have been harassed by Spanish mackerel, which have been showing up in numbers snipping off our billfish rigs (good problem to have), which has led us to target them once again. This should still be on offer through January.
For the Spanish we like to run swimming gar on wire on our riggers and a skip gar run as a shotgun. Although, if you can not run a shotgun rig, running a skip gar on a rigger is another alternative, or even out of your rocket launcher. You will find the toothy speedsters on any pressure face (the place where the tidal current hits an island/rock) of an island or rocky outcrop. The clearer the water the better. A good idea is to wait until the tide has been making on these pressure faces for an hour or so, as this gives time for the baitfish to build up in these pressure points, therefore more predators will be lurking. A nice slow troll over these bait schools should entice a bite.
We have been receiving reports of these larger Spanish mackerel containing ciguatera poison, so it would be a smart idea to release larger fish and stick with keeping the smaller ones if you intend on eating them.
Hopefully the next few weeks we receive some much needed rainfall, and we see some calm seas so we can all get out there and enjoy what this magnificent country has to offer. Good luck and see you out on the water.
Skipper Luke Griffiths with a 15kg Spanish mackerel caught on a swimming gar.
This sailfish was trolled up on a spread of skirts.
Kye with a largemouth nannygai caught on a deep shoal on flesh bait.Reads: 723