Big bags close to home
  |  First Published: February 2015

The offshore fishing has gone from strength to strength as we move into the New Year. We are getting a whole range of species without having to do the large mileage we are used to doing.

We are all checking out irregularities on the charts from the bends on contour lines to small features previously ignored by the majority. As more people use our offshore waters you need to look for something that others aren’t seeing or revisit spots long since abandoned by the masses in favour of supposedly more fertile grounds. We make a habit of never hitting the same grounds too often, particularly if there have been no other boats using that area so the stocks there can recover a bit before the next visit. Sometimes these visits could be a year or two apart, given the weather up here seems to be bad more than good and the fact that having a few hundred good marks doesn’t give you the time to check each one regularly.

The better quality locating equipment has shown that spots previously thought to be barren could have enough features to hold bait but no big pinnacles or bommies that standout at you. Many times these will be the place where that trophy red or nanny comes from. If there is bait there then big stuff won’t be far away.

Pearl perch have been turning up in some catches lately. Though not in the same numbers that the southern boys seem to enjoy, any pearlies are welcome.

Coral trout are in good numbers all over the area with plenty of bar-cheek in the waters around the islands and the bigger blue spots in the well-structured areas of deeper water.

The great run of pelagics in the bay had to come to an end sooner or later. The fresh moving down The Fitzroy River and out through the bay will cloud it up and push the tuna and mackerel out wide of the islands to cleaner areas. In saying that, at present we are the middle of one of the best mackerel runs for some time. The islands have been produced non-stop Spaniards for the past few months. Luckily, the fresh through the bay should not affect the slightly wider spots like Flat, Perforated and Manifold.

The trick now is to find where the current lines of fresh meet the clean salt water. The big Spanish and a number of other pelagics have been patrolling the clean edges waiting in ambush for baitfish to come out of the dirty water. Over recent years in flood time one of the best ways to find the fish was to troll your lures or baits around the plumes in a slight ‘zig-zag’ pattern from clean water to dirty water and back. There doesn’t necessarily have to be any structure, as long as there is a defined colour change along the current lines it is worth the effort.

Years ago, Nashy developed a technique to bring Spanish to the baits while trolling when things were slow. This involved dropping a Taipan almost to the bottom and hauling back to the boat as quick as you can. The idea was for the Spaniards to follow the jig and latch onto bait as soon as they see the slower moving delicacy. This method still makes a big difference but nowadays we seem to get as many or more fish on the Flasha or Taipan as the troll bait.

We have such a big range of quality lures from Rapalas to Halco, which are the right size for mackerel and they get to required depths without having to muck around with down riggers or paravanes.

When you troll baits like pilchards, gar or bonito, idle speed is about right. This gets the baits down a bit and the swimming action of a well presented bait attracts any nearby predator. The trick with trolling lures is to have the lure go fast enough for it to look real and get the intended vibe happening. Different lures work best at different speeds as a rule. To find the optimum troll speed is as simple as putting the lure in the water and increasing speed until it can’t hold any more then backing off a fraction until it holds again. Usually 10-12km/h seems to cover the better quality lures most of the time.

Most lures require a bit of fine-tuning to get them to swim properly again, once they have been slammed a few times. Usually this just involves pushing the tow point slightly away from the direction the lure is pulling, for example if the lure is pulling right move the tow point left. It only takes the barest movement to get them right again so don’t apply too much pressure. A little trial and error and you will be able to tune all your lures to go fast and work better.

Barramundi season is open again after the brief closure. There are so many locals who have been hanging out and there is only so much fine-tuning you can do before you need to put it into practice. The Fitzroy River is flowing well with fresh at the moment, which means that the spots inside the town reaches where the cleaner local flow meets the dirty water coming downstream are the best options. Moores Creek is a prime example, the only hassle is getting your place in the line up as soon as the season opens.

When the river is running fresh, it is the only time when live baits will constantly out fish lures. Bony bream are the pick of the livies due to the amount of them getting washed down the river that is what the barras are expecting. The fresh ponds or lagoons around Rocky are the best spots to get livies with either scoop nets or even bait jigs. Immediately after a storm, or while there is plenty of water running down any of the gutters into the river, there will be barramundi waiting there for a feed.

The influx of fresh has also fattened the prawns considerably and all those jelly prawns from previous weeks are now in serious growth mode. This sits well for the bait fishers in all our local estuaries, especially those chasing barra and king salmon. The prawns will be schooled up in gutters and little creek mouths over the tide but as soon as the tide starts to run out they move out slowly with it and into the waiting kings and barra.

This time of year I can’t go past any little feature that could hold prawns without throwing either a Zerek Prawn or Atomic Prong into it. You don’t always get smashed, although the odds are very good. Coorooman Creek is one spot that has benefited from the great seasons the last few years and is now producing lots of barramundi, including some trophy fish among them. There are so many likely looking areas to target when we go there we just pick a stretch of bank and work every little feature from mangrove edges to sunken logs and rock bars. The bonus of this method is covering lots of ground and the bycatch of golden snapper, kings and jacks.

Corio Bay and Waterpark is known for small barra usually however there are some nice fish among the small ones you just keep moving until you find them

Mangrove jack, flathead, golden snapper, whiting, trevally, salmon and grunter are all present in the estuaries other than the fresh flowing Fitzroy and the rest of the month looks very promising.

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