Jigging for piscatorial joy
  |  First Published: March 2015

Once again this month I have to give Spanish mackerel a mention. Last month, I was concerned that the high level of fresh coming down the river would hold the macks out of the bay.

The combination of tides, current and good weather in between has allowed the bay to remain in pretty good shape. The fantastic run of previous months has continued with more and more Spaniards every time the conditions allow us to chase them. The guys who target mackerel regularly tend to troll bonito, ribbonfish or gar more than anything else. When the mackerel are a little slow, out come the jigs to liven them up a bit. At present, it doesn’t appear to matter much, trolled lures or baits and floaters are all working.

Doggies or Queensland school mackerel have been available at many of the shallow rubble patches around the southern end of the bay, the main islands or closer offshore grounds at times. Just like the Spaniards, any time the weather is good they are definitely worth targeting for the time being. We have also had constant stream of bait schools that are lingering in the bay and the waters just out past the islands. This may have something to do with the mackerel numbers. Usually towards the end of March and into April we get a spotted mackerel run. If the other mackerels are any indication then we could be in for a bumper year with them as well.

Micro jigging is becoming more popular all the time. Lots of the locals have at least one outfit that gets a fair usage. Over the last few weeks we have been giving the jigs a decent workout to compare them to other modes of fishing for the local species. As expected, stuff like cobia, queenies, trevally, all the mackerels and tuna jump all over them when you get the action they prefer.

We have nailed largemouth nannygai, red emperor, coral trout and salmon on jigs lately. The jigs being used aren’t exactly cheap and you can lose a few in a short time when the toothy critters are fighting over the one jig. I went home after losing a few on a good session and decided to look for an economical alternative that would still have the same results.

I checked out and resurrected many of my old chromies and slugs that never really caught a lot as plain ‘off the shelf’ models. I prettied them up a little by getting rid of the old trebles, hitting them with a splash of colour then putting on an assist hook and a curl-tail, squid or a skirt. The transformation has made a heck of a difference, especially when the fish weren’t actively feeding. The bit of extra attractant is doing the trick. Plastic skirts in various sizes are available online for less than 50c each, a new split ring, a hook or two for a dollar, coupled with a little paint or nail polish and you have a comparable jig for 2-3 dollars! By the end of a session I’ll have probably replaced 2-3 jigs and several tails. After a bit of use the jig does look a bit ratty… but the savings of this method instead of buying new jigs more than pays for the fuel on an average day at The Keppels.

It is hard not to repeat myself when I get asked the same questions all the time and I really don’t mind, but the answer to most of the questions is the same. No matter where you fish, if you can find bait schools there is always something that wants to eat them nearby.

Lately we have been giving my little barra boat a caning around the islands or local headlands. The success rate is unbelievable, considering the proximity to Yeppoon and the amount of boats fishing local waters. We have not fished the same spot twice for well over a year. The common denominator is bait; every spot we have fished has a bait school there.

Try picking an area and keep looking at your sounder until you find the bait schools before settling down to fish. This week we scored snapper and big nannies within a couple of hundred metres of islands. Funnily enough, there was no real structure evident other than an undulating sandy bottom. The key was the bait school staying balled in the one location. We moved away a little bit and started sending down fresh flesh strips and the results came almost immediately. Although structure is a very good starting point, the predators will find the baits every time, no matter where they are.

Barramundi have been in top form at many of the local areas from The Fitzroy River, Coorooman Creek, The Causeway Lake and Corio Bay. The river town reaches are the hard one at the moment with the big brown flow coming from out west. The fish are still there but you have to change tactics to do any good. The guys who fish the city have switched to livies and are working the eddies around the rocks and the bridges adjacent to the fast water.

One or two barra were taken on very bright fluoro plastic vibes. The better part of the river has been down towards Port Alma through to Connor’s and into The Narrows.

Coorooman Creek seems to be going better up the back around the rock areas at low tide then along the mangrove edges as the tide is rising.

The Causeway is by far at its best when the run through is happening, although the deeper holes will hold fish most of the time.

Rosslyn Bay Harbour has plenty of barra in around the jetties and structures. Lures are probably the better option because you can cover plenty of spots quickly. On saying that, live baits are always good for barramundi. If you pick a good structure to set your livies there is a chance of a golden snapper (fingermark) and cod as by-catch.

Ross Creek has had a fine show of barra this month and the spots where the storm runoff water spills in are prime (not real safe during the storms).

Behind the Seagulls ground and back towards the old sugar wharf have had some quality barramundi and the odd mangrove jack.

Corio is running fairly fresh right out to the front. This has never deterred the barra much and they are still showing right up as far as Stoney Creek and the rock down from the Waterpark crossing. Structure is everything and wherever there is significant structure in any of our systems there is a good chance of a barra.

There are loads of queenfish about at the moment. The islands, the headlands and Corio are the places to go if you want to have the best fun on light gear. Queenies are a very clean fighter, giving anyone a fighting chance on quite light gear. Queenfish will take either lures or live baits. Over the years, poppers were the favourite and now a range of divers and plastics seem to be the best choice.

While the schools of white bait have moved in, try to match them with a white or natural coloured plastic with as light a head as you can cast and still get down a bit. Work the plastics in close to the headlands or around the baits. Often they are a dead giveaway as you can see them smashing bait along the heads or beaches.

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