Mixed fortunes in the north
  |  First Published: July 2015

Well, since the last report the weather has cooled a bit more, the water has cleared substantially, but the fishing regretfully is far from consistent.

Plenty of people have been heading for the hills while the wind has been around chasing the sooties and JPs with small lures and poppers. It's nice to explore new water, and some of the tracks that lead off into the scrub have some nice country at the end of them. A small spin stick with around 6lb braid and a leader of around 5-6kg, plus a handful of small hardbodies and the odd plastic will get you amongst the action if your casting is up to task. I saw a picture the other day of a 56cm JP that was taken near Cairns, A 56cm JP is a horse, but if you get one over 40 cm you have a JP to be proud of. Even though the law says you can kill one of these iconic little fellas for a feed, I'd seriously think hard about it before doing so, as these special little battlers are an important attraction to the sport fishing brigade in the north.

Mack attack

It looks like the wind is going to be here for a bit longer, and since the last report there have been a couple of boating accidents, that could have ended much worse than they did, had it not been for an activated EPIRB. So make sure you check the expiration date on yours, and make sure it's all ready to rock and roll should you ever get in trouble and need it. If these southerlies hang around it may be worth getting up on some of the weedbeds and chasing some doggie mackerel that have shown up in good numbers over the last couple of weeks. If the doggies are here the spotties and schoolies shouldn't be too far away. The Spaniards have been a bit patchy still, but there are enough around to specifically target them.

If it's just some reel screaming fun you’re after then mack tuna should be on your hit list, and there have been plenty of them out past the island. Small slugs like the Outcast or Halco Twistie are great options, and casting distance is a big consideration, so a spin outfit spooled with about 10-15lb braid should allow you to reach the spooky schools that pop up where you least expect them. Apart from being an absolutely terrific bait for reds and trout, they're a true speedster that are great fun to catch on a quiet day. If it's bait you want them for then simply fillet them and cut them into appropriate sizes and sprinkle them with rock salt before them before freezing. Doing this makes them much tougher and a longer lasting bait.

Shark bait

If your going to chase bottom beasties, you’re still going to need a heavy outfit to get them up before they get eaten by something less desirable. When the sharks are as thick as they have been I steer away from the circle hooks, and would rather be bitten off as soon as possible than have to fight sharks one after another to the boat to get your line back. Circle hooks can be very effective in their design, and hook up right in the corner of the mouth on just about everything, including the sharks.

The sharks are so thick in numbers at the moment that I even saw bull sharks up on the flats the other day smashing into big mullet. Mullet incediently at the moment are getting around in quite large sizes, especially on the bigger tides. The most spectacular was a hammerhead over 3m long cutting loose in less than one metre of water on some unknown prey. It was hard to see what it was that he was after, but let's say the mullet schools were very nervous. That weird head shape was designed for eating stingrays though, and this could have been what he was after. We worked our way into a creek on a flooding tide the other day and had to walk the old Polycraft across a 100m or so of sand flat to reach the inner channel and to be honest it was a little unnerving walking through the shallows.

If you decide to do this, just keep an eye out for the stingrays, because they're just thick at the moment, and an unwary foot placement could land you in hospital with a barb wound. A barb wound from a stingray often takes months to heal and is an injury that has a habit of becoming necrotic. There have been a few crocs moving around the river mouths and beaches too, as the news reports have been proving, but with the clear water and shallow sand you should be able to see any reasonable sized crocs from afar. Just a word of warning though, if your going to get out of the boat and drag it in the shallows, step out gently even if you can see the bottom clearly. Don't jump in because some of these mud flats are insanely boggy and you could end up sunk in the mud up to your thighs or waist. If the water is filthy, I won't even attempt it, as it's just too sketchy.

Flat out

Fishing the flats is a pretty exciting thing to do as the tide reaches the mangroves, and you can sight fish some nice barra and goldens as the tide floods in. If you’re using an electric motor however use it as a guide as to when you should get the hell out of there on a receding tide. Once your leccy prop starts to rub bottom with the leg fully extended its time to bail, especially if you have a bit of distance to cover to reach the safety of deeper water, as the tide drops quicker than you'd expect.

If you’re just after the average sized barra, then the 120 Halco Laser Pro and 105 Halco Hamma are about as good as casting lures get, and the standard hooks are fine straight out of the packet. Tweaking the Laser Pro 3 model around the mangroves is a pretty visual thing to do in the colder months, and you'll often see the bite as clear as day, and this just adds to the excitement. You can catch some big jacks in the same territory, but it's the barra that are the main target for the mangrove flats. As the water cools I've found that the barra head for the holes and deeper gutters, and this is soft vibe territory.

The number one biggest selling lure that Akwa Marine have is the Quick Catch soft vibes, closely followed by the Atomic Prong. But there is a relatively unknown vibe that's got an amazing vibing ability at slow speeds, and for school sized barra, are very effective. The Atomic Semi Hard is a bit smaller (60mm), but I have found that bigger cold water barra will eat much smaller items as their metabolism starts to slow. For instance, last year I landed several fish over the magical meter mark while targeting smaller fish of a different species, with light braid and 3 1/4" Plazo Paddle tails on 1/4oz Seeker jigheads. So I reckon you can expect some nice surprises using the smaller vibes in the deeper holes.

By the time you read this, I should be returning from the Malaysian Angling Fair, and may even have some new toys to play with. So I'll keep you updated with that one also. Have a great few weeks and till next time, good luck. Cheers, Hodgie.

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