Make the most of good weather
  |  First Published: August 2015

Winter’s chill has finally arrived with a bang and as usual the snapper have arrived on their annual migration to our waters.

Unfortunately the weather gods have not been very kind and strong southeasterly winds have made sure that anglers have not been able to get out and amongst them.

Over the last couple of days we have had that magic winter weather with light winds, clear skies and big sunsets. These are ideal conditions for snapper and the small boat brigade have made good use of this window of opportunity, which will not last.

Snapper have been caught at the usual grounds, with the better fish up to about 8kg coming from the Hay Point area.

A smaller run of fish have been showing up around Flat and Round Top islands while my spies tell me that there have been some ripper fish coming from around islands to the south off Sarina/Cape Palmerston.

I am often asked for the snapper spots and they move around quite a bit but the above general areas always seem to produce fish. The advice I usually give is to look where boats are grouped and in these areas and you will find where the snapper are. Use pilchards, strip baits, squid or large prawns and the snapper will respond. Large soft plastics on fairly heavy jig heads are also regularly taking fish. My best advice is to get into the local tackle shops to get the latest info.

Expect the snapper to be around into September as that’s what they’ve done in previous winters, along with the other winter regular, the mighty black jew! Again the weather has not been kind to the jewy chasers but each full moon the diehards are out waiting for that big run. I have heard some disturbing reports about excessive numbers of jew being speared offshore and I urge everyone to go easy on the numbers. After all, one 20kg jew will provide many feeds of fish so I really wonder where those fish end up when you hear of 8-10 black jewfish being taken.

The closest place to catch a jew is Mackay Harbour around the full moon. Small tinnies will line up and fish with big baits of squid around the harbour mouth and outside the south wall. These days fishing inside the harbour is frowned upon and can result in a fine, so stick with the rules and stay out of trouble. Anglers will find plenty of jew elsewhere, particularly in the small bay near the light on the southern wall. On a good night the hand lines can be heard rattling around in boats one after another and heavy gear is the go here with a number of boats fishing in a small area.

The weather has put paid to many an offshore trip, but on those rare good days the shipping channel has been producing good reds and plenty of pink jew. The reefs are also fishing quite well for lippers and trout but only the large trailer boats have been venturing out, while the charter boats are reporting pretty good catches.

It’s now winter time is Spanish mackerel time and there has been a good run of fish in the 5-10 kg range and as we get closer to spring the fish size will increase with the chance there of a 50kg horse. So far the Spanish have not been readily available to the small boat anglers due to the weather, but as we get closer to spring, the bait will move further inshore and the mackerel will follow. Close handy spots worth a go now include the southern end of Round Top Island, Danger Reef and the outer edge of the rocks running seaward from Slade Island. Trolled gar, ribbonfish or even pilchards on ganged hooks will score fish. Trolling big minnows that get down around 2-3m will also snare plenty of macks.

Hopefully the small mackerel species are also not far away, as I have had some reports of a few up around Bowen and the Whitsundays, so we can expect them in our waters any time this month. The small macks will show up first around the islands off Seaforth and the local tackle shops will have the good oil on them.

In the creeks the pikey bream are continuing their spawning and are even more aggressive than usual. Pikeys are great fun on lighter gear and can often be seen in under the mangrove canopy and around snags. Very often though when casting to what appears to be pikey bream, anglers will hook an archerfish instead… Fresh baits and small lures are the go for the pikeys.

Flathead and whiting continue to make up the bulk of creek catches with the odd grunter showing up. Flathead are in all our creek systems and can be found around any flat areas, with some snags or rocks nearby. Lizards don’t like the gravelly bottoms, but the grunter favour these areas and they will both respond to the same techniques and baits like yabbies, prawns or strip baits will all score. Small soft plastics and very small blades will also work on both species. Both grunter and lizards seem to prefer the lower reaches of the creeks rather than right up the top.

Blue and king threadfin salmon have been about with the blues in really good numbers. Both species will hunt all the way up to almost freshwater with the tide and will also sit in holes as the tide falls. I prefer to fish for the blues on the run-out tide with a reasonable run and in more open waters near the mouths of the creeks. Good baits include yabbies, prawns, small livies and strip baits. Blues can be fairly fixated on small fish at times, and will refuse most offerings. This is when small plastics and blades come into their own.

On the freshwater scene the barra have gone quiet with the chilly weather, but the sooties are as reliable as ever. Good sooties are being caught in Eungella Dam and Geoff Newby had a midweek overnighter there recently and while the fishing was tough, he did manage a bruising 53cm sooty in the snags. Good going on light gear right in the sticks.

There has been recently some very disturbing news from Peter Faust dam near Proserpine, where 3 commercial size gill nets have been found in the shallows. Apparently the nets were not set but had been sunk in bags and when the water level dropped a recreational angler spotted the nets and reported them. Fish stockers have long suspected there is an amount of illegal netting with large gill nets going on in the dams with barra being the target, and it is not just in Peter Faust where this has happened.

Many years ago it was reported that 1780kg of barra were netted in Eungella Dam over 2 nights but unfortunately the info was 12 months old when it came to light. Large gill nets set in dams for barra could only point to the selling of the catch whether by licensed or unlicensed commercial fishers. As far as I am concerned, if you sell fish you are a commercial fisher, not a recreational angler. As a dedicated fish stocker, I urge every angler to keep an eye out for any illegal activity in the dams.

Winter time in our area is pretty mild, really so why not come up to paradise and join us, as there is always plenty of angling opportunities. See you at the ramp.

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