For months now the wind has been the biggest consideration for trip planning, and with online forecasts changing in as little as a few hours from the last update, any real accuracy has been just about impossible. The bigger boats haven't had the issues of the small boat fraternity, and this has been obvious in the catch rates.
Offshore winds have been reasonably strong, but it's the inshore winds that have stopped many boats getting out there to start with. With the winds being around for so long, the closer reefs and wrecks have accumulated good populations of fish for the early bird anglers. Largemouth nannygai, while not huge, have been around in good numbers. Both lures and bait have been successful on these fish. The Gulp Squid Vicious has been a real stand-out, and the new Atomic Seeker heads are proving to be strong enough to stop the nannies before they get back home again. With a narrower gape between shank and point, these jigheads can handle heaps of pressure before giving up the ghost. Wide-gaped hooks can be their own worst enemy when fished on hard drag; the wider gape can allow flex, and therefore straighten.
Whichever hook you decide to use, it's the head weight that is the most important factor in reaching and maintaining the depth necessary to get the bite in the first place. A bargain bin special isn't always the best option.
Around here, fingermark are a massive sportfishing species, and depths of 6-8m are becoming more and more the focus of ‘in the know’ anglers, particularly if catch and release is your preferred option. The 20-30m stuff no doubt holds some big fish, but any fish caught from these areas won’t survive release, so the shallows are the best option for the sporting anglers.
Spanish are all over the place and bending rods everywhere from 80m right to the surface on trolled baits and lures. Some massive models are getting in on the action, with fish to 20kg being trolled up around the island on the 160 Laser Pros. Staying true at up to 8 knots, they are a great option for searching for fish at speed. Jigging the depths has also been productive for Spanish, but the cobia numbers have dropped a bit in recent weeks.
Sunday 1 November marked the beginning of the closed season for the barra chasers. Reasonable numbers of fish were taken in the creeks and rivers, plus the flats and headlands in the lead up to the close.
I have grave concerns as to what the future holds for our local barra population once the open season rolls around, because the net-free zones both north and south of us have created a massive increase in commercial pressure on barra populations around Townsville. I suppose it’s now up to our local politicians to decide whether we can afford to lose one of our biggest tourism drawcards, as reduced numbers from what's already a pressured fishery might make tourists decide the trip isn’t worth it. Obviously, the areas that are now net-free will see more tourist dollars than Townsville.
In the rivers, the jacks around here have been quite consistent, as have the fingermark, both for the live baiters and the lure tossers. While the size may not turn many heads, the eating quality of both species definitely does. Live prawns, small gar and greenback herring are the best live bait options, while mullet and gar fillets seem to be the best strip baits.
Lure-wise, the ones that work best when presented deeper are the Quickcatch soft vibes in the 100mm size, and soft prawn imitations like the Atomic Prongs. Generally speaking, the 4” Prongs rigged on a 1/3oz to 1/2oz head are about right to cast upcurrent and hop back towards your position, and because most estuary species eat prawns the bycatch can be pretty substantial as well. Just remember that when a barra gets involved, as is generally the case, that it’s illegal to lift the fish and hold it up for a photo. Having said that, there’s no way I would hold a fish in the water while unhooking it, as I want to stay connected to my arms. The amount of fish that have been taken by crocs and sharks around here lately reinforces my stance on this issue.
It's obviously very important that these out-of-season fish be returned unharmed to the water. If hooked deep on bait it’s sometimes best to cut the line close to the hook and leave it to corrode away, rather than trying to remove it from a deep hooked barra. Lures aren't such a problem though, and barbless hooks make it much easier to remove a lure with minimal damage. It’s worth considering for the next few months.
For those wishing to visit Townsville coming up to the holiday season, please take care on some of the rivers, and keep an eye out for the sand bars which have been building up due to the lack of rain over the last few years. Hopefully this season will see a few weeks of rain and flush some of it out, and even though the forecast says there is a minimal chance of a wet, I wouldn't be surprised if we cop a cyclone or two early on in the season. It seems like a strange thing to say, but I think we need a cyclone if we're ever going to get enough rain to dig us out of this dry hole that Townsville is in at the moment. Our water storage is frighteningly low, and without a wet is going to be a scary 2016, so BRING ON THE RAIN.
Cheers and stay safe!Reads: 423