Reefs ripping it up in January!
  |  First Published: January 2016

Even though the rains have been great, there still hasn’t been enough to make a crucial difference to the water levels, or the fishing – but we’ll take what we can get! For those concerned about the fish kill that happened recently at the Barratas, it was officially deemed to be a naturally occurring black water event, caused by water sitting for long periods of time and becoming deoxygenated. Just enough rain overflowed the lagoon and travelled downstream which killed a lot of aquatic life along the way.

Marauding barra

Avoiding barra at this time of year is almost impossible if you’re fishing around the rivers, creeks, and headlands, as they seem to eat just about anything you throw whether you target jacks, chopper or other species. Recently we went hunting jacks and had several accidental barra hook-ups. Each fish was released in accordance with the legal procedure and not lifted from the water, but suspended just enough to be able to reach the hooks without putting your hands in the water. I would recommend the use of some sort of holding device and long nosed pliers to reduce the risk of getting involved with some other waterway residents, namely sharks and crocs that may have followed the fish to the boat. There have been some cracking sharks in the shallows and they’re all on the hunt, so landing fish quickly is very important.

Golden snapper have made an appearance, and the shallower shoals have held some smaller, below 55cm fish, but the shallow depths are fine for catch and release if that’s what you wish to do. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a couple for a feed though. Bleed and put them on ice straight away, and they become an excellent eating fish. Lighter lines make them a more challenging target, and we’ve done a lot of smaller lure stuff in the shallow reefs and snags for good results on a range of species.

Greys and doggie (school) mackerel have been a bit sketchy, showing up for a day or two, and then disappearing. Once you’ve located a school they can be caught on floating baits and small slugs or slices cast and retrieved through the school. Trolling is a great way to get a bite from the greys, and a small deep diving hardbody is effective. There are several that do the job nicely, and I’m a big fan of the 50mm Poltergeist with the 8mm bib. Other traditional designs are the Flatz Ratz, and the later generation Atomic Hardz. A short length of single strand attached to a soft vibe like the Quick Catch is also a very productive way to get into them. The tough rubber that the Quick Catch vibes are made from really stands up to the razor sharp mack teeth of much better than you’d expect.

Some really big grunter have been taken recently off the gravelly patches in 4-6m. Nighttime is the prime moment to pounce on those bigger fish. Sitting a big peeled prawn out on the bottom with just enough weight to hold it down has been the go, and if you hit one of the schools of big fish, you could end up connected to grunter over 75cm. Grunter aren’t really high on my choice of eating fish, but they do have a strong following up here, and many people would rather eat them than any other species. If you want to challenge yourself, chase them on small plastics and light gear, and if there is a feeding school around you may just get a surprise as to which technique lands the most fish. An effective rig would be to team the 2” Atomic Prongs on a 1/4oz jighead and 15lb leader. You’ll be in for a real tussle if you crack the code on them.

Reef Species

Reefs to the north of Maggie seem to have fished the best for trout and reef species, and bag limits have been reached within the hour if you can find a good patch of feeding fish. It seems that 18-20m of water produces the most, but that could change quickly over the month. I have seen some special pictures of big footballer trout, red bass, and other reef species caught by luring fanatics over the last couple of weeks. These species were taken up over the top of some of the shallower offshore reefs casting stick baits and gars. Big bust ups, however, need to be expected!

Small boat anglers don’t need to be left out of the reef action though, and it’s still possible to get some nice trout in closer when the weather allows it. I took my son for a flick the other day and he landed a few PBs in a brief session including a great trout and some gorgeous diamond trevally casting the 4” Atomic Prongs on the 1/2oz Seeker head.

Casting the soon to be released Mad Eye 5” Paddle Prawn plastics around lately has yielded a wide variety of species, with Maori sea perch, trout, trevally, queenies and many more species getting in on the action. There’s absolutely no doubt that these lures are going to gain a very strong following when they are finally released. Because they are made from the tougher elastic type material, they will last longer than some other available options. The skirts are an accessory to add to the jigs, and they seem to really get the reef species going, particularly the trout. These additional skirts work along the same theory as putting a squid over the front of a trolled gar to add movement and life.

Anyway, that little bit of rain seems to have kicked things along nicely, and if we get any sort of substantial rain over the coming months, the fishing should get even better. So pray for rain and get the gear ready!

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