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  |  First Published: January 2016

Mangrove jack have been the flavour of the month in loads of local spots from Corio, The Narrows, Ross Creek, The Causeway Lake and the lower end of the Fitzroy River.

They are the epitome of ambush hunters, using their speed and stealth to nail baitfish and prawns out of nowhere. They like to hide and wait for a feed to pass within range. Live baiting is the most popular method of targeting jacks with our abundance of available baits. Greenback herring, yorkies, prawns, gar and poddy mullet are all likely to get hammered.

Mangrove jack will also readily take most larger bream lures. Most fishy looking plastics work really well because you have the ability to get them to spots that regular gear can’t reach. Like barra, the last of the run-out and the start of the run-in is the best time to target jacks up in the creeks. Fallen trees, logs, mangrove roots, overhanging branches, pylons and rock bars where baitfish can take cover are all worth setting a bait or having a flick at. The mouths of runoff creeks with any features are also worth a shot. Golden snapper (fingermark) and barramundi often grab baits or lures intended for mangrove jack.

In recent weeks I have received a few emails about grunter numbers and how fishers are not getting grunter in the same areas as last year. My reply is that this has been a very dry year, so they will be further into some of the systems than previous years.

The last few years have had plenty of rain leading into summer. Wet years move the bait schools and change everything else including the salinity levels that make fish prefer particular spots. The Fitzroy River is a prime example of how far fish go when the river is only running salt.

In the past few months we have been catching grunter and black jew up near the barrage, approximately 56km from the mouth. Once the fresh starts to flow, they move right down to the delta again. The estuary grunter have been going pretty well in the river, Coorooman Creek and the Corio Waterpark area.

The offshore big fellas have picked up a bit at some of the popular spots and local wrecks. Like their estuary brothers, they are definitely in bigger numbers around the moon.

Black jew, which are normally slower in the hotter months, have kept making the odd run even right up the river and during the day surprisingly. I haven’t tried any of the closer jew holes but reports from some of the northern spots have been fairly good with a couple of decent fish taken in a session. The Pinnacles, The Rama and Cape Manifold are spots you can catch jew at the moment.

We need a bit more rain to give the local prawns and muddies a boost. They have been quite hard to score in any sort of quantity right across the area. If you don’t get any crabs in your traps, keep moving them until you do. The baits used most often that do work are mullet, catfish, meaty fish frames (not freshwater fish), chook frames and even pillies.

We try everything from bream to mackerel and mullet, and it doesn’t make much difference except that the fresher the bait, the more crabs in the pot. Fresher bait lets out more oils and scents that attract crabs, so refresh your baits occasionally. Work your pots about every hour or so. No crabs means move your pots. The best muddies are rusty brown coloured, the greener they are generally shows they are empty and not worth taking home.

The smaller prawns have been bunching in the mouths of the mud gutters at low tide and king threadfin salmon are among the predators giving them a caning. When you see this happening, it pays to have the smallest of vibes or prawn imitation plastics ready to go. The size of lure can make a huge difference to the results at the end of the day.

King threadfin salmon don’t seem to have slowed much at all in recent weeks, as numbers of these great estuary sport fish continue to be caught. I like to mention that the majority of the threadies landed in this area are caught by catch and release anglers. The shallow water and the good release practices appear to have had no ill effects on the quantity of salmon in the river. The early evening or morning tides seem to be the pick of times. The jetties and high banks are very accessible spots where you can get a salmon almost every night.

Now is a good time to grab the kids and head down to the beaches. Swallowtail dart are in abundance, particularly north of Yeppoon and up past big dune towards Corio Bay. Everyone I know who has fished with yabbies or beachworms caught decent dart recently. When the dart are on they will keep grabbing almost anything thrown in their direction. They prefer spots with a bit of wash so the afternoons when the light northeaster is blowing can produce some quality fish. Dart can be reasonable table fish if they are filleted fresh and eaten that day.

Dart are also a great fish to blood the kids into fishing without a lot of expense. Any light gear does the trick and you don’t have to cast out very far to get them. The bonus is that once the kids are sick of fishing they can have a swim or anything else they want to do while making the most of our top beaches.

In this area, we usually get better numbers of squid over winter. Lately there are a few getting caught right around the normal spots and over the rubble grounds after dark. At night, squid will hide in the shadow of your boat waiting to grab baitfish drawn in by the lights. We often have an old estuary bream rod set up with two or three jigs spaced about 300mm apart. We let the jigs float back a little towards a shadow edge and let the water and rod action make movement that will get the squid to come out of the shadow to nail the jig. When a squid is hooked it attracts the others and you can get two or three in a hit. When you see squid passing the boat or hanging around you can get them to come closer using berley. I use a mash of fish pellets and pieces of pilchard. You let out a very slow steady stream that the squid follow straight to the berley pot. Clear water with no wind chop will usually produce more squid than choppy dirty water.

Offshore fishing is going well at the moment from the islands to the wide grounds. All the normal reefies are on the chew as well as lots of pelagics. Trevally are doing the rounds of the bay’s mackerel spots with hundreds of large tea-leaf trevally taking pillies meant for doggies and giving the light mackerel gear a work out.

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