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Have a plan B ready
  |  First Published: January 2016



January weather can vary from flat calm to cyclonic and from pouring rain to a humid, oppressive sauna. Fishing opportunities are basically a daily lottery, where the best approach is to use window weather forecasting. Look out the window and if the conditions look favourable, go fishing. If they don’t, go to Plan B – the list on the fridge. It pays to have a few projects on the go this month, as there can be extended periods of foul weather.

Reef fishing has been patchy recently, with some anglers bagging out, while others out at the same time, in the same area are dipping out. When conditions are like this, especially at the reef, it pays to keep moving until you find fish feeding. Sharks have been a real problem lately, in some cases not letting a single fish make it to the boat.

This month, anglers can expect to land a fairly mixed bag, with no big runs of any particular species, other than trevally. Coral trout are not thick but are often good quality, as are red emperor and largemouth nannygai. Other than these main three species, it will be a bit of this and a bit of that coming over the side, with trevally making up a major portion of the catch.

There are a few species of trevally that make excellent table fish, so it pays to be able to correctly identify the different species. The best book available for this and all reef fish identification is Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea by Randall, Allen and Steen. It is a University of Hawaii Press publication and since I purchased my copy over 10 years ago, there has not been a single reef fish that I couldn’t identify using this book. Species like gold-spotted trevally, club-nosed trevally, tille trevally and golden trevally are excellent eating, while other species like giant trevally, black trevally and bludger trevally are only good for bait, at best.

If there has been major coastal flooding then be very wary of floating and semi-submerged logs. Don’t travel at night and have at least one person on log watch while underway. I have seen acres of logs and debris on the way to the reef at this time of year.

Mackerel have continued to be around, although not in great numbers. There have been some real trophy Spaniards landed lately; so always have a floating pilchard or live bait out the back when bottom fishing.

The more serious pelagic fishos will find plenty of action this month, with the last of the big billfish still hanging around and plenty of mahimahi, wahoo, yellowfin tuna and the odd sailfish out on the Continental Shelf. Trevally of all shapes and sizes will be found on any pressure point, current line, pinnacle or wreck for those that like to include serious exercise as part of their fishing experience.

The inshore reefs, wrecks and islands often fish fairly well this month, so don’t discount closer to home destinations. Largemouth nannygai, coral trout, mackerel, tuna and trevally are often found closer to shore during January. If there has been serious flooding the first reefs, wrecks and islands in clean water are the places to start.

Estuary fishing has been ticking along steadily lately, with mangrove jack the main player, along with a smattering of grunter, salmon and golden snapper. Mangrove jack love steamy, stormy weather and are very adaptable to major weather disruptions, so they make a great fish to target this month. You can catch them in any water conditions from pristine to major floods. There are often some real thumper jacks on the move this month, so be geared up to handle fish up around 50cm.

Medium-sized giant trevally will also be on the prowl, following the large schools of sprat into the coastal streams. If there has been a lot of flooding then expect vermin in the form of small sharks, catfish and rays to be prevalent. If they get a bit much, switching to luring will reduce though not eliminate the nuisance fish. Catfish are quite partial to lures but sharks are seldom taken and rays almost never.

The break through creeks along all the beaches in the area are well worth fishing this month. Either very large tides or floods will help the creeks break through. Around the mouths on the turn of the tide is a great place to fish, especially with kids. There is plenty of room for the ankle biters to run around when they get tired of sitting watch over their rod. Be sure to keep a close eye on them and insist they stay at least five metres from the water’s edge. Crocs are very active in the wet season and there have been plenty of sightings in recent months.

Crabs and prawns are two other species worth chasing this month. Whenever the rivers run red, the crabs will be pushed down to the mouths and along the foreshore, so don’t forget the crab pots when the skies open. Prawns are a bit more of a lottery and tend to be later in the wet season but keep your eyes peeled for the flick of a prawn, as it’s not uncommon to get them in January. If the weather wins the battle this month, there is always boat and tackle maintenance to keep you amused until the weather improves.

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