Get snagged! Mangrove jack fishing in summer
  |  First Published: January 2016

Happy New Year to all our QFM readers! If you haven’t made a species bucket list yet then it’s not too late. Setting goals and using techniques to target a particular fish species is a great way to enhance your fishing experience.

Meanwhile, Santa produced some awesome Christmas wishes in December, with perfect weather and great fishing in Cooktown. I’ve received an abundance of successful fishing reports from both the rivers and the reefs. Almost every Cooktown household would have had quality seafood on their tables for Christmas.

Our estuary anglers have landed and lost some quality mangrove jack in all the rivers around the area. Jacks should continue to bite until March. If you’re into sportfishing then throw some lures deep into the snag zones while you work along the banks of the river. When the jacks are this active, a hook-up will be instant if you perform the cast accurately. Sometimes you may need to get the lure down a bit deeper, but keep it in the snag zone for as long as possible. Soft plastics are great for sinking the lure deep into the snag zone, but when the red dogs are this aggressive you may not easily get that fish out of his home.

Live bait fishers should start the day catching livies around the wharfs, boat ramps or long-term moored boats. Next, sink your livies in the same locations or on some deep structure further along the river. A running sinker straight to the hook, or a dropper rig is best depending on the current and structure. The key is to get the bait right into the structure and ensure the bait looks natural while it’s swimming. Strip bait is another good way to catch jacks when they’re fired up. Use fresh strips of flesh and the same techniques as live baiting. By-catch to jacks may include grunter, estuary cod, juvenile GT, golden trevally, big bream and queenfish. Barramundi may also snatch your bait, but these fish must be safely released until next month. Don’t forget to sink a few crab pots while you’re chasing jacks, as the big muddies start to move around with the storms bringing fresh water flushes into the estuaries.

Reef anglers have had a great feed of quality fish due to the excellent weather in Cooktown. These perfect weather windows will continue right through till March, so there will be plenty of opportunity to get out on the reefs. Coral trout and large-mouth nannygai are the most prolific targeted catch at the moment. When the weather conditions are calm and the water is warm, I tend to search in deeper water for nannygai. For example, I usually fish around 20m, but, now that the water is warmer, I’ll search for rubble patches in 30m+ of water. I find that the nannygai bite becomes a little stronger or more aggressive in deep water. I use a running sinker straight to the hook when I fish for nannygai. A single hook paternoster rig commonly used for bottom fishing in deeper water works wonders. However, when the bite is hot, I’ll break out a soft plastic and work it a good few metres up and down off the bottom.

The coral trout have been biting aggressively. Use the same rig that I outlined, but search the reef edges for bommies that hold bait.

Don’t forget to make yourself a bucket list to target a specific species for the new year. It can be a lot of fun and a challenge between mates.

• If you’d like any current information while you’re visiting Cooktown’s region or more information about a particular place in the neighbourhood to fish, then simply ‘like’ my FaceBook page titled ‘Stacky’s Fishing Adventures’ or send me a message.

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