Another year lies ahead to get out and do the thing that we really enjoy – bring it on! I know I’m absolutely psyched for 2016 and have some serious rod bending plans. January fishing in Lucinda can be very much hit and miss, dictated by the weather. As we normally don’t see the bulk of rainfall until February and March, the channel will probably still be fishing like it has been through December. It’s been hot, humid and above else extremely dry. But the silver lining is that the fishing has been heating up as well.
Barra are off limits, so I won’t mention them except for the fact that we all have every finger and toe crossed in the hope of rain. We are in terrible need of some consistent rain and flooding in the upper reaches of streams that breathe life into the channel as at the moment, they are deserts. I am outside every night rain dancing and offering gifts to the weather gods and I know the rest of North Queensland is right there with me.
The Channel will have fishos out hunting jacks, golden snapper, bream and grunter. These species should be biting their heads off, and to catch them is simply a matter of getting your timing right. I’ve written plenty about chasing jacks but I’ll just remind everyone that it doesn’t matter the location, it’s about using those last few hours of the run-out tide, or the first few hours of the run-in with maximum efficiency. Obviously the location will dictate the number of fish seen or caught, as some spots fish better than others. If you have structure, baitfish in the area, you are in with a good shot of finding mangrove jacks. Baitfishers should use fresh bait and fish very close or in the structure. The same goes with lures or plastics – the most important tip to chase jacks successfully is not really what you’re using, rather it’s your ability to cast well enough to put your lure right in their faces. Jacks are notorious for sitting right in or on top of structure and they use their keen eyesight and brutal speed off the mark to smash their prey on the way back to their homes.
Golden snapper will be situated on the rocks and rubble in the Channel and deep holes in creeks. The smaller tides with tidal differences of around 1–1.5m are the best times to chase golden snapper. Spend some time using your fish finder to suss out some likely looking spots, focus on baitfish and bottom rubble especially. Plenty of my golden snapper spots will have no real good fish show on the sounder, but after anchoring and dropping good baits you’ll find some contenders. Live herring, or at least freshly dead herring is the best bait for golden snapper unless you can catch your own live squid. These little fighters are suckers for a well-presented soft plastic or vibe type lure. There are plenty on the market, and all catch fish, personally I like using ZMan 5” JerkshadZ weighted lightly on jigheads that keep the plastic close to the bottom, or TT switchblades that can be jigged right on their heads.
Grunter or javelin fish will be found in similar areas as golden snapper, but instead of rock bottom they prefer a gravely muddy type bottom to feed over. Grunter will enter and leave creek systems with the tides, so anchor up and fish good baits into creek mouths for a sure fire way to get onto a few. They will eat a range of baits, however, fresh prawns or sardines are nearly irresistible. If you can time a tide change around the evening sunset, you are in with a great chance of hooking plenty of these hard fighting, tasty fish. Grunter have a speedy bite window and seem to be on the move constantly. If a school swims through, it’s normal for every rod to get a bite and cause crazy mayhem. This action will end as quickly as it began, and you may be waiting half an hour umtil the next school moves through. Grunter also eat smaller plastics and lures if that’s how you like to fish. I really enjoy using 3” ZMan Minnowz rigged on light jigheads and light leader and fishing the flats for Grunter. The secret is to be as quiet as possible as you normally chase them in shallow waters, making long casts. Allow the plastic to hit the bottom and slow roll it back to the boat, adding a slight hop every now and again or a pause.
The last few months has offered some pretty good weather to get out and sample some bluewater fun and games. I personally have had plenty on the agenda and although it’s been killing me I haven’t been out much. From reports the morning and afternoon sessions have seen amazing captures of trout, and fishing into the night brings the red fish from the deep. The sharks have caused some real drama of late, which is annoying and can be expensive. Cobia love the hot months and will patrol the reef edges and the wrecks – live baits out the back of the boat will get their attention.
Keep your eyes open when you bring fish up from the bottom as cobia will sometimes follow them up and it’s as easy as feeding them whatever you have rigged and ready. Over wrecks, cobia will never say ‘no’ to smacking a big bright plastic hopped from the bottom to the surface, and it’s not unusual for your hooked fish to have plenty of friends so multiple hook-ups are possible. We had an awesome trip where I fought a cobia and watched as my mate landed a fly to its friend right in front of our eyes. Epic!
The other stand out has been the GT fishing from the reef flats on surface. The baitfish seem very nervous and throwing poppers and stickbaits around them will see your lures smashed and the fun will really begin. Trying to stop GT of any size around reef edges is crazy fun and plenty of battles are lost very quickly. Hang on and make sure your gear is up to the challenge.Reads: 654