This time of year is grey mackerel time. They have moved into the bay again in some quantity after being a little hit and miss in previous years. In the last few years they’ve only made a short appearance and nothing worth noting. Broad-barred Spanish mackerel as they are known as in other parts of the country look like a deep-sided school or doggie mackerel with a similar black front dorsal and faint bars instead of round splotches.
The local hotspots are Rosslyn Bay Harbour (outside wall and the southern point), Farnborough Reef, Bangalee, Ironpot, Rita Mada, Corio Heads, Quartz Rock, The Barge and Findlays Reef. Other places such as inside the mouths of Corio Bay and Coorooman Creek get greys in lesser numbers and not quite as often either, though local fishers do score them occasionally at a couple of slightly wider spots. Grey mackerel are coastal fish and are more regularly caught on patches close to the shore in this area. We often get greys mixed in with schools of doggies, and some of them are quite small. It pays to take notice and measure any that could be undersized.
Wahoo are going strong at several of the wider mackerel spots. Several of the passes at the shoals have produced quality fish in the early mornings. My favourite Spanish lures are just as effective on wahoo. When I troll for Spaniards I sit on 10km/h, which does the trick nicely. When we fish the same spots that wahoo and mackerel both school at, I nudge the throttle up a couple of km/h to 12-13km/h and the wahoo often take the place of the Spanish.
The introduction of slow jigging has taken off among mackerel fishers, especially younger guys using the latest gear. I don’t think it makes a lot of difference on a normal day, but when things are quiet and you know the fish are there persistent jigging can bring on a bite. Fast or slow jigging often draws the fish closer to the boat where floating pilchards come into play. When fast jigging I always cast as far as I can past where the main schools hold. I let the chromie sink until it hits bottom over sand or make a judgement call on reef patches before I rip it back as fast as I can. This allows the lure to cover a bigger area and gives the fish more time to sight the chromie. If you aren’t getting hits, change your pace or make erratic movements, this could be the trigger. You should always have a floating pilchard hanging out the side of the boat. Most mackerel will follow the hooked fish or investigate the commotion, moving closer to see what is going on. The other fish will often smash the pilchard while you are playing the original hook-up.
The rig can be changed depending on current by adding a running pea sinker just above the gangs. Spanish, doggies, sharky and spotted mackerel are all about at present and the expected drop in wind this month lets them stay in the bay longer.
Black jew have kicked off the season, schooling in the known holes along The Capricorn Coast. Black jew tend to circle the feature and will grab baits in a fast flurry, stopping for a period before passing again on their circuit. Black jew are pretty clean fighters that will test your equipment and tackle. Jewies normally fire up just before dark for an hour or two and in the morning starting just before dawn. Squid and pilchards are the usual standard, while fresh flesh baits take some beating. The usual set ups work, and it doesn’t make a lot of difference whether you use a snapper rig or a running ball sinker down to the hook. I prefer a bit of movement of the baits so I use the paternoster mostly. Big hooks are the go from size 6-8/0. The Pinnacles, Findlays, Corio Heads, Double Heads, Ironpot, Rita Mada, Quartz, Divide, Cape Manifold and Cape Capricorn are all popular spots at this time of year. Many of the local jew holes will have grunter too, so it pays to have a few prawns among the bigger baits.
Red emperor, largemouth nannygai, grassy sweetlip, and red throat emperor have continued to be caught in great form over recent weeks. They usually head back out to deeper waters as the temperatures drop, but this year they have remained in quantity over the mid-depth grounds from 30-45m. Reds don’t tend to hang right on the structure, more often than not they cruise over the lower fern and rubble reef patches.
Lately some of our best reds have been taken right at the spot we call lines up and ready to go back to the start of the drift line. Drifting can be good or bad depending on the country you are fishing and the speed. I have found that you can spread a school out to the point that they stop feeding in some cases. When they are concentrated it pays to use a drogue or drop your pick well up current and let your lines come back to the fish. Once you drop a red or release an undersize fish they will go off the bite for some time. They will come back on the chew sooner or later; most guys pack up and move on when they might have done better waiting for a bit longer when the bite stops. Big baits are the rule for reds. This gives any pickers and baitfish a chance to create a berley trail and still leave substantial bait for the big fish.
The estuaries have been in good shape, with muddies and prawns leading the way. Whiting, bream, and blue salmon have increased through the general area, providing the creek fishers with lots of options now that barramundi, golden snapper and mangrove jack have started to slow down a little.
The Fitzroy River is still a great choice for a day’s fishing. Salmon range throughout the river and can be taken from shore or boat depending on your preference. Down towards Port Alma and the Connors Rocks end, the grunter and snodger bream of last season are returning.
Fish up to 1kg are almost the standard. Prawns, poddy mullet, mullet strips, yabbies or pilchards are the top baits, although the majority of keepers these days are caught on either vibes or soft plastics.
Coorooman Creek, the Causeway Lake, Corio Bay and Ross Creek have healthy populations of yellowfin, silver, and pikey bream. Even the Rosslyn Bay Harbour is a prime spot, and the prospect of landing a keeper bream are high.
Whiting have been moving and congregate around the local inlets and beaches. Five Rocks, Nine Mile Beach, Farnborough, Mulambin, Kinka, Fishermans, Keppel Sands main beach, Long Beach and Rundels are all worth a shot in the coming weeks.Reads: 446