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The red trifecta: trout, red emperor and nannygai
  |  First Published: May 2016



If the weather cooperates, May can produce awesome fishing, especially offshore. On the flip side, it can be frustrating at times, if the southeasters set in and the month is marred by rain and wind. Typically the fishing matches the weather, so here’s hoping for a super sunny May.

Irrespective, barring major flooding the estuaries will be fishable. Barra, golden snapper, mangrove jack, grunter, cod, bream and small trevally will be the main players, with the added bonus of large queenfish and golden trevally starting to show if the water is clear. Water temperature will be the key this month. If the temperatures hold up, which seems to have become the norm in recent years, then the summer species, especially barra will continue to be active.

Like the offshore, the better the conditions, the better the fishing will be in the estuaries. The traffic in the estuaries is relatively quiet when the weather is good, as most anglers head offshore. When the wind sets in, it can get pretty busy in the rivers and inlets, while the fishing is generally anything but busy. So, if you are partial to meandering through the mangroves, go against the trend and stick to the estuaries when the weather shines, for best results.

Smaller boat owners should look to access inshore islands, reefs and wrecks in search of mackerel, and the odd trout and nannygai. School mackerel can start to appear this month and often sit down deep. Metal slices worked off the bottom or fishing pilchards and live sardines in the bottom half of the water column is the best method to target fish early in the season. Most anglers will be looking further east this month, as May is generally considered the start of the better reef fishing, as the water cools. Large-mouth nannygai, red emperor and coral trout will be the main players at the reef, with a wide range of support species adding variety to the esky.

Red fishing will be high on the agenda for larger boat owners, with large-mouth nannygai starting to school up in the deeper water, along with red emperor and coral trout biting shallow. Overnighters are generally the more productive trips when chasing reds in the deep water and the only downside is the shark problem. If anglers can get onto a good school of nannies that isn’t patrolled by sharks then 10-20 quality fish can make it to the esky. Most reds will be in the 3-5kg range, but there will be a few trophy nannygai and red emperor on the chew for those lucky or skilled enough to find them. Generally the bigger fish will be in the deeper water, so start out in 60m+ and then work your way back into shallower water. If the fish aren’t biting out deep, or the sharks are taking too big a toll then keep moving up shallower.

Trout will be the main target up shallow during the day, and the big advantage to chase trout is that you are more likely to beat the sharks to the boat in shallower water. If the sharks are just too quick or thick in the deep water then try moving into less than 20m of water to improve your odds of boating your catch.

While most reef anglers will be hoping for a haul of the big three; large-mouth nannygai, red emperor and coral trout, there will be plenty of other reef fish on the chew. Reef mangrove jack, spangled emperor, large stripeys, tea-leaf trevally, Moses perch and cod of all shapes and sizes are just some of the other species trying to get in on the action and will make a welcome addition to the esky.

Spanish mackerel will be staring to increase in numbers, so always have a pilchard, gar or mullet floating out the back in the current if there is any or under a float if the run is poor. An even better option is a live bait like a fusilier, hussar or small trevally caught on site and quickly returned to the water on a mackerel rig. The serious Spaniard chasers will source their livies on the way to the reef and focus their efforts along steep drop-offs, pressure points and current lines, mostly trolling but sometimes drifting, depending on conditions. Trolling a combination of swimming gar or mullet, along with deep diving lures is another productive way to target Spaniards if live baits are hard to come by. Most Spanish mackerel will be in the 6-8kg range but there will be the odd 20kg+ brute out there ready to give your tackle a real work over.

Giant trevally will be partial to poppers worked off the reef edge, especially on the falling tide when the tides are big. They love patrolling the drop-off feeding on baitfish as they are forced off the top of the reef with the falling tide. Light tackle anglers will be hoping for an early start to the small black marlin season and will be trolling around the wide grounds and off Fitzroy Island in the hope of an early encounter.

All up, May offers a wide range of angling options and is certainly one of the more pleasant months to be on the water. Here’s hoping for clears skies, cool days and even cooler nights, as there is a good chance the fishing will be red hot.

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