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The jacks are playing nice
  |  First Published: June 2016



The inshore fishing has been good lately, and the jacks have played nicely for many anglers. I had one of the best sessions I’ve had in years on the jacks, and with over 20 of these cranky fish landed, plus a half dozen bust-offs, it was non stop from the first cast. The original plan was to get a short session on the flats before the tide got too low, but because I was a little late I missed the barra with only one small specimen landed and one jumped off.

I started using the same lures I was casting on the flats (mainly because I was too lazy to tie on an old favourite) until I found out was happening. It didn’t take long. Trying to work out a pattern of consistency, I went from a paddle-tailed plastic to a Laser Pro 120 Gold with red head, which resulted in instant success. The first fish landed was the day’s biggest at 53cm. The average was 43-44cm, and I got smashed up five or six times which had me laughing my guts out. Losing lures to snags gets up my nose, but to get smoked by a big fish is worth every cent of a lures cost.

One in particular could have been an XOS golden snapper for the river. I had it probably 18-20m out from the snag as it ran confused out into the open water before getting its bearings. It ran the whole way under extreme thumb and got me back to the snag I originally hooked it on, and shredded the leader. Any fish that has enough power to make you shake your head is a memorable one.

I still can’t figure out what the hell brought the big jacks in, or what made them bite like mad. The river was just as full of bait as it had been for weeks, and there was no significant lunar or tidal variation that stood out, so I guess it was just one of those red letter days that you dream of. As the tide dropped and slowed, I went to an Atomic Prong rigged weedless as the fish had dropped a little deeper in the water column, and again fell into a rhythm of hooking up regularly.

There have been a lot of winter species kicking into gear, with flathead and whiting really starting to put in a show now. The sizes have been considerable. The flatties never backed off through the year, and we’ve caught at least one or two on most trips, but the size is increasing.

Some excellent grunter fishing has been had around the top of the tide off some of the beaches at sun up, and there are plenty of barra mixed in with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the smaller grunter are on the barra menu, but the bigger grunter are up around the 55-60cm. Some anglers prefer the cocktail approach for the big grunter, and our local grunter expert Joe Miller is a whiz on these things using exactly that bait, catching them regularly from boat or bank.

Peeled prawns have been the go for the bigger whiting, and if you know where some of the yabby grounds are, you’ll have the number one bait. A trick down south for the whiting is to use the common old garden worm when baits are hard to find, but the good old beach worm reigns supreme on just about any day, if you can get them. If you can’t, we have the pre-packed ones at the shop. Garden worms don’t last too long in salt water, but hopefully they won’t have to! Small sinkers allow the bait to cover more ground as it washes out or in is a good tactic also.

The water should clear considerably as it cools, and this can offer some good sight casting in the shallows for all sorts of species if there’s no wind around. Crabs have been plentiful in the northern rivers also, and some big, full bucks have been taken in recent weeks.

MACKEREL

There have been patches of macks around as well, and it’s looking good for a bumper season, with some notable catches already had by lure trollers. An effective way to make the most of active fish is to have two lures out the back that dive at different depths. One of the favoured ways of doing this is to have either a 190mm or 160mm Laser Pro Crazy Deep out the furthest, and then just in front of it have a shallow version. Often a fish will miss its first strike on the deeper version, but while the adrenalin is going it can carry on upwards and snatch the next one above its head.

Using wolfies is a specialist technique for the bigger fish, perfect for those anglers who are after a big, powerhouse trophy fish. Some 30kg+ models were taken last year, and I wouldn’t even consider eating one at this size, but the photos would be very cool. I know it’s a controversial thing to say, but if possible release these big fellas. Just be very, very careful when you’re handling them as those teeth, and the thrashing lure or hooks, are perfect weapons to send you to hospital for stitches, or to have something removed from your body that wasn’t supposed to be there. They really are dangerous to handle. A length of wet sponge helps hold them down while someone else pulls the hooks out, but even then, watch those fangs.

REEF FISHING

Reef fishers would be aware by now that the boxes of squid that anglers heavily rely on to chase many reef species are just about non-existent at the moment. The shortage will probably continue for a few months at least. There are other options though, including cuttlefish and large squid heads, which we stock at Akwa Pro Tackle.

And don’t forget that there are options that don’t require the use of bait at all. Soft plastics are gaining a real following nowadays. A great example was at the Boyne Tannum Hookup recently, where one of the standout teams that really put some fish in the boat used both bait and plastics – and the plastics won that comparison hands down. To say the anglers were surprised would be an understatement, but they are on their way to predominantly bait free fishing by the sounds of it.

That’s not to say I think lures, plastics and jigs are going to out-fish bait every time, but it happens often enough to make it worthwhile to become competent in using them. Some of the specifically designed lures for this purpose, like the Outcast and Twisty Jigs, are a great way to probe the depths for trout and other reefies, and they can last many fish before they are even slightly damaged. If you’re your still determined to have some bait down there, try one of the little bottle squid put on the hook as a sweetener. Generally speaking, if you can find fish, you can catch fish. It might just take a little time to find out what they’re after.
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