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Reef fish and mackerel are the main game
  |  First Published: June 2016



Trinity Inlet has continued to be the surprise package this year, fishing better than it has in a very long time. Barra and golden snapper have been the main attraction, but they will most likely slow down this month with the continuing drop in water temperature. However, most anglers will be looking offshore this month in search of mackerel and reef species, whenever the weather permits.

The coral trout, red emperor and especially large-mouth nannygai have been playing the game when anglers have managed to find a shark-free patch of country. Sharks continue to be the main spoiler at the reef, often winning the battle by a big margin. It’s as if they know when you are into a quality fish, because they love to obliterate any big red emperor or large-mouth nannygai. Less desirable fish like spangled emperor and trevally seem to make it to the surface unscathed a lot more often! When the sharks become too much to bear, it’s time to move a significant distance or move up shallower.

The one plus in the next couple of months is that the reds tend to be more frequent in shallower water, often taken on bommies normally considered trout-only drops. Going up a line class will improve your chances in the race to the top, though it can also reduce your bites at the same time. The minimum is 50lb braid, with 80lb needed at times to have a fighting chance of getting a fish to the surface in one piece.

Sharks aside, June can see more anglers than normal make their bag limit on trout and reds when conditions are favourable, so you should make the most of any weather window. The key to fishing the reef this month is to go whenever the winds allow. Forget about trying to align the best moon and tides with favourable winds, otherwise you will spend the winter months a very frustrated fisho.

Don’t forget to always have a floating or drifting pilchard, gar or mullet out the back in any depth. The Spaniards have been around and will continue to increase in numbers with the cooling water. Even when fishing in 15-20m, have a floater out. Drifting mackerel baits in this depth usually ends up in a loss of tackle, as a bottom fish rises and is already back into cover before the angler has a chance to react. Suspend your bait about 3m below a float for optimum results. Any closer to the surface and Spaniards will pass it up more frequently, and any deeper and it will attract too much attention from bottom dwellers.

The serious Spaniard chasers will be in overdrive as the numbers increase on the reef. Trolling gar and lures is a popular option, with the more fanatical anglers catching live baits of fusiliers, hussar and any other likely bait on the way out or at their desired destination. Slow trolling or drifting live baits will certainly improve your odds of tangling with more and larger Spaniards, but sometimes the additional time and effort required to source live baits can be better spent tangling with your target using lures or swimming dead baits. The ideal scenario is to have a live bait location close to where you want to fish, and if you don’t have a Spaniard on board after half an hour of trolling, shoot over to your bait grounds and load up with livies.

Small boat owners should focus their efforts on mackerel. The main player will be school mackerel, but the prize will be Spaniards. Trinity Inlet leads, the Franklin Islands, Fitzroy Island, Double Island and inshore wrecks will be the most popular destinations, usually dependant on where the angler lives. It is well worth starting an hour or two before dawn to source some live sardines, gar or mullet before heading to the mackerel grounds, with the aim to anchor at first light.

When the going is tough, having a quality live bait in the water can often mean the difference between success and failure. At other times, anything close to the money will do the job, with pilchards, mullet or sardines fished drifting or under a float often bringing home the bacon. The big swinger when using dead baits is to fish with chain hooks and no wire trace. The occasional bite-off is more than compensated by increased hook-ups.

When fishing live baits it’s a near necessity to use wire trace but keep it as fine as possible. I’ve found that 27lb stainless, single-strand wire is more than ample, as long as you replace it any time it gets too twisted or shows any sign of a kink. Having half a dozen pre-rigged traces wound onto cardboard or in tubes, ready to use, will save a lot of time and heartache from losing a good fish, especially when you know in the back of your mind that you should have replaced that suspect trace.

ESTUARIES

The estuaries will continue to produce the odd barra, mangrove jack and golden snapper (fingermark), but most of the action will switch to winter species. For those who still want to chase barra, jacks and golden snapper, the good news is that they bite year round. It’s just a matter of adjusting your techniques to improve your chances. Fish even tighter to cover and use live baits or lures that can get right into the structure. Live prawns on a dropper rig is the go-to approach, with sardines and mullet the next best option for the live bait brigade. Fishing soft vibes, prawn imitations and weedless soft plastics deep into cover is the best approach for lure tossers. Trolling is most productive using deep diving lures that are continually banging the bottom.

Large queenfish and giant trevally will have the attention of estuary sportfishers, provided the streams are running clear. Floating out live sardines and working the drop-offs and sand bars with poppers will be the main approaches. There will also be the odd golden trevally getting in on the act and, after a tremendous battle, they’ll provide a good feed.

Bream will be plentiful along the rock walls and over any rubble country. Although they are often overlooked by northern anglers they are a great target species when taking the kids fishing. There is plenty of action and they won’t spook the kids by emptying their spool in seconds, which can happen when a monster queenfish, giant or golden trevally latches onto light gear.

Mud crabs will be on the move, so it’s always worth dropping in a few pots on the way out fishing and collecting them on the way home. A couple of muddies certainly improves the dinner menu.

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