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Snapper
  |  First Published: August 2016



School is in for snapper in Mackay waters. Plenty of anglers scored good knobbies over the past few weeks, when the weather was kind enough for offshore work in small boats. The annual snapper migration is in full swing into our waters and anglers can look forward to this type of action until the end of September, when the last of the stragglers will head south again.

In the meantime, snapper will be in thier usual haunts around the islands off Sarina, Hay Point waters, Taroba Rock, and Flat and Round Top islands. The odd fish can even be caught off the harbour walls. Main areas are easy to find by looking for other boats, or have a yarn to the local tackle shop staff for a good starting point, as they are all keen fishos who know what’s going off where.

Snapper are caught on baits like small whole squid, extra large prawns and fillets of whiting, gar, mullet or ribbonfish. Anglers stock up on ribbonfish this time of year, as they make excellent strip baits for plenty of species and are very popular as large baits for Spanish mackerel. Ribbons can be found around the close islands in the Seaforth area, as well as near Slade or Flat and Round Top islands, just out from the river mouth. Small metal jigs, bucktail jigs and flies all work well with white as a dominant colour.

Rigging for snapper is pretty simple. Most anglers use either a paternoster rig or a straight bottom bouncing rig. Ultra sharp hooks always. Make sure the point is not covered by the bait, even if you use dental floss or similar to keep the bait straight. This stops spinning in hard current flows and lets the bait ‘wave’ around in a more natural manner. If using fillets, partly split the end of the bait to get more movement in the current.

Lure anglers have also been into the snapper and soft plastics are popular. Stickbaits, curly and paddle-tails will all score fish, but use the larger models around 150mm or bigger with sufficient weight to get down to the fish. Remember, the snapper will be further down in the water column, but they show up on a sounder, particularly with a facility to expand zones to full screen feature. Work the lures within a couple metres of the bottom, with a slow lift and drop motion, then not all bites are tentative.

Queenfish and goldens have also turned up a lot around the close inshore islands, and are within easy reach of a 4m tinnie. They will invariably hang around bait schools or balls. Any show of bait on the sounder should be worked over with plastics, vibes or metal jigs. Wherever the bait is found, there will always be predators nearby, but starters for queenies and goldens would be around the southern end of Round Top and on the inshore side of Flat Top Island, as well as in the mouth of the Pioneer River. Small, nervous garfish up on the surface are a dead giveaway for queenfish.

Larger Spanish mackerel have so far been mostly offshore, but the outer islands have been producing plenty of good fish with the odd cobia mixed in. Spaniards will move closer inshore this month, chasing bait schools in places like Slade Point. Round Top Island and Danger reef will hold mainly school fish around the 5-10kg size with the odd 15-20kg specimen. Big baits like ribbonfish, school mackerel and gar are the most popular here. Any 150mm or larger hardbody minnow that can handle speed will work, with the old Rapala CD18 and 21 still very effective.

Small macks and tuna were hit and miss last month. After our next cold snap, we usually have two or three each winter of a few days length, the seas should start to flatten out. That brings in the hardyheads, herring and others, which in turn will bring in mackerel and tuna. There has been early activity, mainly with longtail tuna out from the harbour, but once the weather settles into usual spring patterns, there should be some better results. The local tackle shops staff will have their finger on the pulse and can provide up to the minute information.

Flathead have featured with good fish coming out of all our systems in the creeks and estuaries. The sand banks in Sarina inlet as well as Reliance, Constant and Murray creeks to the north have all produced fish. The Pioneer River upstream, between the bridges near Cullen Island, is also a safe bet. Yabbies, strip baits, small livies, prawns or even worms will all tempt the flathead, but keep the bait moving slowly. Lure anglers can take their pick of hardbodies, plastics, metal and soft vibes, or small poppers. Most of the fish are in shallow water, so keep your gear light, 4-6kg is plenty strong enough to handle them. A short flouro carbon leader will also help.

Elbow-slapper whiting have been around, and there are plenty of smaller school whiting about. The Pioneer River is one of our most reliable whiting fisheries. Drift up with the tide, cast ahead of the boat and usually you will score a feed of these tasty little fighters. Small, clear minnows and poppers are effective and will often get larger fish.

Bream are now in spawning mode, so they’re plentiful and aggressive in the mangrove creek systems. Look for them around rock bars and hard up against the mangroves. We mainly have pikey bream with the odd silver thrown in. Pikeys can be caught on a variety of baits and will also smack small hardbodies or soft plastics.

Blue salmon continue to school up in our creeks, like around the Reliance and Constant creek mouths. They can be caught in large numbers. Remember the bag and size limits and leave them biting. Yabbies, prawns and small strip baits will work. Small metal or plastic vibes go well on blue salmon too. Mixed in with the blue salmon there will often be steelbacks, which look like a southern ‘chopper’ tailor. Steelies are not large fish, but fight well, and if bled and iced quickly they are acceptable table fare.

King threadfin are around too and there have been some sizing at the metre mark, caught mainly on live baits. The plastic vibes are still one of the most popular lures for threadies. A slow lift and drop routine should be to their liking. Fuze and Threadybusters work on them, and it’s a good idea to have a variety of colours, especially the more natural, neutral colours that mimic small mullet or herring. Tackle shops will give you the good oil on colours and sizes that are working best at any time.

Finally on the freshwater scene, the drop in temperatures down to 8°C overnight had the dam barra bite just about shut down, although the shallower waters in Kinchant dam are still producing rare metre plus fish. Sooty in Teemburra dam and the river have been playing ball with several 50cm sooty coming from the dam last week. Most river fish have been smaller with average sizes around 30cm. There is good fun on light gear though, and the freshwater reaches of the Pioneer and Cattle Creek provide some great spots.

August in Mackay has a range of angling options with lots of saltwater catches, but the offshore stuff is weather-dependant. There’s plenty of variety in species and locations, so why not join us in paradise and escape the winter weather. See you at the ramp!

1

Working a 90mm popper over a sandbank in the Pioneer River, Mark Trott picked up this beaut whiting among the flathead.

2

Mackay is snapper central at the moment with plenty of fish like this beauty that Troy Taylor caught, with a ZMan Streakz, on the shoals out from the harbour.

3

Offshore snapper are the big news with plenty on offer, but surprises like this golden snapper still turn up despite temperatures dropping.

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