In 2006 the fishing patterns of the past decade went out the window and improvisation became the name of the game. The frantic peak season fishing was a bit boom and bust with fish here today and gone tomorrow instead of the good, great and fantastic days that used to be the norm.
The usual wet season routine of boat and tackle maintenance, doing a bit of writing and business promotion, and getting to find a few fish with my name on them for a change was replaced by a 10 week trip to the big smoke for health reasons.
I arrived home to find that the wet season had hardly dampened the ground and just in time to start a hectic charter season. Then, just when things started to get back to normal, Cyclone Monica decided to throw a huge spanner in the works. Still, I managed to keep my clients happy and there were a couple of ‘best trip ever’ comments from the regulars.
This season, the stand out fish was that knave of the snags, the mangrove jack.
While numbers overall were down for most of the season, the size of the local jacks from September averaged large to frightening! Fish in the estuaries under 40cm were rare while those in the high 40s to early 50s came along regularly, both on lures and live bait.
As you can imagine, with fish like these around the timber and rocks, quite a few lures did not return. May the New Year bring many more similar dilemmas!
I always thought that suspenders were an item of clothing but I’ve seen the light and now carry a couple in my tackle box. After advice from another colleague I purchased some fish net stockings as well. The secret is tying a knot in the stocking leg about 30cm down then stitching the top to your bait scoop – perfect for mullet and they look super cool.
Oh yes, back to suspenders! The moniker also applies to lure types that are neutrally buoyant, meaning they don’t sink or float. These lures are designed to reach a designated level and then be lightly jerked and jigged rather than just cast and retrieved. The bibless types are very popular in our dams but the bibbed models are better suited for snags found in the tropical estuaries.
I decided to target some of Weipa’s big jacks in some skinny water up near the top of the Hey River. This area had been providing some great catches ever since the water temperature had passed 27.
My companion for the trip was Bruce Rampton, a former owner of C-Lures, who fished some custom-made Headmasters, while I experimented with a couple of the latest jerk baits from Japan. The result was an action packed morning that had everything – fishing that was sometimes hot, sometimes slow, sensational smash-ups and some monster fish.
The big jacks were a bit finicky so the slow sinking suspenders seemed to be the best way to get them to cooperate. Tight jerks right up against the snags were the keys to success but I can remember one newly fallen tree where about 10 crimson flashes and a couple of bumps were all we could manage.
I spotted a couple of fish cruising the shade at one stage, landed a great cast and was immediately connected to what was certainly a PB barra for the year. The big fish went berserk but the hooks pulled when I tried to keep it out of the mangroves.
Bruce pulled a 48cm jack, then a 50cm fish! The C-Lures were old but definitely not out. He was extracting a smallish fingermark from a rock bar when Mr Greedy arrived and started towing us upstream and into the rocks. Bruce kept the line as tight as possible while I manned the electric. The big Queensland groper found a couple of holes but was unable to sever the leader or braid and after 15 minutes of to and fro, came to the boat with the lure and fingermark still in its mouth. Both fish were freed but the smaller fish looking decidedly unwell.
That day was followed by more ‘suspense’ down Norman Creek way, although the fish weren’t quite as large as those of the Hey. This proved that suspending lures deserve to be part of the Cape’s fishing arsenal.Reads: 920