January can be a fickle month for anglers. If the wet is in full swing and the weirs, creeks and dams are flowing the inshore fishing will shut down and chocolate coloured water will cover the beaches, headlands and islands. This will force bluewater fishers out further to chase clean water and enjoy the opening of the reef fishing season.
Most of the larger reef species such as red emperor, large and small mouth nannygai, cobia and sweetlip will have moved to deeper water to escape the heat of shallow reefs. Target for structure in 100ft+ of water. Shoals, wrecks and bombies will all hold fish at this time of year. The less well known your chosen spot is, the greater your likelihood is of catching a trophy fish.
Back closer to the reef platform, coral trout and red throats will be the main targets so try the small sand patches close to the bombies.
If the wet is here and the water is flowing, put some crab pots out in Cleveland Bay from Cocoa Creek to Cape Cleveland. Prawns will be flushed out of the creeks but they don’t venture as far from home as the crabs do. Try netting around the sand bars at the mouth of Ross River or inside the rock walls of the harbour. The Strand used to be a good prawn producer but ever since the river sand was added it hasn’t been as good. If you are cast or drag netting along the Strand and Pallarenda remember to keep an eye out for crocodiles.
Creek anglers will do it tough in January and should try to find creeks that don’t have mountain ranges at their headwaters. These systems will still have a reasonable amount of salt water still in them. Fish the bigger tides so any fish travelling with the water have access the creek.
Cocoa Creek has been perfect for this with bream, flathead and jacks biting for most of the tide while big grunter and queenfish will move in with the top of the tide. Have a selection of live and dead baits, as this will help you figure out what the fish are eating each day. If you are going to fish Cocoa Creek be aware that it is a mud ramp and you may need a 4WD to get bigger boats in and out. You could also travel across the bay from town, just keep an eye on the weather and go in on the top of the tide. Anglers need to remember that it is still the closed season for barra.
If the wet fails to make an appearance by January, the fishing will really fire up with lots of boats huddled around the Cape and Maggie targeting the extra large fingermark that feed on schools of live squid.
Rubble pads in Crocodile, Alligator, and Haughton creeks will hold good numbers of grunter at the top of the tide so fish the edges of the sand bars on the run-out as the fish head back into deeper water.
Spanish mackerel will be returning to their home areas after spawning and dedicated Spaniard fishers will bottom bounce pilchards over likely looking areas and bait schools. The top two baits are large gar or wolf herring, and both are available from local tackle stores. Large high speed trolling lures are very popular as they are quite easy to set up and produce good catches.
Next month we will give readers the good oil on where to go to get that first barra for the season.
A group of soldiers from Townsville with a nice haul of coral trout taken very close to Magnetic Island with One More Cast Fishing Adventures.
Dilan Collard with a good red emperor that he caught on his 10th birthday.
Three good fingers caught at Cape Cleveland at night.
Not all bycatch is as interesting as this – the croc ate a River2Sea Triho Min.Reads: 1866