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Rampant red on the reef
  |  First Published: October 2016



We were met with some terrific weather over the past month, which gave most a chance to head out and indulge in some much-needed fishing.

As predicted, the bottom fishing has really improved and we are seeing some fantastic catches. The islands have once again been providing, with solid numbers of good sized coral trout and grass sweetlip making their way into the boat. Early morning and late afternoon are your best bet for coral trout, and grass sweetlip are being caught all day and night. Many may argue that the humble old sweety is just as good, if not better than the trout on the plate, and I reckon they aren’t wrong either.

The good news is they are a prevalent species around the Whitsundays and you don’t have to travel very far to find a good brace of grassies. Another fish you don’t have to travel very far to find is the Indonesian snapper. This little red fish is found throughout the Whitsundays and is often confused with nannygai. There are a few distinguishing features between the two. Indonesian snapper doesn’t grow as big, has canine teeth, and has white edgings to its fins. The nannygai, however, has black edgings to its fins, and doesn’t sport the same big teeth.

The little Indonesian snapper are a tasty feed if you are intending on keeping a few for consumption, and usually where you find one you will find plenty more. They do carry a bag limit of five, so do keep that in mind.

Another thing to keep in mind when bobbing about is the run of Spanish mackerel still happening out wider at the reefs. Although slow around the islands, they have been quite consistent out wide over previous months, so giving them a go if you get out there is a good option.

Also, as the water warms, keep an eye out for the odd mahimahi and wahoo, which have been turning up out there amongst the Spanish. The outer reefs have really been producing excellent catches on the bottom as well, which is good to see. Trying your hand on the bottom at the reefs should see you rewarded this month, but do keep an eye out for our Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure, which occurs this month and in November as well. Visit the Fisheries website for details of the closures, you don’t want to be caught out red-faced and facing a large fine.

Red is another word that comes to mind this month. The large red emperor and nannygai are still on the charge and some brute 10kg+ models are being frequently caught around the outer shoals. These bigger fish are falling for large flesh baits, and a good quality hook and leader are essential, as the bigger red emperor pull very hard and will straighten lesser quality hooks and possess large teeth that can easily chafe through your leader.

With this is mind, it is also important to check the integrity of your leader after every fish if you wish to maintain the best chance of landing another. With all this in place, it will be worth the time to go on the hunt for fish of this calibre this month, as they should still be hungry for an offering.

Offering themselves this month will be the billfish. They will be starting to become more frequent, so if you are keen on hooking a fish and maybe even landing one, these next few months will be your chance. I can hear some of you saying “Come on Griffo, I’ve got no interest in catching a marlin or sailfish, I’m a bottom fishing warrior,” which I have had the privilege of hearing a lot. I say privilege, as I have had the privilege of converting a lot of these people into billfish addicts. Catching fish to eat is not always the be-all-end-all, and putting the time and effort into catching a billfish can be quite rewarding, even if it does mean you go fishless a few times. I guarantee that once you do get to witness one in action, you will be keen to see a few more. Honing your skills into raising and landing one certainly will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Don’t be afraid to step outside the norm and challenge yourself a little, physically and mentally.

Speaking of mental, I’m off to tend to my boy who has decided my doona and couch are an excellent place to express himself with a paint brush.

Cheers and tight lines!

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