Last minute Christmas sportfishing
  |  First Published: December 2016

This year has come and gone. We’re in the final stages and Christmas is only a few weeks away. People are already in beast mode, giving the bank cards a flogging. If you’re like me, you’ll wait until Christmas Eve to do all the shopping. As we wind up to the silly season, one thing is for certain, it’s going to get hot. This is a good reminder to look after yourselves and others by taking plenty of water, less beer, sunscreen and shade if you intend on heading outdoors this month.

If you’re lucky enough to head out over the break, you should be greeted by some fine fishing. December is usually a good month to target a wide variety of species, both estuary and bluewater, as the mercury rises. With the temperature increase through November, we’ve seen some fantastic numbers of billfish moving through the region, with many landed.

This should remain constant through the start of this month, if not into the early stages of next year. Trying your hand at a sailfish or marlin is a great option if the weather gods play fair. Remember the age old saying, ‘find the bait, find the fish.’ This really is a great guide if you’re new to the sport – a fantastic starting point. Look for the birds, feeding tuna schools and any other sign of bait stacking up in an area. Once found, a spread of teasers, skirts or baits, and some time should see you raising one or two.

That’s the easy part. Hooking them and keeping them hooked is the hard part. They’re renowned for their intense runs and frantic leaps to shake that hook free. A few pointers for the newcomers – set the drag appropriately for the line class, make sure leaders, line and everything else is in good shape, use very sharp hooks (circle hooks are a great option and can reduce fatal gut hooking), keep the line nice and taught to the fish at all times, and once it’s near the boat, back the drag off slightly to counter any sudden outbursts. Don’t be disheartened if you drop a couple!

Take care once you have them at the boat, as their bills can make short work of your soft human body. Care of the fish should also be one of your main priorities at this point to ensure the survival after release. A quick photo, minimal handling and a reviving swim is a must, so they can literally live to fight another day. They’re a fantastic sportfish and the more we can do to preserve the numbers, the better.

The outer reefs should be on fire in the coming weeks. I’m sure many will be heading that way if we’re greeted with kind weather. All the well-known delectable coral reef species should make a welcomed appearance to the boat and table.

Inside the reefs and around the islands you should expect to see quality nannygai, red emperor, sweetlip, coral trout and schools of spotted mackerel (if you haven’t already caught some). With the upcoming break, seafood is a ripper option for Christmas lunch, light and healthy, and slightly reduces some of the over indulgences that come with the silly season period. What better dish can you have at the dinner table!

Another addition to the table and always a crowd favourite at Christmas is the mud crab. Good numbers have been around recently, and should continue to improve. All the local estuaries and rivers are the go to places for a feed of muddies, so why not drop a pot or two in?

After setting the pots, get out for some nice mangrove jack, while you wait for the crabs to move in. Lovely fish have been caught and are great fun on the light gear – they’re a five star eating fish to boot, if you intend on eating one. Other species such as grunter, salmon and golden snapper should also be lurking around. This gives you something to do while your entrapment of crustaceans is happening.

Speaking of entrapment, my wife is calling me to help hang out the washing. Fingers crossed we see fair weather and no cyclones this month, and we all have a fantastic break. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

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