Cool down the water and heat up the fishing
  |  First Published: December 2016

I hope you all had a safe start to the New Year. It has certainly been a hot start to the year, with no real indication of decent rain. For some reason we just keep missing out on the storms associated with the trough lines, from heat lows that come through the southern states. Just seems to make it as far as the Burdekin, but no further north.

The heat has put off many fishing trips for northern anglers of late. The lack of trailers at the ramps is a good indication, and the fish stocks are getting a rest at the same time. When we get those scorching hot days, the fishing usually goes very quiet, and many species will head to deeper water, particularly around the neaper tides. When the waters are not moving around as much, the water seems to get hotter.

On the fishing front, there has not been a lot of talk, and I’ve also been away, but I’m guessing that many fishers have been going out at night to make the most of cooler periods, as well as the big grunter and golden snapper (fingermark) that thrive during the dark at this time of year. Coastal and inshore island headlands are great places to start looking for them. The headlands create a good break in the current as well as a backwater in some areas when tides are larger. Bait such as herring and squid are also attracted to these regions, and can be caught under a squid light.

Both grunter and golden snapper are foragers and can also be found around shell beds and rubble pads, and using small mangrove crabs for bait is another option – crabs are quite often found in their stomach contents. These would have to be the two most targeted fish inshore at the moment, and both are excellent on the table. One bonus in areas where we catch grunter and goldens, is the big GTs. There has been a lot of GTs around this year, which is great to see – not to mention it’s fun watching your clients get punished by these bruisers.

During January it will be much of the same, particularly with barra season closed. Offshore fishers should concentrate at night for best results. Sometimes those still hot days won’t produce a bite out wide, but then as soon as the sun drops, things can change dramatically. It is a good time of year for encounters with the big reef jacks (mangrove jack). They seem to favour twilight hours over daytime once they become mature and head into these offshore areas. I have seen them as big as 25lb and heard of them even bigger. They are quite an impressive fish at that size. Another reef species worth targeting is the tuskfish. They love crustaceans for bait and thrive around the sandy and broken coral bottom areas in the lagoons. They are a handsome fish and extremely good on the table – this is why they’re a popular target for spearfishers. Maori sea perch are another fish you may run into this time of year. These are a bit rarer than tuskies, and one of the most beautiful fish in the ocean. We like to release them these days when they’re caught around the islands, as their numbers are decreasing.

If we do get some rain later in January, we should see some good captures of mud crabs. The crabbing in the recent years of drought has been well below average, but they certainly respond to rainfall and the months to follow. Speaking of rainfall, here’s hoping something might happen this season. The drought is certainly dragging its feet, and there are many anglers just waiting for the boom seasons to come – we just need our big floods again first.

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