Macks in March
  |  First Published: March 2007

Some atrocious weather caused many of Keppel Bay’s usual species to stay outside in January. This should change in March as doggies, Spaniards and grey mackerel build in numbers. Bait schools are attracting good numbers of tuna, wahoo, dolphinfish, marlin, sailfish, cobia and mackerel out near the islands.

Feather jigs often appear after every lure, jig and plastic in the box has produced average results. Straight away the luck changes and fish start coming on board.

There are populations of marlin and sailfish around for anyone willing to chase them and most of landed fish have been hooked on gear meant for Spanish mackerel or wahoo. January to March and August to September had the highest number of gamefish captures with regular catches during the other months.

Coral trout have really taken off and most fishers are getting at least 1-2 fish during each trip to the Keppels. They are an ambush expert that will take almost any lure or fresh bait within range of their cover. I watched a berley pot in 10m of water and noticed that the average coral trout stayed in the background waiting for a shot at the bait. The most trout have been taken from 14m and deeper.

Trevally and queenfish continue to pepper island beaches and anywhere hardihead schools congregate is well worth a shot. A cast net, a 3-4kg outfit, hooks, light sinkers, a couple of chromies and a bit of leader is all you need for plenty of entertainment. Live hardiheads are the best bait on the beaches but small chrome lures and poppers can also score a cast near any of the bait schools.

Bonefish are not very common in this part of the coast but though there is the odd sighting at Corio or Keppel. Last week a Keppel local showed me a school of bones that he said lives in this particular area all the time. He said they cruise several beaches and around the points. These fish fight well on light gear and are good sportfish.

Fingermark and mangrove jack catches have continued to increase and have occurred in places that we haven’t seen before or at least not for a long time. Many of the local creeks and the Fitzroy River have good numbers of fingermark so take the time to explore these areas. The lack of any big fresh flows in the area has allowed the river to clean right up and more species including fingermark have moved further upstream.

On a recent trip up to the town reaches of the river we landed small fingermark along the old wharf structures near Gavial Creek and past The Fitzroy Motor Boat Club. The Narrows is a very popular fingermark spot to work the banks and rock bars up the passage. Then head up the coast to Coorooman Creek where large fingermark hold in some of the deeper holes and points at the front end of the creek.

Rita Mada Point offers boating and land-based opportunities away from the harder fished spots. The Causeway Lake is well known for good jacks but there is also the odd fingermark if you look. Iron Pot and Double Heads have odd catches of fingermark day or night. Corio Bay, Waterpark Creek, the Corio Heads jew hole and all the points moving into army country have large fingermark with less anglers competing for the prize.

Lures can do the trick while giving you more time to cover a wider area than fishing with baits. Fingermark are shy so it pays to keep quiet and they respond much better to lures trolled slowly with an electric motor. The range of lures they will take is fairly extensive although there are a couple of favourites. It doesn’t matter much on the size of lures used and big lures do attract quality fingermark. Richo’s Lures in pink, ghost, white with a red head and gold chrome go well. Man’s +20 in the natural pilchard or mullet colours are another favourite. The smaller Reidy’s and Flatzrats can also account for a share of the fish taken.

Live bait is a good option when targeting fingermark and all the estuaries have a healthy supply of prawns, poddy mullet and herrings. When rigging up for fingermark, rig a running sinker that comes down to a swivel then a 750mm trace of 15-20kg mono tied off to a 3/0 or 4/0 suicide hook. This allows the live bait to wander in a restricted area close to the front of snags and structures. Another method is fishing a live bait under a float so the bait hangs over the top of the danger zone and attracts any predator as it tries to reach cover. Fingermark can be found along rock walls, mud banks, fallen timber and cockle beds.

Grunter are still around in small numbers in most spots except for the lower Fitzroy and Coorooman where some 2kg+ fish are on offer. Prawns are by far the most consistent bait and anything fresh is an option. Horse bream from 1-2.5kg are feeding actively in the Port Alma area and berley is the key to success.

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