Reefies starting to show
  |  First Published: April 2007

Word is out that the El Nino currents have ceased flowing off the east coast of Australia. This is great news! A return to average (or above average) rainfall can be expected over the eastern seaboard.

This naturally occurring phenomenon (El Nino) has some rather dire effects on Australia when in full swing. One of the major effects is that the reduction of localized rainfall has lead to one of the biggest droughts in Australian history. The El Nino has a negative effect on fishing as it brings warm water, which lacks in two major components vital for healthy fish and reef growth – oxygen and nutrients. Cold or cooler waters hold higher levels of these two components, which help the fish stocks, as the nutrients filter up the food chain.

The drop in sea surface temperature also accounts for precipitation through the process of evaporation (cooler sea water evaporates more quickly than warm sea water and as a result creates more rain). So basically, there will be a noticeable improvement in fish stock levels on the east coast of Australia over the coming season. That is if the scientists are correct in their predictions.

With the start of the reef fishing season upon us, this winter is expected to provide some of the best fishing we have had for years. The slow progression of an increasing snapper fishery has set the stage for more tales of extraordinary catches this season. Good fish are already starting to show up around the shallow rubble areas off Scarborough Reef. Evening has been the best time to connect with a solid 3-4kg fish in the shallows. (Perhaps we are already seeing the benefits of the dissipating El Nino.)

The ever-faithful live bait has taken the better fish. Try to keep leaders as light as possible; even though the fish are there, the numbers aren’t great enough to prompt the snapper into feeding aggressively. Small ball sinkers with wide gape hooks will ensure that the strike will convert into a nice fish. Large fresh prawns caught from the rivers will also be appealing for snapper at this time of the year. With the volume of small whaler sharks that are around you can expect to have a few marauding your fresh bait offerings. Light mono line is the key to allowing the sharks to remove themselves before wasting too much of your fishing time.

Threadfin are still around in good numbers in local waterways. I haven’t heard of as many fish as last season but the ones that have been caught are of exceptional size. Still nights with low tide just after dark are a good time to stalk salmon feeding on the flats. Usually just as the tide begins to flood up over the mud around the mouth of the river you will be able to see the threadies working bait schools. A well-placed bait or lure will more often than not provoke a strike. High chromed gold and silver lures in a shallow diving pattern are dynamite for salmon as the light starts to fade.

The deeper offshore reefs have been fishing very slowly, but this month should see fishing improve ten fold. The current will still be a burden for holding anchor so sea drogues will provide the best option in finding the fish. Pearl perch are in some good schools over the shallower stuff but the average size is still quite small. The bigger fish will move in as the water temperature drops a few more degrees.

Snapper will also begin their winter migrations from the deep reefs at the shelf and move in over more fishable depths. This is the best time of the year to head out for an early morning fish as the air temperature is still bearable and you don’t have to get up quite as early to beat the sunrise.

The pelagic scene is slowly coming to a closure for another season but it is still possible to get amongst the small black marlin and wahoo. This year will definitely go down as one to remember. Small blacks are responding well to surface lures trolled around the 40m line out from Hutchies. Bait rigging heads like sea-witches are also well worth including in the spread as they account for many strikes. Continue to change colours and lure styles throughout the session until the fish start to become active.

Have a great month on the water and get ready for some reef action.

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