Off Port Douglas we have a section of water known amongst the locals as ‘The Paddocks’. You will not find it named on a map but it is on the outer reef and is a field of water surrounded by Tongue, Rudder, St Crispins and Opal reefs. Perfectly on cue, as the water temperatures dropped, this vast pocket of water came alive.
Reef fishers who have roamed The Paddocks are enjoying tremendous success fishing for reds in 30-40m of water. As predicted, the early stages of May triggered these fish into feeding mode and once on the bite, there has been no stopping the action.
Large mouth and small mouth nannygai have been the preferred species and mixed in amongst them are spangled emperor, reef jack and trevally species. One trick used by many is to always keep one hooked fish swimming amongst the school on a line until the next person hooks up, then you can retrieve the fish to the surface. This sequence keeps the school in a frenzy and it is possible to gradually entice the whole school right up to the surface. Watching dozens of nannygai smash baits being lowered into the water is a sight to behold.
In the shallower turf, reef fishermen are also enjoying the abundance of coral trout on offer. If the winds are up you can always hug in tight against a reef for protection and pluck a good feed.
Besides the bottom dwelling fish, The Paddocks are seeing pelagic species return in good numbers. Cooler water and an influx of bait into the area are seeing Spanish mackerel return and most are around 10-12kg. Floating live baits or pilchards while reef fishing has returned handsomely and trolling the pressure points of areas where bait has accumulated has achieved equally.
With garfish numbers experiencing a spurt, trolling rigged garfish is the rage at the moment. When tracking down Spaniards, don't be surprised if you latch onto something a little bigger. There have already been close encounters with small black marlin and sailfish in The Paddocks.
Closer to home, the river and creek fishing has been through a transformation as known summer species such as barra and larger mangrove jack have slowed down due to water temperatures dropping.
Despite this, there are still smaller barra on the chew in the warmer pockets of water and they are partial to a live prawn or small lure. Newly fallen mangrove foliage in the water or weed beds that are in the sun attract lots of small bait and consequently a few rat barra.
However the focus has shifted to targeting the good-sized queenfish that are entering our systems on a good clean incoming tide. Concentrating efforts on the entrances, there are also golden trevally, small GTs and permit if you are lucky. Fresh dead prawns and live sardines are a good combination to test what is on the chew. If the wind is blowing, always place your baits downwind with the tide running in the same direction.
Across the flats there are blue salmon in the mix as they conclude their breeding process. With netting reduced in the area there is a better chance nowadays of landing one of these powerful fish in the shallows. Flicking lures or floating a livebait will put you in the hunt. These fish will come out of the deeper channels on an incoming tide and scour the area for food. Using stealth and fishing low light periods are the best plans of attack as they can be easily spooked.
For novices, fishing around harbour pylons and structures with prawns and squid is yielding plenty of bream and grunter. Jetty fishing with the family is a great introduction to the sport and there is enough action to keep everyone entertained.
With a change of tact, the cooler months offer a new dimension to our fishing and in the right areas it actually gets hotter.
Shane Down and Grant Heffernan enjoy the return of good numbers of Spanish mackerel.Reads: 499