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Dodging the Deluge
  |  First Published: December 2008



Most people are now starting to get back into their groove from the festive season and return to work mode with, hopefully, some great fishing stories to tell after the perfect conditions we have been enjoying.

Inshore fishing has been rewarding with bait fishers turning up some good jacks, fingermark, grunter, salmon and school trevally. Lure fishing has produced tarpon, trevally, jacks, cod and, of course, a few barramundi.

The impoundment fishing has also been good with some monster barras being caught at Tinaroo and further south at Peter Faust Dam. Offshore the bottom fishing has been just great with good coral trout, sweetlip, spangled emperors and mangrove jacks among the catches, as well as nannygai, jobfish and red emperor in the deepwater between the reefs. In the top water a few stray Spaniards have also been captured along with mahi mahi and sailfish.

The wrecks have produced cobia and GT along with some huge barracudas, but in all locations there have been plenty of sharks for anglers to contend with.

Looking ahead this month we should expect the action to be much the same and continue to provide some good action both inshore and offshore, however, we will have to keep a close weather watch as conditions can change quickly at this time of year. The weather forecasters are definitely predicting cyclonic activity ahead.

Take care at this time of year as there are always logs around that have been washed out of the rivers, and hitting one of these especially at night can spell disaster. I have some friends who refuse to travel at night at this time of the year because of this added risk of hitting flood debris.

The start of January usually means for me that we are not too far away from the start of significant flood rains, which in reality are the beginning of the cyclical nature that rejuvenates our wet lands and provides the major stimulus for all living things here in the tropics.

For some time now we have been experiencing a very traditional build up to the wet season with consistent storms and overnight downpours which often put an end to planned fishing trips up the local creeks and rivers. If you are itching to get out there to play with your new Christmas toys, a little bit of research on the overnight rainfall and local conditions can save you some frustration and help in your quest for success.

Arriving at your chosen boat ramp to see the river running high, red and dirty is not what you are looking for. If this happens it can make for a very tough fishing trip and my advice is to wait it out a bit as things usually improve on the low tide change when most of the fresh will have been dumped from the system. It can be a real challenge locating fish in flood conditions and the amount of debris that is about in dubious water clarity can make it a hazardous and costly trip if you are not careful.

The sudden change in salinity from salt to brackish and then pure fresh does put many fish off the bite for a while. Likewise, bait schools gets flushed from the system, so heading to the river mouth and looking for the fresh line is a good option. Look for the colour change between the dirty river water and the bluer ocean water.

Some fish will stay in the river holing up in any protected sections they can find, while many will go out with the flush and return when salinity conditions are more favourable.

There are many species that cope quite well with the rapid salinity changes, particularly demersal opportunists like mangrove jacks and barramundi, so look for these fish in back eddies where the water is not flowing so hard. They will probably not be too far from the cover afforded by new fallen trees and snags that can provide a break from the swift flowing water.

As a general rule if the water is too clear (like bottled gin) then you will probable struggle to get a lot of action. The fish in these conditions are often flighty, can be easily spooked and may not be easily fooled by your offerings. This situation may differ if there happens to be bait around and a tide change is imminent.

When the water is running red and dirty or has those big cloud puffs in it, there is probably a lot of sediment being carried in the water from the speed of the tide or the volume of run off and this is not ideal. For the fish, it would be like trying to walk through a sand storm with no glasses. However, there is no doubt that fish, particularly barramundi, like some colour in the water as this gives them some advantage in their ambush tactics.

For the majority of lure fishing situations in saltwater tidal conditions, the preferred water you are looking for is often called ‘green water’. It looks clean and green but you cannot see the bottom in 2m of water or be able to see the colour of your hooked fish until it is about 1-1.5m under the surface.

Be prepared to travel the sections of the river to find ideal water as conditions can vary over a small area. In the upper or ‘fresh’ sections of the river the water is naturally clearer but still has some colour to it from the natural stains that are leached out.

Once you find the right water to work your lures through, a whole new decision process comes into play for you in choosing lure colour and type, but that topic will have to wait for another time. Till next month, good fishing.

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