Magnetic shoals attract pelagics and reefies
  |  First Published: July 2007

Last month 30-knot winds played havoc with offshore fishing trips, although there were some sensational catches recorded during the few calm spells of weather. July should be very similar, with offshore conditions likely to be a hit-and-miss affair.

When the weather has allowed, the Magnetic Island shoals have been living up to their well-deserved reputation, producing excellent catches of Spanish mackerel, large- and small-mouth nannygai, cobia and the odd red emperor. While demersal or bottom-dwelling species have been taken on the bottom, predominantly using paternoster rigs, pelagics such as mackerel have taken a keen interest in metal slices.

Right now any metal lure around four inches long, worked around the bait schools found on the shoals, is just about guaranteed a hook-up. Most anglers will find a small amount of wire is required to prevent bite-offs and it is also worth mentioning that you can never wind fast enough! Speed really is the key to enticing and catching these monsters off Townsville.

Other methods worth trying are floating pillies or gar behind the boat while bottom bouncing for reds or trolling lures and baits. While both of these techniques should produce the goods, high speed spinning is definitely a more proactive way to target mackerel in the current conditions.

However, if you are chasing a real challenge, the coral flats around the Palm Island group just to the north are holding some monster GTs at the moment. The most effective way to target these fish is to drift along the flats throwing big poppers. Look for any schooled-up baitfish or any cruising or crashing fish.

As these flats do not have a lot of high bombies, most of the time you are not required to chase your catch up through the reef. Sometimes the best tactic is to use the boat and actually try to drag them into deeper water. This can be easier said than done!

While the same technique can be used on the outer reefs due to the ledges, drop-offs and large bombies, it is often necessary to chase the fish around the structures to avoid bust-offs and costly lure losses. With this in mind the Palm Island group can be a great place to start out chasing these monsters – the relatively short trip over and abundance of protected waters make it a beginner sportfisher’s paradise.

Closer inshore, school or doggy mackerel have found their way into the Halifax Bay region and as a result the small boat brigade is having a lot of fun early in the morning not too far from the local boat ramps. Those anglers keen on catching a few doggies this winter should try well-known haunts such as West Point, Bay Rock, Burdekin Rock, Cordelia Rock and any wrecks, lumps or patches of weed that you have reliable GPS marks for. It seems that the doggies have not come inside Cleveland Bay to the Alligator Creek weed beds this year, as has been the case for the last couple of years – you have to wonder why?

A consistent berley trail of tuna oil, chook pellets and old cut-up pilchards should convince any wary fish to stay in your target area. When rigging up it is interesting to note that most good small mackerel anglers refuse to use wire on school mackerel. However, remember that a lot of big Spaniards are caught every year as they travel in to feed on the doggies that are being targeted, so some may say it’s better to be safe than sorry. Personally, I don’t use wire as I find that you can catch more doggies, especially when they are finicky.

This season our beaches have been producing great catches of winter whiting and coincidentally, most people targeting them seem to also be hauling in one or two big flathead. Not a bad by-catch to top off the session! The beaches from Cungulla to the mouth of Salmon Creek have had the most significant reports to date, although I suspect the northern beaches will be firing very soon as well.

Live yabbies and prawns have been the pick of the baits. If you are not comfortable with a cast net or don’t have access to a yabby pump, fresh frozen prawns should still catch you a feed of fish.

This may be a great time to improve your skills with the cast net or splash out on a yabby pump from your local tackle store. Although they are a little expensive, they are a good investment when you think about what you pay for your frozen bait. Not to mention the fact that live bait often results in a more consistent and bigger catch!

Inside the creeks it seems that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, with half the anglers complaining the water is too cold for barra and the other half professing it’s their best season yet!

Most people should be aware that during this time of year the barra will be held up hard in the snags and probably only a live prawn dropped on their nose will entice them to bite. And of course, anyone who has tangled with barra will be aware that this is the easy part! Even a barra weighing in at 10lb can be hard work to retrieve when held up in an oyster-encrusted snag. Plenty of fish swim away with the upper hand at this time of year but persistence will see you rewarded – eventually!

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