Offshore Awesome When Weather Allows
  |  First Published: August 2007

Last month 30-knot winds played havoc with some offshore fishing trips. However, a few gaps in the weather gave us some sensational catches.

This month should be similar with offshore conditions being a hit and miss affair. When the weather allows, the Magnetic Island shoals have been living up to their well-deserved reputation. They have produced excellent catches of Spanish mackerel, large and small mouth nannygai, cobia and the odd red emperor thrown in for good measure. The bottom dwelling species have been caught using paternoster rigs, whilst the pelagics have taken a keen interest in metal slices.

At this time of year, for a guaranteed hook-up use any metal lure around 4” long and work around the bait schools on the shoals. Most anglers will find only a small amount of wire is required to prevent bite-offs. Speed really is the key to enticing these monsters off Townsville, so remember that you can never wind fast enough.

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 methods should produce the goods, high speed spinning is a more proactive to target mackerel in the current conditions.

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 tend not to have a lot of high bommies 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. However, this can be easier said than done! The same technique can be used on the outer reefs, but with all the ledges, drop-offs and large bommies it is often necessary to chase the fish around the structure to avoid bust-offs that mean costly lure losses. With this in mind, the Palm Island group can be a great place to start chasing these monsters. The relatively short trip and abundance of protected waters can be a paradise for beginner sportfishers.

Closer inshore school or doggy mackerel have found their way into the Halifax Bay region. 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 known haunts such as West Point, Bay Rock, Burdekin Rock and Cordelia Rock. However, it would appear that the doggies have not come inside Cleveland Bay to the Alligator Creek weed beds. Their absence has been a mystery for the last couple of years.

Anglers will find that 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, take note that good small mackerel fisherman refuse to use wire on school mackerel. Nevertheless, keep in mind that a lot of big Spaniards are caught every year as they travel in to feed on the doggies – so it may be a case of better safe than sorry. Personally, I do not use wire as I find I can catch more doggies this way, especially when they are finicky.

This season our beaches have been producing great catches of winter whiting. Coincidentally, most anglers targeting them seem to also be hauling in one or two big flathead during their trips – not a bad 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 not be far off firing as well.

Live yabbies, pumped or freshly caught prawns (either dead or alive) have been the pick of the baits. However, if you are not comfortable with a cast net or do not have access to a yabby pump, fresh frozen prawns should still result in a respectable catch of fish.

This may also be a great time to skill up with the cast net and lash out on a yabby pump from your local tackle store. Despite the initial expense, they are a good investment when compared with the long-term costs of frozen bait. The addition of live bait often results in a more consistent and notable catch.

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

Most anglers are aware that during this time of the year the barra will be held up hard in the snags. The only enticement to make them bite is a live prawn dropped on their nose. Anyone who has tangled with barra before will be aware that is the easy part! Even a barra weighing in at around 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 the year but persistence will see you eventually rewarded.

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