Weather to make or break monster catches
  |  First Published: August 2007

August in central Queensland provides some of the best all round weather, giving anglers the chance to get in amongst this season’s fish. Quieter conditions and a clearer bay mean large mackerel will definitely be moving in over the coming weeks providing we don't get a big blow.

Doggie mackerel and ribbonfish were the word on the street of late. There was only one slight problem: the mackerel were smaller than the ribbonies. Several reports told of doggies schooling under the boat with many being undersized or barely legal. The quality fish didn't get a look in as both ribbonfish and small dogs are grabbing lures and pillies before they get deep enough.

On the bright side though, the schools of big dogs are on their way into the bay. Providing the weather plays out well they'll be here in coming weeks with spotties not far behind them. Findlay's is fishing well providing you can get past the sharks. Blacktip reef sharks have been schooling at several close reefs, however with any luck they will only be a short-term hazard.

Ribbonies have been an easy catch at most of the close mackerel spots and more often than not they can be a nuisance to anyone after a feed of mackerel. That means time to stock the freezer with great baits as spanish numbers are on the rise towards Christmas. Wolfies or ribbonies should be packed individually in newspaper then in a sealed bag making sure each fish is laid as flat as possible. Some guys like to rig three or four including trace before freezing so that they can set up before they defrost without wasting time if the fish are on. Small Flashas, feather jigs and minnow style in bright flouro, gold or chrome do the job well. Live baits work with a very low hook-up rate so at least with a lure they can keep hitting it until they get stuck or they throw it along side of the boat. Keep a rag handy because ribbonfish’s other name is snotty and the slime is chronic.

Queenfish (skinnies) have come back on the chew at Corio Bay and around the islands providing top sportfish action and a tasty meal. The easiest spot to catch a queenfish is at the hole created where the big boats drop tourists onto the beach at Great Keppel. When the boats push up onto the beach and back out again they stir up the sand attracting schools of hardiheads and herrings. At times, this inturn brings in stacks of big predators ranging from bonefish, most of the tropical trevally species to some of the biggest queenies in central Queesnland. When the boats stop to reload, the bait hangs thickly down each side trying to seek cover and a feed at the same time. I use a plastic that resembles a hardy, which shines brilliantly over the white sand and gin clear water where most fish find it irresistible.

In the estuaries I can’t raise a scale. The Corio Headlands, including the jew, hole hold plenty of decent queens sometimes turning black as the fish school up for spawning. Flashas, poppers and soft plastics seem to work as well as hardiheads and herring.

Reefies continue to be worth a crack and like mackerel they feed much better when there is no westerly. Many of the offshore anglers in the last few weeks have said that the early westerlies closed down the bite but as soon as the wind direction changed the fish started biting. The red emperor, red jew, parrot, coral trout, cod and sweetlip were far more obtainable, especially in close. Blackjew and grunter remain hard to find in quantity, although you don’t need too many for a feed anyway

Big bream have been a feature once again. You can find them almost everywhere there is a saltwater creek, from Corbett's to The Kelly's Landing area of Waterpark Creek, Fishing Creek, Corio Bay, The Bluff Rocks, Ross Creek, Stevenson's Rocks, Wreck Point, Double Heads, The Causeway, Coorooman Creek, Pumpkin Creek) and The Fitzroy River. Flathead, the odd grunter and salmon are also increasing in numbers.

On those still and foggy early high-tide mornings, when you’re cruising up a quiet creek, try putting out a shallow diver over one side and a deeper diver on the other. Stacks of fish are on the prowl with salmon, trevally and steelies working the surface eddies. Steelbacks used to be just a by-catch and now have gained a healthy following from locals when fishing is tough in the local creeks. Coorooman Creek is not a bad place to try, especially when the tide is running towards high – it has plenty of sheltered areas perfect for trolling when it is windy elsewhere. They are far better to eat than lots of other better-known species. It pays to only keep the bigger steelies as it is hard to get a meal from the smaller fish.

Leave no hole unbunged…

I have a mate we call ‘weatherman’ (WM). Whenever there is half a chance to escape for a fish, his weather predicting talent rears its ugly head. The phone rings and gets answered to a seriously enthusiastic voice telling me the wind has dropped out – and from where he sits there is no swell or chop in sight. The whole crew has a chat and a look at the BOM site where conditions appear to be steady without any ease in sight. Once again WM gets the benefit of the doubt because he lives across the road from the water.

From the time we hit the water the wind picks up, the swell and chop grow – a pounding seems to be the order of the day whenever WM says fine and flat.

And so WM just bought a new boat to avoid the pounding. After towing it back from Melbourne and working the next few days, the weekend could not come fast enough. This time, every weather station reported the conditions to be great with only a little westerly to flatten any leftover chop. We rush to do a full check, run the motors, fill the tanks, get the bait then meet the other boats at the harbour by 3:15am. As we did the final loading I asked if the self-draining floor had closing scuppers or were they high enough not to worry? A 50mm hole coming out below water level didn’t seem right. But I was assured it was a self-draining hull.

The boat started with one of the motors running a bit rough so we warmed it up on the way to the entrance. At this stage I asked why there was water around my feet and again the reply was “don’t worry it’s self-draining”.

WM decided to turn back and check for a now evident fuel leak before venturing out. The water coming in started to get very worrying and we only just got the boat back on the trailer as the port motor cowl started to go under. With long faces we put the boat back on the trailer and headed home. Once daylight arrived we’d be able to fix the problems and try again.

In retrospect we developed a few new rules: leave no hole unbunged and on a maiden voyage wait until daylight. The end result was one of the best riding boats of any size under 30ft for local conditions I have ever been in. Next trip lets hope there’s no more teething problems – touch wood.

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