Going after Grunter
  |  First Published: October 2007

It looks like the mango winds are here again. This tends to be the best time to buy a second hand reef boat. It may not be the best time to own one as these winds tend to blow for weeks on end with no let up in sight. I know quite a few reef anglers who believe only two good things come out of the creeks: boat ramps and mudcrabs! So they wouldn’t even consider dirtying the boat for some estuary fish.

The loss is all theirs. While we will have to deal with dirty water I can tell you that the fishing is still worth the effort for those keen souls.

Last month’s full moon began the grunter runs, which will continue for some time. From concentrating on the changes of tide I can say the grunter are usually the last fish in the creeks and the first fish out. Armed with this knowledge we can pick and choose from the best set of tides for each day. Remember, grunter are a nocturnal feeder so try to fish the night tides.

As with most northern areas that are hard fished, live baits are going to be the best option. However, you should be able to get away with dead baits of herring, squid, prawn and mullet.

The mouths of Crocodile, Cocoa and Alligator creeks should produce plenty of fish. These creeks tend to fish better than most when the breeze is up. Please take special care when travelling across Cleveland Bay in high winds as it is still a fair distance from Townsville over to these creeks. If you’re not confident in your vessel or its handling, do not risk it, wait for a break in the weather.

The more southern creeks can also fish well and have much easier access points like the Haughton, Morrissey or the Barattas. Look for rubble pads, fallen timber or distinct drop offs as a starting point. In low light conditions you will also find feeding fish venturing up into the shallows of sandbars.

The real beauty of picking a target species like grunter can often be the by catch encountered fish. Species such as salmon, bream, cod, and even the odd barra can be caught tailing along with the grunter.

While the water is still warming up the barramundi have already made their presence felt, in particular, Cattle creek to the north of town. Hard-bodied lures trolled over deep snags on the falling tides appear to have the most consistency. Although if you’re looking for a more relaxed approach, live baiting drop-offs and holes should also send you home with a feed. Try to fish your baits from up current at varying depths along the wall of your chosen spot.

Creeks closer to Townsville should also start to fire up with the water temperature. They are well worth sussing out before closures are upon us again. If you’re just looking for a quick fix and not interested in eating your catch, work the full and dark moons on the Ross river weirs as they have been heavily stocked and regularly produce monster fish. The downside is the fish tend to taste very weedy from the fresh water and it’s clarity. A catch and release policy is almost mandatory.

Remember, whether you’re fishing the creeks north or south of our fair city, try to get out of the wind. Fish the spots that are still, I know this is not always possible or practical and sometimes you just have to grin and bare it. In times like these, the quality of your bait, the subtleness of the presentation and the size of your terminal tackle can be the difference between success and failure.

Watch the weather just in case we do get a few flat days this month. The Spanish mackerel are starting to head towards rib reef for their annual spawn in early November. There should also be plenty of fish around the bottom end of the palm group of islands. Troll to work the submerged rocks quickly and to find where the fish are feeding. Alternatively the reef fishing will also heat up as they to get ready to spawn, but there will be limited opportunities to get out amongst 25 knot winds. Good luck!

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