Getting the finger and lovin’ it!
  |  First Published: November 2007

Kit-Kat chocolates may have come up with the slogan saying give someone the big finger but Townsville fishermen are really taking this to heart with trophy sized fingers hitting the decks regularly.

It is worth mentioning the extremely slow growth rates of fingermark and the fact that they do not breed until they mature at over 50cm. The fact they are schooling fish that spawn around new moons in summer means they can be susceptible to over fishing when they remain one of only a few fish that are targetable for reef and bluewater anglers during coral reef fin fish closures. Take only what you need for your immediate use and release the rest for next year’s stock.

Now I’m off the soap box let’s get into where to find these monsters.

The two most popular areas are Cape Cleveland and West Point. While both spots do regularly produce good fish this doesn’t mean there are not better spots to fish. Cape Bowling Green to the south is also an easy to find and access area but the short car and boat travel tends to put most Townsville anglers off fishing there. The rewards for those dedicated few are well worth the effort though. Live baits of large prawn, mullet, herring or squid fished over rubble or in the deep hole out the front of the sand spit should see you having your arms stretched by fingers, black jew or grunter. Speaking of grunter, if you prefer these to fingermark and black jew, try fishing a little further down past the lighthouse on the seaward side as local mail of late suggests that the deep shale pads here are holding good fish at the turn of the tides.

As we head further north closer to Townsville we will find Bare and Bray islands. These two rocky outcrops are easily found during daylight hours and with deepwater found very close to the islands care may be needed when there is swell about but normally you should be able to find some structure to fish. The southern sides of these islands are deeper and tend to fish better than the shallow areas on the northern sides.

To the west of here you will find Paradise Bay and the small headland in the middle has a rock bar that travels straight out to sea from the coast. On the bigger tides the fingermark often school up here and trolling deep diving lures can be an excellent way to target trophy fish without the mess or hassle of bait fishing.

Travelling further north from here you will find some of the more popular spots including two, four and twenty foot rocks that are named after how much of them sticks out of the water. Salamander Reef just off Cape Cleveland can sometimes be a hassle to find without the aid of a gps, although on most weekends all you need to do is to look for all the other boats.

Closer to Townsville is Magnetic Island and its many headlands offer great fingermark fishing provided you are aware of the position of yellow and green zone areas. There are now plenty of maps available so make sure you know before you go.

Now that we have a few new areas to try the general rule to targeting big fingers is to fish at night because they are nocturnal feeders. Use live baits caught on the way out such as mullet or herring from the creeks or squid caught at the hotspot you have chosen to fish. Just keep in mind if there is no bait at the spot you’ve chosen the chances are there may only be a few fish here, if any at all. So move and find the fish.

Most people around Townsville use heavy gear. This is because of the average size of the fingers and the low down, dirty fighting techniques they often use to bust you off.

I know that there will be readers saying that there are more fish in the ocean other than fingermark and coming into summer can be the best time to catch them.

Well barra are off the market due to spawning closures and should be left to get onto nature’s business, besides everyone writes about barra. Queenfish and trevally will make a big appearance inshore for the creek guys and landbased fishers, and may even become somewhat of a nuisance for some fisherman targeting other species such as grunter. You can try using small greenback herring for bait to steer away from the queenfish schools or if queenies are your thing try live garfish floated out on the top of the tide near any current lines or eddies on the coastline. The two closest examples of this are the rock pool on The Strand or Cape Pallaranda. Trevally are a fish that you are going to have to put up with in the creeks and beaches although many a trip has been deemed a success after finishing the day on a hot session of small trevally. If you find these speedsters schooled up in the creeks try using small lures worked faster than you would for barra or jacks and they should find this irresistible.

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