Threadfin salmon continue to be active in the Fitzroy with plenty of fish over 800mm. These fish have come on in big numbers as the river cleared after the rain out west and the town reaches have a high proportion of the catches either day or night.
Several times in the previous weeks they have been boiling downstream of the 400m barrage limit. There were a few landed on lures, but by far live prawns produced the best. The ease of collecting big live prawns in the hot months gives anyone a chance to score a trophy salmon. Under the town jetties and wharves or along the mud flats at the end of the run-out and the start of incoming tide prawns hide in the dirty edges of the water. A couple of casts with the net and you have enough bait for a decent session. Salmon use the colour changes as an ambush point and this is where to start looking as a rule.
Fingermark and mangrove jack have been taken much further up the river than years gone by. The area right up to Gavial Creek from Casuarina and the cut through has had unprecedented captures of these fine fish. Earlier this month, Ken Richardson landed a 750mm fingermark in the Fitzroy River on one of his own lures (Richo’s).
The pick location for anyone beginning to fish the river for fingermark is The Narrows. Local anglers troll the many rock bars and rubble patches using lures that occasionally touch the bottom. Normally the deeper holes are preferred but while there are a lot of prawns in the creek mouths fingermark and jacks can be landed in shallow areas with a bit of cover. On a recent flathead hunt there were more fingermark scored than flatties. The area right across the incoming tide and against mangroves in as little as 300mm deep produced well when using soft prawn imitations. This added a new dimension to an area where weather plays a big part.
It is hard to swap from the hardbody lures like Mann’s 20+ or Richo’s when they have been so successful in the past.
The Causeway Lake is the most consistent spot for mangrove jack in the whole Yeppoon/Rockhampton region. There appears to be a regular supply nearly all year with December and January topping out. One or two of the locals use lures from the causeway bridge on the run through (tides over 3.8) for jacks and when in season, barramundi. The run through is when the water rises above the containment level coming into the lake very much like a wet season run-off from the flats into the main stream. The noise and activity when the run through occurs triggers all the fish in the lake to come on the chew. Trevally, pike, bream, whiting, fingermark and flathead are among the usual catches at anytime. There is no need for a boat because much of the best fishing is from the shore along the beaches and rock walls. The Causeway is a school holiday special and is definitely kid safe and friendly with public conveniences and a top kiosk right there.
Remember the coral reef finfish closures are from December 3 - 11. Spanish and any of the lesser mackerels, grunter, cobia, queenies, trevally, jew and tuna are all still on the menu throughout the closure. Once the closure is over, look for the right weather and go. This time of year you can grab a decent feed of reefies in close enough for the average boat to get to them. The redfish varieties are a special and as usual coral trout are pretty active too. Sweetlip, cod and parrot will be right around Keppel Island’s many reef and rock patches. The Keppels’ beaches have a selection much the same as Corio Bay including bream, whiting, queenfish, golden, giant, bludger and tea leaf trevally at your feet. Use a cast net to catch your bait there. Hardiheads, gar and herring school up along the sandy areas beside most of the headlands, creeks and where the big boats drop the tourists.
Over the last year or so I have received plenty of emails from readers asking me about live baiting. The majority of the emails were about the hook size and placement. Live baits can provide lots of entertainment as well as a good feed when other methods have failed. Target species, current speed and the size of the intended bait are some of the influences that dictate the correct positioning. When there is little movement in the water and we are using floats, then rigging halfway down the bait’s back lets the bait move freely in any direction therefore covering a wider area. There is no point rigging the livey hooked half way down the back in a roaring tide because it is likely to spin or hang and badly reducing the chance of attracting the predators. I like to rig small poddy mullet with a fair size lead, a swivel and a metre long mono trace hooking them just above the anal fin. By positioning it right next to a snag or a structure the bait will try to reach the shelter attracting any bigger critters in the vicinity.
More often than not a baitfish hooked through the lip will survive longer and sit quite comfortably in any fishable run. If the live bait is over 100mm a stinger hook placed just at the back of the dorsal fin gives added hook-up potential. There are a few ways of connecting the stinger hook but I find the best is by starting the first hook as a snood hook, take the line through the eye and tie it down the shaft with a uni knot leaving a long tail that hangs straight down the shaft. The next step is tying the back hook at a length so that it’s not too short and inhibiting the movement of the bait or creating too much slack. We use large prawns whenever we can get them and the best place to hook a live prawn is in the joint of the second last segment before the tail. This method doesn’t restrict the prawn’s movement and allows it to hang in a natural position. Many of the areas in the river where you find barramundi there is bream and catfish in numbers, so it pays to put a prawn under a float instead of on a bottom rig as this reduces the amount of bait wastage.
The main hook we have been using for a couple of years is a mustard circle hook. These hooks work differently and make for easier release and less dropped fish. The majority of hook-ups occur right in the corner of the mouth around the jaw. This ensures that once the fish has taken the bait it is well hooked with the line clear of the mouth resulting in a high rate of capture and very easy hook removal. A mouth hooked fish has a far greater survival rate compared to a gut or gill hooked fish when they have to be put back. If you feel the need to strike to set a circle hook forget it. Chances are you’ll pull the hook out before it gets a chance to sink in. Just let the hook do its job and be patient for a fraction longer – just ease the pressure on and don’t strike. My favourite rear hook is a heavy-duty 2/0 treble with one point just under the skin and the other two pointing either side of the fish. This increases the catch rate considerably with predator species toying with it instead of smashing the bait.
Have a great Christmas.Reads: 1978