All systems go!
  |  First Published: May 2008

It has been an interesting process to watch the last month unfold in the wake of the wet season. After a couple of months of decent rainfall, the system has settled and the fun is just beginning.

The rivers and estuaries in the area turned it on with the mangrove jack leading the charge. They have been easily sourced along mangrove walls with structure by either presenting a juicy fresh slab of fish or flirting a lure in front of their nose. Many bigger varieties over 50cm made their way on to plates over the Easter period and they should keep up their form until this month's expected drop in temperature, around the middle of the month.

The barra followed suit and even though many were just legal and under, they certainly came alive with the abundance of food on offer due to the big wet. With the onset of cooler weather they'll be keen for a little while to fill their bellies before they subdue into their winter slumber. Smaller presentations will be the way to go in regards to lures, and live bait should be on the smaller size, as they'll be wary of woofing down super-sized bait with the dropping water temperature.

They'll settle back to their favourite haunts, such as a bank with some structure, including fallen debris. Where plenty of sun hits the water, keeping the temperature hovering around 24-25C, will keep the barra on the bite. Fish the western banks in the mornings and fish the eastern banks in the afternoon.

The fishing has exploded just offshore around our major headlands where there is a lot of bait dispersed. Scores of big queenfish were reported over a metre, and mixed in with the action were giant trevally, cale cale trevally and a few Spanish mackerel.

Casting poppers over the bait schools or trolling live baits at a very slow pace have proved successful techniques. Hopefully this awesome congregation of fish in a concentrated area lasts for a little while longer. You need fairly calm weather to capitalise on this opportunity and the water clarity needs to be reasonable.

Our beaches fired up simultaneously with a good supply of bait spread along our sands and land-based anglers, using a variety of methods, are catching fish. Some of these species include flathead, dart, trevally, blue salmon, barramundi, small jewfish, whiting, tarpon and the odd prized triple tail or jumping cod. Looking back on previous years, if you want to land a big one on the beach I suggest catching a localised garfish and sending it out wide. Sooner or later a monster queenfish or trevally will hone in and give you the ride of your life.

Offshore, reef reports have been mixed and the better days have occurred leading into the new and full moons. On these days the coral trout have been on fire and as the days start to cool this month, they'll be found in shallower ground.

As for our preferred species, May is when effort will be equally rewarded. Nannygai schools have been finicky over the warmer months but they will snap out of their spell and, as previous years have shown, they will feed voraciously at stages. Red emperor will start to be a more consistent catch for the day and you'll start to see other species, such as spangled emperor, bigger sweetlip, golden trevally and long-nosed emperor, making up the difference of a good days fishing after the initial trout and nannygai.

While reef fishing, it would be sacrilege not to have a live fusilier or at least a floating pilchard out the back under a float. The Spanish mackerel are due to go into overdrive and you'll see more regular catches of steam train reef jack smashing anything presented mid-water. The other likely bonus to be caught on the floating rig could be a cobia. All in all, the reef fishing will be the hot topic in weeks to come.

With the sudden drop in temperature, due to the change in seasons, our rivers and creeks will see the barra and jack slow down but you'll come across more trevally and queenfish. Blue salmon will congregate on mangrove flats along the coast for breeding and the reef fishing will step up a gear. As one door closes another opens, which is the beauty of fishing in the tropics.

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