|  First Published: December 2005

A few storms and hot weather mean mudcrabs, mangrove jack and impoundment barramundi will, hopefully, all be on the menu over the holiday break.

There are only a few more weeks till the open barra season kicks off again so it’s a good time to get your gear together. This season should be a great one if all the barra sighted this month are any indication.

Soon you can tune your skills at Awoonga or other impoundments where barra are feeding actively at the moment. Awoonga Dam has turned it on big time and almost all the local barra fishermen have been there at some stage. All reports say the fish keep on getting bigger. Being only an hour and a half from Yeppoon it falls well within range for an afternoon trip.

The best times to fish Awoonga are at sun up and sun down. The big barras go for deep divers along the tree lines when there is still a bit of light. Use shallow divers cast on the banks just before the sun rises or after it goes down. The preferred time of the month is around either side of the moon. Talk to the guys at the caravan park or the rangers for tips.

Jacks have been busy in The Causeway Lake and the Port Alma end of the Fitzroy River. These popular estuarine muggers are smash and grab merchants who rely on ambush tactics. They like to hide and wait for a feed to pass within range. Mangrove jack will readily take lures such as small Reidy’s and Richos. The last of the run out and the start of the run in is a good time to target jacks in the creeks.

Keep an eye out for submerged logs and rockbars where baitfish can take cover. The mouths of run-off creeks with any features are worth a shot. Fingermark and barramundi often grab baits or lures intended for mangrove jack. Live bait accounts for a large share of jacks and anything from greenback herring, yorkies, prawns and poddy mullet are likely to get savaged.

Some rain could be just what we needed to give the mudcrabs a boost. They’ve been very hit and miss right across the area. You would think something that produces a few million eggs a year would be around in numbers everywhere, however newborn muddies can’t handle living in the estuaries so they live out in the ocean until their next stage before coming in to grow. In the ocean they’re part of the diet for stacks of critters, so we only get to see a very small percentage of the original hatch.

Overhanging mangrove branches, creek junctions and deeper channels all produce crabs depending on the stage of the season. Some crabbers look for fresh diggings along the banks when the tide is down a little, or look at the leaves on the mangroves to see if the crabs are feeding in that creek. Apparently when muddies are active they disturb the roots of the mangroves and the leaves change colour. Another theory is that if you get jennies on one side of the creek then bucks should be on the other side. There seems to be more theories than muddies so don't do too much thinking, just grab the pots and give it a go.

If you don’t get any crabs in your traps, keep moving them until you do. Net pots out perform steel mesh crabpots by a considerable margin, which is why professionals use net pots. The baits used most often are mullet, catfish, meaty fish frames (not freshwater fish), chook frames and even pillies. We’ve tried everything from bream to mackerel and mullet and found that it doesn't make much difference, however the fresher the bait the more crabs in the pot. Fresher bait lets out more scents that attract crabs, so refresh your baits occasionally. Work your pots about every hour or so. The best muddies are rusty brown coloured, the greener ones are generally empty and not worth taking home.

Apart from mudcrabs the main estuaries have quietened down with the onset of the heat. There are a few flathead, bream, whiting, salmon and queenies all over the place but nowhere in particular.

Small prawns have been caught in some of the creeks and in coming weeks there will probably be some big prawns about. The amount of rain in the immediate future will determine where they are going to be. Greenslopes, Solero, Statue Bay, Coorooman Creek and The Fitzroy are the top prawn spots. The prawns always fire on the high tide at Statue Bay.

Grunter have gone into hiding with only a few caught of late. Last year grunter were at Manifold, The Pinnacles and The Barge for outside specialists. For estuary guys they were at Waterpark Creek, The Fitzroy River, Coorooman Creek and The Causeway Lake.

Take the kids down and hit the beaches where swallowtail dart are everywhere. Everyone I know that fished with yabbies or beachworms caught decent dart this week. Even the mouth of Ross Creek was working well. They prefer spots with a bit of wash, so the afternoons when the northeasterly is blowing can be the most productive.

Mackerel and the reef fishes were going off their heads leading up to Christmas and this should continue throughout January.

Plenty of great reports came in from everywhere this month. Places with any sort of rubble patches or solid reef areas are firing. Stacks of red emperor and red jew (small or large mouth nannygai and scarlet sea perch) are being caught at many locations including Iron Pot and Liza Jane – even The Pinnacles have shown great returns! The schools of these smaller reds might move on in the mean time and we will be left with plenty of sweetlip, parrot and trout to take their place.


1. Tim Lewis with a Coorooman Creek mudcrab.

2. James Shaw caught this red emperor out from Yeppoon.

3. Gary Rooks with a barramundi he scored at Awoonga.

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