Head to reef for winter bounty
  |  First Published: July 2008

As we enter into the midst of our coolest time of year in the tropics a lot of the focus has now turned to fishing our outer reef systems, as our rivers only offer bread and butter species.

The outer reefs fish more consistently at this time of year as the trademark southeasterly winds take hold and providing the winds stay below the 15 knot mark trailer boat expeditions can be quite productive. After locating selected rubble patches and bommies, anchoring back on these spots is made easier by the predictable wind direction and the current running north at most locations.

All our prized reef fish have been biting consistently with catches of coral trout, nannygai, large and small mouth, sweetlip, reef jack, red and spangled emperor, mackerels and a variety of trevallies. If you found your favourite haunts were quieter over the warmer months you can be almost assured they'd be firing now. Combination baits of pilchard, squid and hard bait are all that is needed to secure a good feed. If you know you are onto a nannygai spot, extra squid on your hook will never get rejected and seems to keep the school on the aggressive side.

The only downside to the reef fishing is the extra attention of sharks at the moment. If the 'greenies' believe shark populations are dwindling on the Great Barrier Reef I'd like to take them on one of local charters to show them they are in solid numbers. Some days only a third of a catch will make into the boat in one piece with the rest going to the numerous sharks below.

A big bonus at this time of year is the improved size and number of Spanish mackerel kicking around. For live bait, a floating pilchard is most productive, but if you encounter significant spikes with bait congregating on top in 20m plus of water, trolling surface and diving lures are better used. There are a lot around the 6-8kg mark but persistence will see you nail the bigger ones up to 15- 20kg and beyond. Trolling efforts will also see you come across plenty of sharky mackerel in the mix, which to some are a good catch.

As mentioned our rivers and creeks are not as productive for preferred targeted species such as barramundi and bigger mangrove jack but there is plenty of other species on offer. Good-sized queenfish and trevally are venturing further upstream on the spring tides and presenting a juicy sardine in the channels will receive attention as they move in with the tide. Lure and fly presentations are best served concentrating around islands and bends that have the current hitting their face. Here you'll find bait schooling and ultimately a few nice fish lurking nearby.

Grunter, morwong, sicklefish and quality sized bream are the most dominant species at the moment and using fresh peeled prawn or yabbies will keep you entertained for most of your session. Rock walls, pylons and timbered structures are best for your bream, sicklefish and smaller grunter while the flats will yield better quality grunter on a moderate incoming tide and preferably during low light periods. Also a fresh slab of fish fillet or dead sardine is worth using for these bigger grunter and don't be surprised if you latch onto the odd blue salmon which fight extremely hard in shallow water.

If the days are calm in July, fishing the array of beaches in the area using a peeled prawn will see you engaging with swallowtail dart, whiting and trevally species. If you have a cast net try and source some local mullet or garfish from the beach. Quite often on calm days monster GT and queenfish frequent the foreshore on an incoming tide. If you are using live bait you'll have to expect your standard catch of smaller black tip reef and spinner sharks.

If the weather is calm get offshore, if not you'll still see good action up the creek where it is also definitely worth the effort to lay a couple of crab pots as well.

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