Winter so far has produced some reasonable weather, with the extended blows of southeasterlies keeping away. Hopefully this trend continues, but if not be prepared to fish whenever conditions allow. When the weather does become undesirable, inshore areas seem to remain quite calm and fishable from even the smallest tinnies.
Many of the reefs, even the close ones, have been producing good catches. While coral trout may be the target for most reef anglers, mixed in with the trout have been different reef species. Those willing to float out pilchards while bottom bouncing have been rewarded with good-sized Spanish mackerel, and as the winter chills come in, you can expect these catches to increase.
Most of the mackerel are located at the reef platforms and around the shoals closer in. They seem to be school fish as the majority of catches are around the 10kg mark. But not to worry, the big ones are not far away. Regular anglers at Cape Cleveland are trolling up the odd horse so it is well worth digging out the old wolfie rigs and wog heads, dusting them off and giving them a swim.
The Maggie Island shoals are holding sizable red emperor and large mouth nannygai. When the weather reports are favourable small tinnies in the 5m bracket are making a dent in the population of these species. Some reds have been reported to be over the 12kg mark, as have the cobia that are also regular catches in the same areas. Early morning starts or evening fishing will be the most productive and well worth the lost sleep.
Closer in, the headlands and small islands are holding large Spanish mackerel but the big buzz is around the great year we are having catching big grunter. All of a sudden grunter over the 70cm mark are no longer rare – hopefully this will continue. Please keep only what you can eat and let the rest go. No one is impressed if you kill 150 grunter just because you can, it just makes you no better than a gillnetter in my book. Try fishing the top of a flooding tide on the ledges on the back side of your headland so as to be out of the current but still working rubble and shell grit. Do not be scared to move around and find the fish, don’t sit in one place catching nothing all day!
The estuaries should also produce a few surprises this month with massive schools of blue and threadfin salmon being caught in most of our closer creeks. Live prawn have been the best bait lately so learning to use a cast net is mandatory for those wishing to cash in what seems to be a result of the yellow zones out the front of many creeks in the north. This prevents gillnetting and is allowing the fish to reach the creeks. Other creek species are also having a bumper year such as grunter, jack, bream and jew.
Barra fishing is also starting to hit its pins this month as the fish are getting used to the cooler temperatures. With high tides after lunch fish the shallower systems, such as the Barratteas or the Haughton. Morning high tides are better fished in deeper areas like Morrissey’s creek. This is all about the smallest change of temperature switching on the fish to eat. If we get an extended period of warmer weather slightly warming the water, fish rock bars and open shale pads if we continue along with cooler water temps fish hard in heavy snags or structure.
Beach fishing in north Queensland has really had resurgence in the last couple of years. Whether this is because of the rising fuel or boat costs, the quality of fish available or the number of southern fishers now calling Townsville home, I don’t know.
Regardless, it is good to see families down on the beachfront chasing whiting, bream and flathead. If you venture down after dark you may just discover a well-kept secret about the quality of the grunter fishing after dark around the top of the tide. Most families are fishing the day tides and are finding good feeds of bread and butter species such as bream, grunter, flathead and whiting. But as always you will never catch anything sitting at home reading this, so pull a sickie, take days off or holidays and get fishing!Reads: 1155