Lay Claims on Calm Days
  |  First Published: August 2008

It has certainly been windy later and these trademark southeasterlies can kick in for weeks at a time minimising access to the outer reef, especially for smaller craft. However, there are still pockets of decent weather, though only minimal, and these are the times anglers should be dropping everything and going fishing.

Good news for those able to head offshore: the Spanish mackerel are around in solid numbers and it should be a bumper season. Locally, the barometer for Spanish mackerel is when Satellite Reef and Pratt Rock fire with mackerel. Both these have been producing well for sometime.

The best conditions for mackerel are clean water and bright sunshine on slightly broken water at sunrise. Fishing through the tide turns can also be productive at any stage of the day. Trolled garfish and lures at various depths allows you to cover a lot of ground and once you've sourced a mac or two there should be numbers of them around.

Most of the macs to date have been around 8-10kg, which may seem small, but these are the best eating. Bigger species will turn up as the mackerel season progresses. If you are bottom fishing, never forget to have a floater out the back as this can be the most productive of all. A live fusilier suspended mid water in the slightest of berley trails is dynamite. The Spanish just can't refuse.

For those a bit more adventurous and fishing in calm conditions, Opal Ridge on the shelf has produced some quality yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel but word is the shark numbers are thick. It is recommended to up the size of your gear if possible, enabling you to retrieve any tuna as quickly as possible. Lighter gear allows for line to be peeled off the reel, and though this can be fun, the chances increase dramatically for the tuna to turn into a shark.

The reef fishing in the right conditions has been very positive with nannygai feeding well in 30m plus waters. Mixed in amongst the large and small mouth nannygai are more catches of red emperor, giant trevally and golden trevally. The only main concern with the reds is that sharks are red hot on their tail at the moment and they can ruin a good fishing session. Sometimes the good old 80lb handline is the best and quickest way to get your fish to the boat before they are mauled down below. Many anglers prefer rods, but the extra give they provide and the slower retrieval of line only gives sharks more opportunity. Common sense should always prevail in this situation.

The coral trout are now easy pickings in a variety of depths, but they are most prevalent in shallower conditions, allowing even the most inexperienced angler the opportunity to catch a great feed for the family. Spangled emperor and trevally species, such as bludger and tealeaf, are on the move and one shouldn't be surprised if they turn up all of a sudden and take over a certain spot. Even though they are not at the top of the table, they certainly provide great fun.

The inshore scene has naturally done it harder in recent times but there is still some decent fish lurking around. The best bet is to plan your fishing session to coincide with a tide change, especially if you are targeting barra, fingermark and jacks around deep isolated snags. If you have a depth sounder look for those pockets of water that have a higher temperature.

Around the full and new moon the tide changes are usually the first and last thing in the day with a run-out tide all day. If fishing the run-out tide during the middle parts of the day, target grunter, golden trevally, smaller GT and queenfish at the drop-offs into the channel and at the end of the sandbars. Use fresh dead bait as well as livies with a gentle berley trail.

If a calm day presents itself, it is worth scouting the local headlands, river mouths and islands for queenfish. Trolling lures, live baiting and casting poppers have seen locals score those bigger queenfish we all dream of latching onto. The new and full moon periods on those early morning high tides are the choice time to explore this option.

Another tip for the inshore brigade is to lay some crab pots during your trip. Locals are sourcing a great feed over the cooler months and keeping old fish frames and heads to use as bait has the potential to turn into one of the north's finest delicacies.

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