Winter Variety Bucket
  |  First Published: August 2008

What a winter it’s been. So far the fishing around Townsville has been red hot. Offshore trips have been few and far between but inshore patches have made up for the rough weather.

Local Spanish mackerel expert Dave Dewitt (or Dave the twit) has been having a lot of success around cape Cleveland. Dave’s method is well worth noting, as he has been consistently pulling macks over 20kg in the middle of the day from hard fished water.

Dave said that most other boats pass or go around him while on a trolling run and they seem to be running gar on or near the surface. This has been an effective method of catching Spanish in the past and earlier this winter, but this is not the case at the moment. By trolling wolf herring very slowly on chin guards or on the new swimming heads released by Mick Meirs, Dave has found success.

By using wolfies as troll baits the fish hit the water swimming instead of just trolling straight behind the boat. These rigs are easy to assemble and to further improve his hook rate Dave runs hooks down both sides of the big baits. Queenfish in plague proportions attacking the baits are a regular complaint of Dave’s. But if a known speedster, like a queenie is content to smack his baits at slow speeds, it proves the motion of the bait swimming triggers a response very similar to that of a live fish and is worth the expense.

We should see the same results this month as well with a continued run of big Spanish inshore and school sized macks on the shoals, wrecks and reefs out wide. Try Cape Cleveland, Orchard, Bare, Bray, Albino and Chillcott Rocks for the big macks and Shark Shoal or the mack patches for smaller better eating Spanish. Most of the Maggie shoals that hold bait will also hold Spanish, but the former I’ve mentioned are the most well known and are still producing good fish.

Closer in around the western side of Maggie and into Halifax Bay big schools of doggies have made their presence felt and the small tinnie brigade are loving it. We had a very mixed season on doggies last year but the season is looking like a bumper.

The key to successful doggie fishing is frequent berleying. Most fishers swear by a secret family recipe, but cut or mashed up pilchards soaked in tuna oil and chook pellets are the base for most berley recipes and will work well on their own without voodoo and witchcraft sometimes practiced to create said secret berley.

Once you have a berley trail flowing nicely, work pilchards at different depths through the trail to find where the macks are feeding. Multiple rods with different rigs and sinkers are ideal for this type of fishing, but if you are fishing in a yellow zone you must stick to only one rod and work single baits through the water column to find your school. Remember to take only what you can eat as doggies don’t tend to freeze well and are a great fish to catch next time you hit the water.

Back onshore, the beach has been buzzing with big whiting and flathead this winter. While beach fishing is not every North Queenslander’s cup of tea, there are plenty of readers who comment on the quality of the beach fishing here in the north. Certainly my kids have become big fans this winter, as we have been trying to outdo each other in the biggest flathead stakes, but at the moment I am not winning so I don’t want to talk about it.

In all seriousness the quality of the fish on the beaches north and south of town are well worth the effort of walking the sand for a fishing fix. Rumour has it that the great Gary Powis has even been threatened to have a throw or two on the beach. Something special must be happening when celebrities start fishing the beach. For a good feed of whiting, flatties and maybe a bream try fishing a full incoming tide with freshly pumped yabbies. If grunter are your thing a fresh mullet strip is hard to go past as a top bait.

It is still worth mentioning the great run of threadfin salmon in the creeks this year, with the shallower systems seem to be producing the most consistent big threadies. Live prawn baits have been the terminal bait, although lately the threadies have been showing preference for fresh strip mullet. Try the Haughton or the Bohle for easy access, but better results can be expected from creeks and rivers harder to get to such as cattle or bomber creeks.

Those keen on pulling a lure around have found a few salmon in the shallower waterways, while trolling the deeper systems will produce the fingermark and barra. Morrissey’s creek is probably the best place to look for some red-hot winter sessions. Remember to troll as slow as humanly possible and even kick out of gear and work your lures hard once they are over some good looking structure.

Those dedicated few hand casters chasing barra have found good numbers of reasonable fish hanging off the headlands. Shallow diving rattlers have been the order of the day or if you’re a plastic nut any 3” or 4” Shad will work but resist the temptation of running a stinger hook. The area you are fishing may be shallow or rocky and a snagged lure could spook your quarry.

Reports coming in from the worm drowners are unreal. There are plenty of big prawns in the creeks and lots of barra holding up on snags. One family friend has been returning from Morrissey’s every second weekend with a couple of barra. He wanted to remain anonymous for fear of some jealous Townsville anglers handicapping him. So if you see a bloke in Morrissey’s with a bloody big grin and a silly looking blue boat follow him around all day and see where he is fishing!

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