Shooting for the Shallows
  |  First Published: August 2008

The cool month of August should offer plenty of great fishing for various species around the fringing reefs, in the dam and in the bluewater.

Below are some options and ideas for fishing the Whitsundays during these colder months.

Shallow reef fishing

One handy technique to know for this area involves casting soft plastics to the fringing coral reefs – any reef structure which grows off island edges. The Whitsunday islands have lots of this type of reef and it’s a great place for many fish species to live and feed.

Coral bommies and shallow reef ledges can be great spots to explore as many fish hang underneath them in the shade and cover. We sometimes go snorkelling around the reef edges and usually when we swim under a dark ledge or under a bommie we nearly always see large fish, like coral trout, sitting underneath.

A great time to fish shallow fringing reefs with plastics is when the tide is low with some current. At low tide, most of the shallow coral flats drain so the baitfish are pushed out and concentrate on drop-off edges, usually pressing up in schools around coral bommies. The predatory fish often take advantage of this and feed on any bait unfortunate enough to make a move past them – this is the perfect time for a slowly sinking soft plastic.

Plastics like wrigglers, worms and shad styles will be very effective on these edges. Pre-rigged soft plastics in the lighter range also do equally well and are great with a slow sink and hop retrieve close to cover.

Try using a light spin rod and reel, 5-20lb braid and 10-20lb fluorocarbon leader. Light jigheads are also great for the plastics.

Island hopping

Having so many islands around this area, a fishing strategy called island hopping is always very effective. This involves driving around the islands by boat and getting off at fishy looking areas with the aim to fish from the edges.

If you are in a group of anglers, then some should get off to fish from the shore while the others can fish out of the boat. This can be a really fun way of fishing as you get to watch your friends catch fish.

Large rocky headlands or isolated rocks that rise out of the deep are great areas to get started from. The further out you go in the Whitsundays the better the fishing generally is, it has some amazing land-based fishing around the outer islands.

The great thing about this technique is that you can fish for a range of different fish. From small tuskfish on fly wading in the shallow sandy bays to huge GT on stickbaits and poppers around the fast flowing deep rocky headlands. There are lots of species to catch while fishing the islands on foot.

Trolling shallow

Trolling is also a productive technique for fishing the saltwater and Peter Faust Dam, especially if you are on a sailing boat.

The shallow reef edges, flats and rocky points are all successful trolling areas. Small slice type lures are very effective and they can attract a variety of fish from tuna to coral trout.

In the dam, the cool main basin water can sometimes be a difficult fishing spot, however, if you have a quality sounder that displays bait you can catch fish perfectly well. Using a quality sounder can make all the difference as they can pick up the smallest bait showing and make it much easier to see what’s happening below.

Try to troll around areas with lots of bait – the more you see of it the better the chance of a barramundi. Having three rods with different lengths of line out is a good technique to get overall coverage. Match the lure depth with the bait shown and give it a lot of time, the lures will eventually go past a feeding barramundi.

Once again the light pre-rigged soft plastics work very well trolling for barramundi – they get down to a good depth on a slow troll and have a nice movement.

They are also successful when trolling around feeding birds on the surface. In this situation, letting out around 10m of line and trolling with the electric motor around the area is a great option.

There will sometimes be barramundi searching for food on top of the water column among the birds and by trolling the soft plastic close to the boat, it will keep it up shallow and in the zone.

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