Spring Species Push On
  |  First Published: September 2008

The last of the cooler days just seem to be clinging on. Nevertheless, spring is trying to push through, which means more of the summer species are showing up.

September is normally the pick of the months for spotted mackerel. After a few earlier appearances, the regular run of spotties should start turning up at Quartz Rock. This is usually their first stop in-close and in big quantity. When the water temp rises and the first of the spring northerlies come in, so do the spotties. Let’s hope they keep their appointment and bring along some mates.

We never saw the usual big runs of doggies and Spanish mackerel that were expected to arrive sometime over winter. We know they have been past because of reports coming from north and south of the area. Stanage Bay, just north of Yeppoon, has had a fine time producing plenty of bragging rights with all types of mackerel, and down south from Gladstone to Bustard heads has been much the same. All the old blokes maintain that the flood run-offs, the 100mm+ of un-seasonal rain and abnormal temperatures have come on the moon, when the mackerels start to rock up. Keppel Bay was filthy with sediment and much cooler in parts than it should have been, making many of the baitfish schools followed by the mackerel schools detour via warmer cleaner waters.

On the brighter side, we are getting an extraordinary run of very large cobia lately. These top fighting fish usually come on in numbers over the warmer months around Christmas, and for the past couple of years they have remained here all year. The majority of cobes reported come from The Pinnacles, Liza Jane, Outer Rock and Man & Wife islands. At times they can overwhelm the shoals when we are fishing for reefies and when they are in that mood it is hard to get a bait down past them and even harder to get a catch up through them. They do move around and will definitely hit the very shallow areas, like Rita Mada and Findlay’s, very regularly and will often surprise the guys fishing for doggies or spotted mackerel.

Wahoo have moved in again with some fine fish finding the gaff. Using lures or baits, fast trolled hexheads have accounted for a large share of the fish. Thanks, again to the Brisso boys who showed us where we were going wrong and increasing our hook ups.

All of the redfish have continued their presence by coming into the closer rubble patches with regularity. The area halfway from the islands out to the shoals is consistent as ever, with grassy sweetlip, red emperor, red jew, coral trout, parrot, trevally and cod reported. From now till Christmas, the 30-45m grounds are excellent.

Big grunter are still showing up at the northern spots, including Manifold, The Pinnacles, Flat, Perforated and The Barge. Some of the grunter that made the eskies were upwards of 3kg and some around 4kg – well worthwhile chasing. Around the full or new moon produces the better results, and night is the optimum time for grunter.

I am always getting emails asking which rig to use for reefies in the deeper water. I find that the old tried and true paternoster or snapper rig is most reliable when you fish reefy snaggy structures. If you get snagged you can usually jig up and down until it comes free. Try one dropper about 50cm up from the bottom and another about 1m higher again. The pickers tend to hang closer to the bottom and the better fish have more opportunity to nail the top rig.

The other rig commonly used is a big lead just above the hook, so that the bait is right on the bottom. This rig is can also be jigged out of a snag, and it can account for a fair amount of the coral trout caught anywhere. It pays to experiment and even having two rods set up with different style rigs on each and working out which gets the fish on any given day can usually pay off.

There has been heaps of nice sized salmon at a wide variety of spots. They were taking all sorts of different baits, from yabbies, small live mullet, whiting fillets to prawns. Regular salmon fishers say the tides combined with a top day, bring out the best in the salmon. Blues schooled along the beaches heading away from Yeppoon and the mouth of Ross Creek, have produced good captures. King salmon have had another run and some of the fish scored were around 5kg. One of the best places in the river is up around the town reaches. Down the coast, Waterpark and Coorooman Creeks will also have the odd quality fish.

Flathead are doing well lately and towards spawning they will continue to congregate. We have several types of flatties up here but the two most prevalent are bar-tailed and dusky. Dusky flathead are distinguished by a black spot on their tails with a small white fringe. Fish caught in sandy areas are much cleaner light brown in colour; the fish caught at The Keppels are near beige, whereas those caught around weedy or muddy areas are almost a dark green mottled brown. Duskies can get quite large and on light gear they can be a fair effort. I have seen a few in the 120cm class though not many much bigger.

School holiday time again and the kids will need stuff to do. The very pleasant temps make the beach the choice of many parents to keep the kids occupied. The beaches haven’t turned up a lot of big fish but whiting and dart can still provide some entertainment and a feed without going to much effort. Yabbies and sand worms are the pick of baits and both are easily caught locally.

Worms live along all the beaches north of Yeppoon and can be caught with little effort. The bottom end of the tide works well and anything from old fish flesh to cheese can bring them to the surface. Yabbies are easy to get in most of the coastal creeks where they all have healthy populations. Greenslopes, Solero, Corio Bay, Ross Creek, The Causeway, Coorooman Creek, Pumpkin Creek and The Narrows have yabby beds that you can walk to from nearby parking spots at low tide.

Where you pump yabbies, try fishing the incoming tide in the same area as fish will often follow the leading edge of the tide. Expect to find salmon, bream, flathead and trevally. Yabbies and beach worms are among the best baits on the beaches and in the estuaries. Reef fish like parrot, cod and sweetlip are partial, particularly when they are alive and kicking.

Lure fishers are finding a number of different lures that do the job and soft plastics are probably leading the way in most of the estuaries and becoming more popular out in the deep. Bream, mangrove jack, fingermark, flathead, barramundi, king or blue salmon, and lots of other species are all taking plastics. The secret is to watch guys that catch fish using lures and spend as much time as possible trying different retrieves and methods.

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