Wet Season Shines
  |  First Published: December 2008

It has certainly got hot lately, and sticky pre wet season storms have really fired things up this month. Trout and lippers are biting their heads off on the reefs, and the creeks and islands are alive with inshore species.

The number one target for creek fishing around Townsville this month is the mangrove jack, and the humble pilchard has always been the number one bait. Live poddy mullet in the snags has also been a favourite as it lets you discriminate against the unwanted by-catch of bream, grunter or even catfish. Nevertheless, nothing short of moving to a new spot will stop the procession of cod or out of season barra.

Pilchards cut in half and fished unweighted in a snag, or any other structure you’re trying, never seems to fail in getting a few hits. The ease of which they can be bought and rigged makes them a regular patron on most boats bait fishing for jacks.

As far as lure fishing goes for these thugs, sizing down your barra lures should put you in the running for a hook up; failing that check out your local tackle store for info on what’s hot this month. Remember you can never have too many lures.

The creeks and rivers around Townsville seem to pick up during stormy periods and just after rains. Some of the shallower rivers, such as the Bohle and Haughton, may shut down for a couple of days with too much rain but they will fire when the salt water pushes back in.

Around the islands, the mackerel fishing has slowed as seasonal change has forced the mackerel to continue their migration. However, there are decent numbers of good trout being caught along with fingermark, which is more than making up for it.

The Palm and Rattlesnake groups are producing the most trout for lure and bait fishers, and Magnetic Island is still producing the trophy fish for lucky anglers. Admittedly all the monster inshore trout have come off live baits, and if you’re keen on tangling with one try jigging bait around the shipping pylons or the markers on either end of Middle reef. Don’t forget to check your species before using it as live bait as Fisheries will still fine you for using undersized fish.

Further offshore the deepwater wrecks have been overloaded with extra large trevally and cobia. Jig slices and poppers are not only an effective way to fish these spots but are often a lot more fun then the standard pillie and squid rig fished on the bottom. Sturdy tackle and a mild amount of fitness can be required when 50lb specimens show up behind the boat ready to eat anything you throw at them. Please try to take care of these monsters when you are landing them; get your photos quickly and then return these great fish back into the water as they are not worth eating but are most defiantly worth catching more than once.

Out on the reefs the fishing has been really good of late and should continue once the final coral reef finfish closure has run its course. Lodestone and Brewer reefs have had the best reports for not only trout but mixed bags for those willing to stay overnight. Reds and sweetlip have been topping up iceboxes that are usually full with trout, red throat and the odd Spanish mackerel.

Take plenty of precautions when heading out to the reef this month as summer storms can cut you off from land forcing an extended stay or an interesting trip home for beginners. Travelling out in groups and letting people know where you are heading (or joining the Coastguard) can give you peace of mind when heading out to the reef for the first time. Don’t forget to take plenty of water and sunscreen even on well-shaded vessels.

And finally the freshwater scene around town is still fishing well with grunter hitting lures all the way along the Burdekin and most other small streams over the range. There have also been a few reports of jungle perch from Crystal Creek that will increase when the wet season comes to an end.

Protect our Fisheries

The one thing that has left a sour taste in my mouth is the knowledge that Townsville’s commercial anglers are using 1200m of so-called shark nets to target grunter, and of even more concern fingermark. For southern readers, fingermark are one of the north’s most popular recreational species.

At the last round of inshore finfish meetings we asked for this fish to be listed as a recreational only target, and we were pleased to receive support at the meeting from James Cook University and from the commercial fishing. Unfortunately, it would appear that this has fallen by the wayside and pro fishers are quite plainly destroying a fishery that will collapse if left unchecked.

Currently grunter and fingermark come under the banner of by-catch for these netters and are sold as mixed estuary fillets and in some cases mixed reef fillets. The real problem is that these fish are extremely slow growing and take up to 15-20 years to reach sexual maturity and as a result netting of large fish in breeding schools can mean the destruction of an entire fishery that will take decades to recover. We only need to look at other areas on the east coast to see the damage of over fishing.

The only other two states that are home to fingermark have extremely tight regulations on rec fishers and bans on pro netting, unfortunately Queensland fishery management has yet to catch up with this logic. I have written to the Queensland Fisheries Minister but I am yet to receive a response. If this has also found you sick of the second rate management of our fishery write a letter yourself and by all means send me the reply – after all we are supposed to be their bosses so lets try and make the system work for us.

I am sorry for the political end to the column this month but we need to start getting angry so people stop and think about the future of our sport.

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