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Fun on the Fitzroy
  |  First Published: December 2004



The fishers in the know hardly ever miss out in The Fitzroy River. It has a wide range of fish species to suit even the most fussy of anglers.

The Fitzroy River is an amazing system and it hardly ever fails to produce at least a fish or two to take home. The river keeps on producing mud crabs, king salmon, blue salmon, grunter, barramundi, bream, mangrove jack, black jew, river jew, flathead, fingermark, whiting and prawns. It pays to cover the river every once in a while to learn all the new structures and the changes in the sandbank formations.

CRABS

If you want some mud crabs from the river you have to work for them – it’s no longer just a matter of chucking in a few pots. Mudcrabs have to be hunted out; even fresh diggings don't guarantee a legal buck. The blokes that are getting crabs consistently keep moving their pots until they find the right spot.

Depending on the rainfall in December, crabs move right up into the smaller creeks and run-offs or into the channels. Many of the local crabbers start looking from Thompson’s Point downstream and into The Narrows. We always put a brick in the bottom of the pots and a long float rope when using the deeper channels because of the current. Several times over the years our pots were moved up to a kilometre with the tide, but we have found them because of the extra rope length.

The river had a very good year in 2004, and the crabs stopped for only a short period in the middle of winter. When mud crabs are full they take on a dirty, rusty colour and if they are empty they are usually clean mid-green. The only other tips I can offer are to stay reasonably close to your pots and use nylon net type pots. The pro crabbers reckon that wire pots went out in the dark ages, and the crab numbers caught in each pot is proof. The preferred baits are mullet frames, fish scraps and half catfish.

KING SALMON

The Fitzroy River city reaches is the place to be when fishing for king salmon and barra. There are loads of great structures and these predatory fish can’t resist the warmer water around the big rocks in the middle of the river.

When targeting salmon this month, try around the jetties and stormwater outlets along the southern bank and the mud banks and snags on the northern bank. King threadfin salmon have been caught in big numbers from the Barrage limit to the deep mud banks just downstream of town. Many Rocky locals tell me that salmon tastes better than barramundi and is much easier to catch. Salmon don’t have a closed season, so they also fill the gap while the barramundi are on maternity leave.

Early evening is the pick of times for salmon, although the blokes who know the river well can find them nearly anytime. Over the moon, big salmon bite like crazy for several nights under the bridges in town.

The fish readily take lures and livebaits, but often livebait can be hard to obtain. When there are prawns about the salmon and the other fish won’t be far away. Prawns and small poddy mullet work the best, and a sure sign that salmon are working an area is the impression each fish leaves in the mud as it stirs up the shallows. Salmon leave an imprint about the size and shape of a golf ball divot, and you’ll see some banks absolutely peppered with ‘salmon scars’. This shows that the fish are likely to return on the incoming tide to feed on these particular spots.

Often as the tide is rising you can see their tails and dorsal fins breaking the surface as they go about their business, sometimes in water depths that barely cover their backs. If you want tips on where and when just head down to any of the town jetties at night and talk to the jetty rats. These young fellas seem to score sizable fish any night. The young crews on the jetties catch some real nice size king and regularly release a barra or two just to top the night off. The boys at Barra Jacks and Bluefin are more than happy to show you what gear is needed to help you land a top feed.

OTHER SPECIES

Grunter are also worth looking for in January. Though they take some working out to reap constant catches, the effort is rewarding.

At the moment big fingermark and mangrove jack are also being caught in closer to town than normal. Fingermark and mangrove jack still dominate the bottom end of the river and will for a while yet. The fellows that score these fish regularly spend lots of time and effort to find new spots. You can't always rock up to a system like the Fitzroy and locate the fish first go; sometimes it can take working out before the results come reliably.

All in all, this time of year is a great time to score a fish or two, no matter where you choose to fish.

[MAP CAPTIONS]

1. Barrage - don't go any closer than the signs; the fines are big.

2. New Bridge - all round the bridges and up to the barrage there are rock bars and structure everywhere. Lots of barramundi and king salmon hang in this areas.

3. Old Bridge - as above.

4. Wharves - on an incoming tide when the moon is right this is the place for prawns. King and barra are caught here regularly at night.

5. Pylons - structure means fish.

6. Gavial Creek - prawns, barramundi, salmon and others. Low tides are treacherous as there are plenty of objects to hit, from washing machines to cars.

7. Pirate's Point - Grunter in the channel and salmon and barra amongst the snags.

8. Meat works - snags and features aplenty.

9. Nerimbera Boat ramp - shortens the trip downstream or upstream it makes much of the river accessible.

10. Undulating bottom - a good place to fish for grunter. Try drifting on slower tides.

11. Cut through - stacks of fish around here, but be careful travelling towards Serpentine as the tide drops.

12. Serpentine Creek - there are barra in there as well as a healthy lot of boats at times for such a small fishable area.

13. Casuarina Creek - can fish well at times but should be travelled only when you know it.

14. Mud Island and 15. Mackenzie Island - mean the mouth of the river and the start of The Narrows to the south.

16. North to Keppel Sands -this beach can provide a top catch when fished with the right baits (mostly caught as you fish). Salmon, bream, whiting, flathead and the odd barra cruise around here often.

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