HOW good is this? Barra season is open and big Spaniards are in easy-to-get-to locations. All this and we’re still getting mangrove jack and fingermark in decent quantities. It can't be too far from my favourite part of the year.
Barramundi can be caught at loads of locations in our immediate area, including a number of dams, The Fitzroy River, just about all the local estuaries and plenty of the headlands north and south of Yeppoon. It’s not the barra Mecca of Queensland, but it is an area where you have a better than average chance of landing a decent barramundi within 15 minutes of the average residence in Rockhampton, Emu Park or Yeppoon. There is a bright future for our barra fishery with seasonal, netting and zoning closures and the fact the Fitzroy River is one of the biggest systems in Australia.
One day lures work the best and the next day live bait is number one. If live bait is your thing I can't really help you; just get a castnet and search the bait out. If lures are your thing we’ve been testing a range of lures designed for our region and in the next issue or so I'll have a guide to suit the places most of us like to fish.
Spanish mackerel are back in numbers again after a short break (they generally quieten down slightly in October, November and December). This year the resident rats kept everyone from getting withdrawals, and now the big fellas are coming back. Over the years the mackerel have consistently reached 15kg and heavier compared to the 6-10kg averages over the slow months.
Ribbonies and bonito have been plentiful over the past few months, and if you’ve got some stored some in your freezer this big bait really does come in handy. There’s nothing wrong with trolling a gar until the Spaniards see a bonito or a ribbonfish, then the smaller baits become the poor cousin. When I lived in the far north Spanish mackerel were considered ‘throw back’ species. Those days are long gone and nearly all the fish sold around here at fish and chip shops are Spanish mackerel. This species seems to be underrated in places that have an abundance.
In recent years February has delivered more marlin and sailfish in the Keppel area. Many times they are an unwelcome by-catch when trolling for Spanish mackerel. Last year saw quite a number of these big guys caught from striped, blue and black marlin and some very healthy sailfish. Several of the marlin reached upwards of 10ft long, which means these marlin were in the 200-250kg class. They have taken everything from large ribbonfish, bonito, gar and pilchards to small chromies (Flashas) and skirted lures.
More than once while fishing for mackerel at Findlay's Reef, Conical, Flat or wider, something abnormally big will take the macky we’ve hooked, and it then runs a very fast hundred or so then jumps and either breaks off or becomes unhooked. These encounters don't always lead to capture, and for advice on a higher percentage of hook-ups it would be better to speak with an expert. I haven't been able to find anyone who has specifically targeted marlin or sails on any regular basis in Capricornia.
Over the last couple of years encounters with marlin have become more and more common at different times during the year. We may possibly have a major untapped resource waiting for someone who has the time, money and experience to capitalize. Big numbers of marlin and sailfish could increase our tourist potential both in Australian and overseas markets, so please try to record the time, area, date, length and species (photo is the best for I.D.) and let me know at --e-mail address hidden-- With the decline in professionals, returns from a marlin fleet could inject a valuable boost to our local economy.
Grunter are still around in feedbag quantities in heaps of the local estuaries, though they have slowed a little and may be harder to find than usual. After we have rain and the river has some sort of fresh flow, the bottom end of the Fitzroy delta holds some of the better grunter haunts for the second half of summer. Connor's Creek and Connor's Rocks won't be beaten for top table-sized grunter.
Early evening is usually about the time these fish chew, and the best baits are fresh prawns, mullet strips and small live baits, although yabbies and beachworms have nailed the odd unlucky bugger. Coorooman Creek, Waterpark Creek and Corio Bay fairing OK and they are both a chance, particularly close to the moon. There are cockle type beds along some of the muddy stretches and as the tides slow down the grunter move in and start feeding.
Cape Manifold, The Pinnacles and The Barge are probably the choice spots for big grunter in deeper water. They have also slowed and will improve on the slower tides and again over the moon. All our top grunter spots have a fair amount of rubble or redfern. Places like The Barge work better when the current, the tide and the wind come in the right combination. It maybe that when they are all from the same direction the fern lies flat and produces less cover.
The majority of the top reefies are currently being caught at a wide variety of reefs. The wide grounds and the shoals can yield close to bag limit quantities on many of the favoured species. Red emperor and red jew are the most common catches with rosy jobfish, red-throat emperor and snapper giving to the cause. Any of the known spots are worth trying on the smaller tides, and when the run is too fast go back to the mackerel and cobia. Cobia numbers have started to drop from catches over January and December, they taper down until about the end of April then they come back October.
I’ve been doing up a tinny to be the fill in for the days the big boat (7.6 Yamaha work boat) isn’t practical. We've put in at Corbett's Landing and fished for barra in creeks that take a great deal of manoeuvring just to reverse, let alone turn around, so it was time to bite the bullet.
The result so far is a 4.1 Savage from Seabreeze Marine Yeppoon, and there’ll be plenty of testing before the final welds and bolt-downs. I'll be using ideas from some of the best set-up tinnies around the traps so it should be interesting to see the outcome based on maximum use of space and economy budget. Having done a spin out to the islands and a few runs down the creek, a couple of considerations came into play. For economy reasons I need to consider the outboard size, and weight needs to be kept to a reasonable level to allow carrying a bit of gear for the occasional camping trip and a proper livebait tank. It isn't easy to get this sort of thing right on the first go so you need to put a lot of thought into it.
If the weather and wind patterns from previous years is anything to go by the rig should be finished soon, and I’ll publish some photos and a report on how it’s been fitted out and why.
1) Mark Thompson with a typical Fitzroy River barra ready for release.
2) Roger Mac nailed this fingermark in Coorooman Creek while fishing for grunter.
3) A Yeppoon headland fingermark (note top of 45L esky) caught by the author.Reads: 1611