Central Queensland in April is exiting on the fishing front as the temperature drops down a fraction and the species do a turnaround. The summer fish are still here and the winter fish are arriving.
This year we’ve had a brilliant run of reefies in closer than normal spots. Large- and small-mouth nannygai in particular came into some of the mid bay reef patches on a regular basis. Forty Acre Paddock, Conical, Outer and Liza Jane are performing well on the lower end of the tides.
Coral trout and sweetlip generally head into the bay around now, adding to the parrot and cod already actively feeding.
Mackerel continue to be the favourite fish in Central Queensland, with doggies (school mackerel) and spotties increasing in numbers all the time. Most of the Spanish mackerel have moved on, with only the resident fish remaining until the season starts again.
The islands out from Emu Park and Keppel Sands fish as well as other places in the local area, but they are much easier to get to in most conditions. Ironpot, Rita Mada and Farnborough Reef are the closest spots to shore from Yeppoon. When the weather comes to the party, just launch the tinny from the beach and you’re there in five minutes or less.
Night is probably the least fished period of any given day. There are many reasons that we don’t take advantage of one of the best times to score many species, which feed more aggressively in the dark. “Too tired after work”, “hard to find the spots” and “hard to tie a leader to 6kg line” are some of the excuses used. It’s a pity, because many anglers are missing out on the chance to get a prime fish in the peace, quiet and coolest time of the day.
The barramundi is one of the most perfectly suited predators to target at night. With their big red eyes close to the front, and the way they pick up the slightest hint of light or movement, it’s a wonder more fishers don’t chase them in the dark.
As we move into April, big barra tend to move into shallower climes to hunt, and on plenty of evenings in Rockhampton you can hear them ‘boof’ along the mud banks and rock bars in between the bridges. At this time of day the noise of the traffic has started to settle and the baitfish are getting nervous, trying to hide. Why not make use of the confusion in the water and put a livie in at your feet, sit down, relax and wait? Just lately a few of the local Rocky boys have been getting some of the best barramundi of the season by fishing at night.
Last year I got it completely wrong when I said the muddies were on the decline in April. They actually lasted into early June – something out of the norm. By the look of things this year it could be much the same. Huge jennies have taken the stage, though quality bucks aren’t far behind. Though the catches aren’t huge, the crabs are full and there’s a good buck to jenny ratio compared to previous months, where females dominated the captures.
We had an exceptional summer across the region, with heaps of happy crabbers most of the time, and a bonus being the drop in numbers of share farmers. The majority of crabs taken in April are full and they generally come into the creek mouths, making them more accessible to the average bloke.
The River has been average and it takes time to locate where the crabs are working. The other crabbing areas are much easier to cover and the crabs are coming much easier. Yellowpatch Creek, The Narrows, Coorooman Creek, The Causeway Lake and Waterpark Creek have had top billing of late. Prehistoric wire mesh crabpots have made way for collapsible round pro-type pots and, judging by the difference in the amount of crabs per pot, the pro-style pots are a big improvement.
King threadfin salmon and blue salmon numbers are on the rise after a slow start to the year. The Rockhampton jetty rats have reported that some very nice salmon have already turned up in the city reaches. The fish have been following the prawns and working the eddies behind the boats resting in the shallows. This month marks the start for serious salmon fishers to dust off the equipment and hit the river.
Big black jew are currently congregating in quantities well above the usual numbers found during summer. All the regular jew holes will fire about four days before the full moon to four days after. Ironpot, Corio Heads and Cape Capricorn should be the hotspots.
It is not uncommon for anglers to hook around a dozen fish each in the short period nearing top of the tide. These fish have a knack of finding every obstacle in the area, and they can be very hard to land while dodging bommies, rocks and other boats. When we have a productive session we usually take home one fish per person, and let the rest go to breed the next batch.
In between times the jew head out to places like The Barge and The Pinnacles, where they are caught in reduced numbers. Fish like bonito and yellowtail hang around the jew holes in the daytime, and make excellent bait that night. Pillies and squid have accounted for loads of black jew over the years and shouldn’t be left out.
The most common rig for jew here is the common snapper rig, consisting of a fair size lead at the bottom and two 7/0 hooks about 1m and 1.5m from the bottom. The line class depends on how much tackle you can afford to lose. 20kg main line and 30-plus leader is a good starting point when chasing your first black jew.
Black jew schools circle the locations in close to the structures, going past each boat like a procession. You can hear the drags go off one by one as they get closer, the anticipation building until your drag screams. For some reason blacks fight above their division compared to the southern jew, making a couple of good runs before reaching the side of the boat. They taste quite OK if they are bled on capture, put on ice and filleted ASAP. Put the fillets into the freezer for a week or so before cooking them as this draws out the excess moisture and improves the table quality immeasurably.
Freshwater fishing has become a way of life up here, and stories of some of the adventures bring a smile. Here is an interesting chain of events that happened while Brooksy of Nev’s Sport Fishing Charters was at Lake Awoonga recently.
Brooksy was walking up the boat ramp at about 7:15pm after a day’s fishing when he was bitten on the leg by a snake he couldn’t identify in the dark. They raced up to the caravan park for a compression bandage and to ring an ambulance. The ambos arrived in five minutes, having been called in to a suspected heart attack also in the park.
After Brooksy had been treated at the hospital he was told that another guest had gone to hospital with a lure firmly entrenched in his hand. The next morning he was told of two more incidents that finished the evening off last night. A flying owl ran into a lady sitting in her annex (luckily, the lady and the owl didn’t suffer any long-term effects). Last of all, the chef at the restaurant wanted to take a photo of some food he prepared to use in an ad for the Gladstone newspaper (10pm), he stood on the counter and stepped into a ceiling fan and received a couple of good cuts to the head. So maybe Awoonga is a good place to stay away from on a full moon.
1) Graham Edmonds with a Keppel Bay Spanish mackerel.
2) Brendan Dodd landed this night-time barra in The River.
3) Chas Hilliard with a typical black jew.Reads: 1328