Dogs off their chains
  |  First Published: June 2005

‘Wind speeds of 20-25 knots from the southeast’ has been the weather predications for the Townville area for the past two months, with only the occasional gap in the trade wind pattern.

Consequently, reports from bluewater fisherman have been all but non existent. However, those few guys keen enough to brave the conditions have been rewarded handsomely.


Captures of good sized Spanish mackerel have been reported off Shark shoal, Cape Cleveland, Albino and Chilcott rocks. Trolled wolf herring and gar have been the most popular baits, and for good reason. They are both very effective and can be readily used for trolling. When trolling baits or lures you’re also less likely to become seasick in the rough conditions, because you don’t have to sit still under anchor.

More than half of the early season mackerel were taken on lures. Bumpa Bars have lead the way since their colour range expanded from the old brass lures coated in gold or silver to include new variations such as green, pink, red and blue. They are now also available in a polished stainless steel.

River to Sea Sea Rock is another good lure for mackerel. It also comes in all manner of colours, and its weight-to-size ratio makes casting a breeze.

One metal slice that’s becoming popular up north is the Gilly’s Pilchard. Unlike most metal slices this lure actually swims when retrieved. Its action is much more subtle than, say, a Bumpa Bar’s, but it’s an action just the same. When fish are shut down, this action gives you the ability to stop and flutter your lure back down, or simply start jigging instead of just high speed retrieving.


The red emperor and large-mouth nannygai schools that this region is famous for have already made their presence felt, and the fishing should get even better over the next few months.

Large baits fished on, or just off, the bottom should put you in good stead as long as your gear can stand up to the prolonged battle of a big red.

Fish the same areas that you would for Spaniards, and try focusing on the outer spots. This is where most of the big boys are hooked.


Creek fishers have revelled in the strong winds, bragging of mind-blowing captures. A huge metre long grunter caught by a land-based fisherman is just one of many amazing captures of late. Local anglers using live prawns have been recording catch rates of around 30 barra a day. Most are only ‘rats’, but a barra is still a barra!

Traditionally barra and fingermark catches slow down during winter, but catches of salmon, bream, whiting, flathead and grunter will be on the improve over the next few weeks.

One of the main reasons for the quality of grunter catches this year has been the green zoning of Sand Island. This small sand cay inside Bowling Green Bay used to be the favourite haunt of many black market fish traders and commercial gill netters, due to the abundance of large grunter and fingermark that gather there to spawn. So I must give GBRMPA credit where credit is due – they have certainly got something right by protecting this stretch of water.

When fishing in the Townsville area keep your eyes peeled for shell grit and shale pads covered with rising water of a flow tide. They are certain to hold fish.

Sand bars that hold good numbers of yabby holes are also worth an exploratory cast or two. Most creeks and rivers around Townsville have this sort of structure somewhere within their reaches.

A good quality sounder will make it easier for you to find these spots. Failing that, you can go down at low tide and look for signs of shells or grit in the mud. This is normally a good indicator of structure nearby.

Always remember that baits in poor condition, or baits of poor quality, will produce poor catches. The best possible baits are normally straight out of the creek that you’re fishing in, so either learn to throw a cast net or take a mate who can! Most local tackle stores will be happy to show you as well.

If you’re really struggling this month to catch fish, my advice would be to head out to Rowes Bay and work the foreshores at either end and the creek mouths in the middle of the Bay. In past years we’ve done very well on bread and butter species here.

Remember, there’s no substitute for time on the water.


1) Keith with his first 13.5 Spanish mackerel.

2) Wayne Dippel with a big groper.

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