We had a shocker last month, with onshore winds restricting the amount of time we had on the water, but with a bit of luck June should be more kind to us. Most years we have a reprieve in the winter months, with offshore winds flattening the ocean and allowing small boat anglers to access offshore waters.
After the latest reef closures set down by GBRMPA, we sold our reef fishing charter boat Kato and purchased a Watch Tower, a 36ft Black Watch, set up for game and sportfishing.
I believe sport- and gamefishing is the way forward to sustain habitat and reef species. We, as rec fishers, have to show the government we can sustain fish stocks, to protect our fishing rights.
Some green groups are saying that fishing is barbaric and a blood sport – the same groups that pressured the government to close huge areas to recreational fishing. These groups have a stronger influence than rec fishers because we’re not united to lobby governments and committees.
We’re not helpless though. One way to help our cause is to change our ‘barbaric’ image by not killing large numbers of fish and by getting involved in tag and release. One of the best ways to do this is to fish with a club. It gives you the potential to get involved with fish stocking and tagging, you’ll learn new techniques and your club will present a united front to have a say in future of fishing in Queensland.
That’s not to say I think everybody should give up reef fishing, but we have to show we have a minimal impact if we are to stop further closures. I would also like to see tag and release fishing permitted in green zones in the future.
We can all do our part. Besides offshore charters, Paul McKay and I will be doing guided charters on the dams this year, as well as targeting barra as a sportfishing option. There’s certainly no shortage of reef fishing alternatives around Bundaberg.
There are still plenty of sailfish around the northern area of the spit but they don’t seem to be as hungry as they were earlier in the year. Their bites have been a little fickle around lures and baits.
Small blacks are still being caught and the occasional blue marlin can be found in the deeper water over 200m.
The reefs have been great for pelagic species, and plenty of great fishing is being had on the shelf jigging. Big amberjack are the main target, but watch out for sharks.
Just recently we headed out to the spit to chase marlin, and to our surprise the small blacks were chewing their heads off. We arrived at the spit at around 6.30am and our first strike hit the lures about 6.45am, only for the fish to miss the hooks.
We headed down to the 13-mile Crossing, hitting all our favourite spots on the way, only to come up with nothing. But just as we arrived at the 13 mile Crossing be found huge schools of bait, and one of the reels screamed as a fish hit one of the small trolled mullet. As we retrieved all the gear in the reel stopped screaming as the line was bitten off. A look at the tooth-scarred line revealed a mackerel or wahoo as the culprit.
We drove for another two minutes when a large dolphinfish smashed one of the lures and was danced across the ocean. Then it flicked the hooks. This was becoming a little annoying.
I asked Dave ‘Super Deckie’ Woolard whether he thought there would be any blacks around. He said all reports indicated they had moved one, but he was sure we’d nail a sailfish as Damon Olsen was out earlier and had seen plenty of sails.
Just as Dave said this, a fish hit. It looked like a small sail but turned out to be a small black marlin. We caught eight more throughout the day, most of them in the afternoon. They were in fine form, greyhounding across the ocean and jumping all the way to the boat. They were similar in length to the 20-40kg ones we were catching in November, except that they were skinny, weighing only around 10kg.
We trolled down to the 4-Mile crossing and saw two sails free jumping so we turned the boat around and circled the area, but to no avail. We gave up and started to move on, and in five minutes one of the sails smashed a lure. This fish gave a great account of itself, dancing across the ocean all the way to the boat.
In total, we managed to tag and release five billfish from 10 hook-ups, with most fish making it to the side of the boat. There was one unfortunate accident as we tagged one of the small marlin – deckie Alex tried to revive it for 20 minutes over the side of the boat but sadly it died. When we performed a post-mortem to see what it had been eating, we discovered the tag had pierced its spine. This is one of the downsides to tag and release fishing, but tagging is still very worthwhile as it will give us a better understanding of fish migration and growth rates.
We actually don’t usually have black marlin this time of year, but the water temperature was still 24-25. So even this one trip will add a piece to the puzzle of understanding these fish.
Over much of the past month the reef fishing was virtually non-existent due to the bad weather.
At this time last year’s we started to catch snapper, and all the other reef species were around right up until the water temperature dropped. Once the water goes below 23, schools of bait inundate the reef and the reef fishing becomes a little harder, with fish filling up on the abundant food. Parrotfish generally dominate the catch during the cooler months.
Encouragingly, plenty of reef fish were caught on the Labour Day weekend. As we were driving back from a day’s gamefishing we heard the reef fish were biting, so we pulled up on the wreck of the Althea and caught some good size small-mouth nannygai and snapper, as well as trevally, Moses perch and sweetlip.
Bream and flathead are very active at the moment, with reports of some good size flathead being caught on lures in Baffle Creek and the Burnett River.
1) Chris Moore with a juvenile black marline tagged and released on Watch-Tower.
2) Peter Tobin with a flathead caught on Fish N Cruise charters.
3) Adam Moore with his first ever sailfish, caught aboard Watch-Tower.Reads: 431