WINTER is a wonderful time of the year in Bundaberg, with light westerlies creating glassed-out conditions so the small boat owners can get outside for change of species. Spanish mackerel, cobia and trevally all hunt the prolific balls of bait that move into the inshore reefs, and big snapper and sweetlip show up on the bottom. Patches like the Cochrane Artificial Reef, the Stepping Stones and the wreck of the Barjon are great places to start if you’re on the hunt for a good inshore fish.
The Fifteen-Mile and its small patches of rubble bottom and drop-offs will be a good option this month if the weather looks good. I like to fish this area with light tackle, as there aren’t too many bommies for the fish to wrap you around. 15lb line on a medium spinstick is a fun way to fish and does get more attention than the heavier lines.
It’s best to fish with braid because it gives you more feel and needs less weight to get to the bottom. I always attach a metre or so of heavy mono, usually to a swivel as the mono will tangle less and be more abrasion-resistant around the coral. A single hook rig is generally the best way to go if you’re drifting as it means less to snag on the bottom. If you’re anchoring on a fish show, a two-hook dropper rig will mean two baits in front of your quarry.
As far as bait is concerned, it depends on what you’re targeting. Live yakkas and pike are great for the big predators like cobia and trevally, and even the big coral trout that cruise these flats. Pillies, squid and flesh bait will take most of the other bottom dwellers.
If you can find a small bump or bommie on your fishfinder, sound around it to see what side the fish are hanging (it’s usually the up side against the tidal flow). If you’re going to anchor make sure you’re a good cast distance up from the structure. This will give you half a chance to stop anything large that knows where home is.
The Cochrane Artificial Reef lies just offshore out of the Elliott River, and this is a great time of year for small boat anglers to tangle with the Arty’s big residents. Early morning starts will see lots of pelagic action with mackerel, tuna, trevally and cobia rounding up the large bait schools and getting into them. High speed spinning and livebaiting are the post popular approaches, and both methods work well at different times.
During the day, if you’re trying to fish the various structure you have to be very careful with your anchoring; sugar cane bins and aeroplanes don’t give back anchors very often. Night is probably the best time to fish this area if you want to target bottom dwellers, as they do venture out and about after dark.
The main target at this time of year is snapper. Fresh bait is best, and you can collect fresh livies near the boat ramp on your way out.
I have just returned from a week on the magnificent Hinchinbrook Channel with Fishing Monthly’s Ben Sandman and Cairns local Steven John Wilson. This trip, like all my other Hinchinbrook trips, was sensational. The fishing wasn’t quite as good as in past trips, due to a late wet season bringing water temps down, but the company and the weather made up for it.
One of the highlights was a night fishing trip with CrackaJack Sportfishing’s great guide Al Goodwin. We headed out to the end of the Lucinda sugar-loading jetty for a spot of night-time surface popper action, and after a couple of mind-blowing bust-offs Steve managed to get a giant trevally of about 5-6kg to the boat only to have it eaten off the surface right next to the boat by a 300lb groper. This really put the wind up our mate Ben who has spent most of his angling life in the south, where not many big groper eat rainbow trout at your feet.
Another highlight was when as I turned on my new Matrix 67 GPS Fishfinder in the Hinchinbrook Channel and all the creeks and rivers showed up on the screen. I’ve been a regular visitor to this area for over 10 years and I thought I had a good handle on the channel and its rivers – that was until I could see it clearly on the screen. We covered over 250nm in the channel in a week’s fishing and it was all recorded as tracks on the screen. This made going back to fish-producing areas very easy as I saved them as waypoints.
We also ventured out to the end of the sugar jetty (which is 5.7km long) and having our track on the screen at night to follow back into the creek mouth made getting to the low-visibility entrance a lot more comfortable. Not only was I impressed with the GPS side of the unit, the fishfinder is also top-of-the-range.
Overall, the unit made our trip a lot easier and I’m looking forward to my next trip to explore the many creeks I never got the fish in.
1) Steve Wilson with a trevally caught on a Killalure cone popper.Reads: 709