The ocean mafia (otherwise known as Spanish mackerel) are back in town and local punters are taking advantage of the solid numbers when the weather conditions allow.
Although southeasterly winds have been howling at certain times, there have been pockets of opportunity to hit the ocean blue and chase down the Spaniards on the outer Barrier Reef. Anglers have caught bag limits in single sessions because they are schooling in good numbers. Many of the fish have been around 10kg and at this size, you can quickly fill up your freezer with plenty of chunky fillets.
Particular hotspots have been Rudder Reef, Tongue Reef, Pratt's Rock and Satellite Reef. Trolling skirts and lures has produced triple hook-ups, as we found at Rudder Reef. The fish are looking for excitement: something moving, something to ignite their menacing temperament. The old floating pilchard out the back of the boat has produced mackerel but only here and there.
One technique that has proven successful is using garfish on a pilchard gang-hooked rig and working the bait through the water column. Allowing it to drift to the bottom and slowly working it back up with jerking rod tip movements has provoked the spanish mackerels into smashing the bait. Lure poppers have also caused some explosive acrobatic action, particularly when the mackerel are working bait up to the surface. All it takes is one mackerel to respond and it seems to spark the rest of them into a feeding frenzy.
When the mackerel are schooling and you are trolling without getting any strikes, don't slow down. Keep your pace up and let the rod and reel take control of the first fish. Quite often, moving forward will cause more mackerel to pursue your other presentations and smack into them as well.
One of our triple hook-ups happened in stages over a 10-second period when we covered a further 50-60m from the first hit. Luckily the fourth rod didn't go off as well because the hot shoe shuffle in our tinnie was exciting enough with three rods screaming for mercy. When you can achieve this outcome, light tackle fishing doesn't get any better.
In other news on our wonderful outer reef, some small marlin have been working amongst the schools of mackerel, particularly when there are birds hovering over the nervous bait schools. Cobia to 25lb have become more common around the nannygai schools, which are usually in 25-40m of water. The cobia have been taken on floating pilchards while anglers are bottom fishing below. In the shallows closer to the reefs there have been solid catches of coral trout to 5kg, bar-cheeked trout, a range of cod species and spangled emperor.
In the more open water of the shipping channel and on top of wrecks there have been some cracking golden trevally to 30lb turning up amongst the nannygai schools. Adding to the excitement are Spanish and spotted mackerel working closer to the surface. A little bit of run in the tide, calm days and clear water are the keys to being successful in these areas.
The inshore fishing has been a bit patchy. The Daintree River mouth has probably been producing the most consistently with some school mackerel, golden trevally and bigger queenfish working the channel on the incoming tide. Again, days with better weather and cleaner water will produce the goods. Quality grunter have also been sourced further inside on the flats surrounding the islands, with a few schools of smaller GTs working the gutter edge. Live sardines have been the preferred bait.
In other local systems such as the Dickson Inlet, Mossman River and Mowbray River, fishers are seeing quite a few schools of medium-sized queenfish swinging into the systems on the rising tide and then moving into the deeper holes and bends. In the evenings the steelback salmon have also been confusing a lot of anglers, who can’t work out what they actually are. They hunt in schools and look like a cross between a southern tailor and a trevally.
The Dickson Inlet has been a particularly popular spot for these steelback salmon; they round up bait schools around the marina lights and relentlessly crash tackle through them. It is interesting to watch these fish because they force a bait school into a corner and let them have it, normally feeding and creating havoc for a couple of hours.
On top of this, there are plenty of quality black bream throughout all systems and a peeled prawn amongst any sort of mangrove or pylon structure is producing top results for our bread and butter enthusiasts. Mud crabbing has also been a rewarding pastime. With some massive tides around the new and full moon, these delicacies are full with meat and are in good numbers.
Let’s hope we experience more extended periods of finer weather this month – when this happens the fishing will be just sensational!Reads: 844