During June, my parents and I travelled up to the Weipa Fishing Challenge. I’d been told that at this time of year you can rely on the resident trevally population on the run-out tide.
On the run-out tide near the mouths of creeks, the members of the trevally family and their partners in crime, the queenfish, hang out around obvious structure that intercepts current flow – structure like rock bars, sand bars and drop-offs, especially those at creek mouths.
You’ll find them patrolling the deepwater side of drop-offs and breaklines, cruising up and down the edges looking for a feed. Common prey includes baitfish swept along with the tide, and the trevally target them with high-speed forays from the deep up into the shallows. These fish aren’t bothered by how shallow the water is – if there’s a feed on offer they’ll even swim on their sides to get further into the shallows.
The best lures for trevally are those that imitate small fish and which can be worked with high speed retrieves. Thus, with so many lures fitting these criteria, you can target the trevally with almost any luring method that you can devise. You can troll shallow-running and deep-diving minnows along a drop-off, use horizontal or vertical high-speed retrieves with chrome metal lures or vertically jig when the trevally are close to the bottom. Any variation of lead head with a fibrous bucktail or soft plastic tail, or even a rubber skirted bass jig, can be worked fast or slow for trevally, but often faster is better.
For trevors that are working the upper strata, high speed retrieves with any lure will be productive almost 100% of the time, but I saved the best till last. Using surface lures certainly offer the most excitement. Poppers, walkbaits, fizzers – all work well on the surface. You can throw almost anything at a feeding trevally and it will eat it.
The following is a list of my top ten tips for trevally surface luring.
1. Small lures generally should be retrieved at high speed
2. Larger lures can be very productive when paused during the retrieve. It has proven very fruitful for me to pause them on the ‘dark’ side of any colour change lines in the water, such as those that indicate the presence of a drop-off.
3. Choose your small lures carefully. The old styles were good but the new ones are even better. They are carefully shaped and tuned so as not to spin about their centre line (this can twist the line at high speed and the end result is a nightmare on jumping fish like queenfish). Also, the new style of popper can handle higher speed retrieves without flipping over, yet you can still pause, stab, bloop or walk the dog.
4. Bright colours and clears are my favourites. Ever since I first used the fantastic Rio Prawn I’ve liked a bit of bright orange in my trevally lures, but chartreuses, reds and pinks also work fine. Incidentally, the Rio Prawn, which is a great trevally surface lure, is proof that good surface lure doesn’t need to float. The Rio Prawn is kept on the surface with a high-speed retrieve and its body shape.
5. Casting distance can be important, so go for a long rod. Over 2m is a good call.
6. The ability to perform high speed retrieves can be critical so go for a reel that has a 6:1 gear ratio. The larger the reel (that balances your rod) the better, as it will rip in more line per turn of the handle. I like the Shimano Stradic 4000 as the smallest in my trevally selection. Anything bigger and faster will also fit the bill.
7. In some locations moon phase can be critical, so keep an eye on this if you regularly visit a spot.
8. The run-out tide is a great time to target trevally on the flats outside of creek mouths, on the lee side of rock bars and around deep holes inside the mouth of the river or creek.
9. Use pliers to remove the hooks from trevally. With their slab side on the floor of the boat or on the sand they have a lot of purchase with which to flick up towards your hands.
10. Keep an eye on your fish as you are about to land it. Trevally feeding frenzies are notorious for attracting sharks and you don’t want to grab a trevally by the tail at the same time as a whaler shark. In one recent Weipa incident I was landing my fish from the wrong side of the boat, the lee side (i.e. the boat was drifting over my fish) and we couldn’t see my fish nor if anything was following it. Dad remarked on this being dangerous as he took a wrap on the trace to lead the trevally out from under the boat. Sure enough, as he bent down to tail the GT a big tiger shark materialised out from under the boat and ate the lot. I expected a lecture but instead Dad was all hyped up and adrenalin pumped about what beautifully sleek creatures the big sharks are. I guess you can be like that when the finger count still equals ten.
Some of most enjoyable run-out trevally expeditions seem to have happened in conjunction with beach camping trips. So it was at Weipa.
Our host for our stay, Marty Hutchings, had organised a few days, a few boats and some perfect weather for some beach camping and fishing to the south of Weipa. The locals love their beach fishing and camping although I got the impression they venture a little farther out of town, maybe to get a beach to themselves rather than the heavily fished beaches closer to town that get a lot of visitor and tourist action.
The beach camping was fantastic, and the highlight of the trip was a land-based lure flicking session on the run-out tide late one afternoon at the mouth of a river to the south. This red hot trevally and queenfish session saw five or six species taken on lead heads and surface lures. The sand flats at the mouth were loaded with trevally, and so were the many bends of the river close to where it entered the Gulf. Each meandering corner of the creek produced fish for those who went for a wander. Meanwhile, the action at the mouth was just as furious. The diamond trevally was a common catch from the mouth, with a few good queenies mixed in during this session. In contrast, the up river scene produced a mixture of tea-leaf trevally, golden trevally, GTs and queenfish.
The creek was one of those meandering switchbacks that, from a distance, looks like the mouth is closed. If you didn’t know it was there you could drive right by without ever knowing.
The water was racing out through the narrow channel. A long, skinny submerged sand bar was our platform and the majority of the trevally came from the sand flats that were behind this sand bar.
At first the trevally showed their presence by following our retrieved lures. When the word spread along the sand bar that a flat-out retrieve was their poison, the trevors did more than just follow. They ate everything that we threw at them – as long as we wound fast. Bucktail jigs, soft plastics, topwaters – you name it, they ate it. That’s the fun of trevally fishing.
In the July 2004 issue of Qld Fishing Monthly, I wrote that the new G.Loomis Greenwater GWR901S spin rod coupled to a 4000 sized spin reel has become my favourite spin outfit for openwater lure flicking with lures in the 7-20g range, and it was this outfit that was most popular amongst us during the trevally sessions at Weipa this winter.
Trevally and queenfish are the number one fishes for use in the fantastic recipe known as nummus. A delicious variant of nummus, kokoda, is outlined in the August issue of Qld Fishing Monthly, in the Cooking Corner section.
Trevally – enjoy the fight and enjoy the feed!
1) Weipa local Bob Waugh makes his own ‘hairtail’ jigs and the trevally love them. This species is the beautiful diamond trevally. Bob caught it on a beach adjacent to a river mouth a fair way south of Weipa.
2) Trevally will eat almost every lure imaginable. Some of my hard-bodied favourites include Bumpa-Bar metal lures, soft plastic Assassin Shads, Sugoi poppers and walkbaits, and gold shallow running minnows.
3) The locals love to beach fish but they often leave the beaches closer to town to the visitors. Here they stand shoulder to shoulder with the action going on amongst them.Reads: 4382