Fingermark fit for a king
  |  First Published: September 2005

We’ve only just started leaving the cooler weather behind and already the warm water species have been showing considerable interest.

The Fitzroy River has such a diverse range of species that local anglers hardly need to go anywhere else. However, when the river does shut up shop, you can’t buy a fish for love or money. Luckily, most of the year there is plenty going on and the outlook for next month includes barramundi, fingermark, mangrove jack, flathead, bream, king salmon and blue salmon.

Down the bottom end of the river there is a stretch of great fishing country called the Narrows. The Narrows starts at Gladstone and runs north between Curtis Island and the mainland. This amazing little piece of water has a wide variety of critters and the mud crabs here are as good as they get. The branch streams and creeklets all have structures ranging from oyster rock bars and mangrove overhangs to muddy channels and sandbanks. The only problem you’ll have when fishing the Narrows is that there is too much country to cover in one day or even a weekend.

Fingermark are one of the prized species in this area, although they don’t tend to get as big as they do in some locations further north. They are great table fish and stubborn fighters that are willing to use any means of escape possible, especially heading into rocks and snags. Fingermark go hard, rivalling their cousin, the mangrove jack, in attitude stakes.

You’ll need quality tackle to land average-sized fingermark consistently. We use 10-15kg braid instead of mono to get the fish turning as soon as possible. Lures and livebaits perform almost equally; the only advantage in using lures is the amount of ground you can cover while you are looking for them. More fingermark are taken by trolling lures rather than casting them, particularly around the headlands and up in the river. Favoured lures are deep-diving Richo’s, Mann’s 20+ and 8m Scorpions.

Another fish that slows in the cooler months around here is the barramundi. Now that the water temperature is climbing, the appearance of these sought-after fish is increasing steadily. The Fitzroy with its rock bars and shallows has warmer streams that allow the barras a wider feeding window than other systems close by. The opportunities are definitely more frequent near the centre of Rockhampton where the masses of dark rock dictate the average water temperatures.

Livies and lures both work equally well and only the depth dictates which lures you choose. We use basically the same lures as for fingermark. The only time that colour makes a lot of difference is on particularly dirty days when fluoros come into their own.

Blue salmon have been the talk of late with the Rosslyn Bay Harbour hosting several top sessions in recent weeks. Schools of blue salmon have come into the harbour following the schools of northern pilchards. Quite a number of them were caught on WA pillies, live greenback herring and northern pillies when they were around. We have found blues will also take live yabbies; the trick is to hook a couple of them on at a time through the tail, keeping them alive and actively trying to get away from the hook. As for lures, Flashas and Pegrons have worked well, nailing some fine blue salmon.

The bait schools usually move into the shelter of the harbour on the rising tides. Sometimes blues round the bait up towards the boat ramps or into the corner just inside the entrance to the port side heading out. Inside the walls either side of the entrance and in the entrance to the harbour were the best spots.

Salmon can be caught day or night and looking for the baitfish will show you where to start fishing. Coorooman Creek, the Fitzroy River and Corio Bay also have numbers of salmon at times. In the last month there have been large schools of blues hammering small whitebaits in the mouth of Ross Creek. The locals are fishing shoulder to shoulder – it looks like Frazer Island when the tailor are chewing madly.

Spotted mackerel are a Capricornia favourite this time of year and they will hit quite a number of locations from now on in. These tasty pelagics travel in close to shore and this gives many of the locals a chance to grab a feed. Now that the bag limit has been decreased, it seems that the captures reported have increased accordingly. Spotties around here can be caught in both clear and slightly dirty water and this makes them available when other mackerels have headed out wider to clearer pastures.

At this time I usually try to stock up on ribbonfish (wolf herring) but lately I can’t seem to land a ribbony because a spotty always takes the lure first. I suppose that’s not a bad thing until you get your bag limit.

Places like Quartz Rock out from Keppel Sands and Cave and Wedge isles just off Emu Park hold spotties for a much longer period than the other mackerel spots. The common feature of these areas is a fair current run eddying and creating a current line. We try to anchor on the line and pull our lures across the movement from the still water. Chromies and slugs work very well with a reasonably quick retrieve; add a couple of jigging motions and spotties will jump on if they are around.

I have tested all methods of rigging and mono leaders won hands down over steel traces. The standard rig for spotties consists of a 6kg main line tied to 20kg leader approximately 1.5m long. The leader is then tied to a swivel, which is attached to the lure by a split ring. This allows the lure a bit more action without twisting your line. Flashas, Bumpa Bars and Sure Catch Rooks have the runs on the board, but any medium-sized shiny is worth a go.

We went out on a Sunday morning recently and things were quiet apart from some sweeties and a large school of average cobia (black king). Cobia will be moving into the Keppels from now on and should stay for most of the warmer months. In previous years after the run of small fish, the bigger ones come through. They are nearly always found in schools or pairs of similarly sized fish, although when they get really big you will sometimes find solitary fish.

Cobia respond well to lures and baits. Flashas and hard-bodied minnow-style divers can both work, while pillies are hard to beat when floated down with no weight.

What a great time of year – not too hot, not too cold and plenty of good stuff to chase. There are certainly no complaints from this happy angler!

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