Changing of the guard
  |  First Published: September 2005

September marks the start of warmer weather in the tropics, and as water temperatures rise our prime targets inshore and offshore become more active.

Strong southeasters have been blowing almost non-stop over the past month, and there have been only a few opportunities for small boat owners wanting to venture offshore. The windy days have curtailed the gamefishers as well, with only limited reports of small black marlin showing up. But September is known as the start of the heavy tackle season and this month will see the game boats getting into full swing as visiting anglers and the bigger black marlin do battle out on the edge of the continental shelf.

For those fishos getting out in the calmer weather windows, there have been some quality trout caught along with occasional catches of reds, sweetlip and cod. There are still plenty of Spanish mackerel about and there have also been some hot bites on good sized spotty mackerel around the islands as well as the large schools of tuna. The macks have been attacking most baits floated or trolled, and small slices are working on both the macks and tuna varieties.

My sons Shaun and David had a blinder at High Island recently when the calm weather allowed them out to the island in their small tinny. They boys encountered a hot bite on good-sized spotties and also found mack tuna and the occasional large Spaniard. The macks were biting practically anything that moved and the small Raider slices they were casting were working a treat on the hungry fish.

Spotty mackerel are great fun on light spin gear and they taste great on the BBQ when fresh. This is a great fishing option during September so make sure you have the tinnie fuelled up and ready to get out there and chase these fun fish as soon as the weather allows.

Inshore on the smaller tides, quality fingermark to 75cm have been taken on livebaits in the deeper gutters of all systems. On the flats a few grunter have been taken as well as the occasional permit (snub-nosed dart). Fishing for grunter will pick up over the coming weeks and is best around the top of the making tides and the early run-out. Use a light line with very little lead weight. Squid or fresh fillets of gar or mullet will give best results.

In around the snags and rough bottom, pikey bream are still about as well as a few jacks and the odd barramundi. The bream bite really well on fresh prawns and the jacks have been taking fresh cut baits such as garfish, mullet and mud herring while the barra are taking live prawns drifted slowly into the snags on a gentle tide. Chase the jacks on a rising tide in the snags.

Around the river mouths there are still quality queenies up to 10kg and small school GTs about, as well as some trophy flathead up to 60cm captured in the shallows on the sand banks. The flatties are taking a variety of baits and soft plastics, with the period either side of the low tide producing best. Queenies will take any livebait but are mostly chased by anglers using topwater lures.

Livebaiting for all the main species is an easier option at this time of year, and will definitely produce more fish if that’s your main priority. This pattern will continue through September and beyond until the water warms significantly. Cast netting for sardines, mud herring, mullet and live prawns will be well worth the effort.

This month is usually a perfect time to snare quality-sized fingermark using livebaits. You’ll find these predators in the deep water of the Cairns inlet as well as any deep gutter of the rivers, and of course the two local hotspots of Kings Point and the Harbour Entrance Leads. The best times for these prime targets will be around the quarter moons this month. These fine fish can also be slow trolled up around any deep snag or structure.

Lurefishing has been challenging lately, but it should hopefully pick up this month. The best option of late has been chasing large queenies on surface poppers around the river mouths. The queenies will be around until the heavy rains start, so the action on these fun fish should continue for a while. The extra large GTs that enter the rivers are a good by-catch at this time of year.

This month should be a good time to dust off the barra baitcaster if you’ve had your gear in hibernation for a few months. Casting lures at the snags during the bottom half of the tide and trolling some deep running lures at the deeper structure around the tide changes is a pretty good bet to turn up Lates calcarifer, better known as barramundi. Try using B52s for the shallow casting and RMG scorpions or Vipers for the slow troll.

Until next month, good fishing.

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