October traditionally means the end of the often cursed ‘mango winds’ – strong southeast trade winds that are synonymous with September in the north. This should allow bluewater anglers to return to their lucrative offshore hunting grounds.
Winter bread and butter species such as whiting, bream and flathead will thin out, with beach and creek fishers starting to target cod, trevally, mangrove jack, fingermark and barra. The official closure date for the barramundi season on the east coast is midday November 1, so if you hook a barra as a by-catch after this date, make sure you release it immediately.
Fortunately, in the four weeks before the closure, barramundi will become far easier to target. As the water gets warmer, the barra become more active in their feeding habits. Live prawn will still be the number one bait early in the month, but once water temperatures start to get over 26 degrees, baits such as mullet, whiting and herring will become much more desirable because the lazy barra only need to eat a couple of these to fill their stomachs.
Every river or creek around Townsville has a couple of deep holes, rock bars or shale pads, and if we have a steady wet season, they should also contain some permanent snags.
The more popular areas for targeting barra are the Bohle and Haughton Rivers, and Alligator, Crocodile and Coco creeks. These systems all have easy to find structure and bait, as well as good access.
While on the water, try to think like a lazy barra: fish baits back into eddies, on or near structure, especially if there is bait holding nearby.
Use a simple running rig with a ball or bean sinker that is heavy enough to just hold the bottom in the current and any brand of strong, sharp wide gap hooks. Remember to adjust your hook size depending on the size of the bait you are using. For example, a two to three inch mullet will require a 3/0 or 4/0 hook, while a six to eight inch mullet will need an 8/0 wide gap.
If you’re anchored near shell grit or shale it will be worth fishing the odd fillet or dead bait, as big numbers of large grunter are still making their presence felt and will continue to do so well into the summer months. If you really want to target grunter, try fishing small, live greenback herring on a running rig set in free spool using a 3/0 or 4/0 bait holder or wide gap hook. The better areas to chase big grunter are a little harder to access in small tinnies but not impossible in good weather – try Burdekin Rock, Bay Rock, Cape Cleveland and the shell grit at the mouth of Crocodile and Alligator creeks.
Further offshore it’s worth noting that Spanish mackerel have moved out to deeper reef complexes in preparation for their annual spawn in early November. So dust off the downrigger and the deep diving lures – you’re going to need them!
Wrecks, bombies and prominent reef ledges will all be good spots to try this time of the year. Although garfish are easier to rig and find, the larger wolf herring stocked at most tackle stores are well worth the money, as big Spaniards find it hard to resist a 3-foot wolfie being trolled past.
The most productive reefs in the past have been Keeper, Lodestone, John Brewer and Grub. And don’t forget that headlands and rocks will still hold some resident fish, so places like Albino, Chilcott, Cordelia, Four and Twenty Foot Rocks are worth burning some fuel around.
A lot of anglers have a ‘grass is greener’ attitude towards their local area and although I can’t speak for everyone, I can definitely say from personal experience that the Townsville area is alive and kicking. With a small amount of knowledge and a great deal of perseverance, you too can discover what a fantastic trophy fishery we have on our doorstep.Reads: 673