With a warmer winter and early spring than normal, we should be in for a bumper summer.
Barramundi have come back on and it’s no surprise that the Fitzroy River is the location of choice. The diversity of structures found in the river gives anglers more chances to nail a barra. Land-based and tinnie options range are available from the middle of Rockhampton right down to the mouth of the Fitzroy and the Narrows. Usually there is more than enough room for anybody wishing to chase some barra without a crowd. I had several good takes from barramundi recently, but unfortunately didn’t hook-up.
Over the full moon, barramundi will congregate in parts of the system that have the right salinity levels to breed. The season closes at the end of the month so if you want to get into some barra, act now. The Rocky Barra Bounty takes place this month and is a great event to participate in because it is tag and release only, with proceeds assisting the restocking and study of the Fitzroy River.
Fingermark and mangrove jack have been showing some promise and as the month wears on they will start to feed more actively. The local headlands, Shoalwater Bay and the Fitzroy River are the best bets for fingermark, while the jacks are particularly good in the Causeway Lake. Other spots such as the Fitzroy and Waterpark Creek have small populations of mangrove jacks but the Causeway is the best place to try, especially as tides get bigger.
Crabs are moving again and have been pretty full, so take your pots with you and if you miss out on a fish you should be able to console yourself with a crab.
The mackerel species are already around in numbers and from now until after Christmas the run won’t stop. Doggies, Spaniards and spotties will all be following the schools of baitfish and will probably hang around the area long enough to fatten up before travelling up or down the coast. When the tides are small, Barren, Outer, Man and Wife and Conical reefs work well for Spaniards; when the tides are up, Liza Jane is hard to beat. Spotted and doggy mackerel congregate at all the inshore reefs and rock walls around Rosslyn Bay Harbour on quiet, glassy days.
Offshore fishing has been a highlight of recent weeks and the wider reefs, starting from the back of the main island group, have all produced. Lately some of the biggest yellow and grassy sweetlip have turned up in very shallow waters and local anglers have reaped the rewards.
We recently scored some huge sweetlip, one of them a big 76cm yellow. Plenty of anglers said that this fish would be mediocre on the table. However, I gave it to my mate Paul, who is a chef at the Keppel Bay Sailing Club, and he proved that anyone who has never had good yellow sweetlip just can't cook. It was absolutely beautiful and we are fussy when it comes to fish.
The trick is not to overcook the fish. He starts by scaling and gutting the fish properly then washing it in saltwater. He stuffs the fish with onion, garlic, ginger and sweet soy sauce, and then tops it with some eschalots and thin slices of lemon and lime. Next, he wraps the fish well in foil and bakes it in a moderate oven, checking it after twenty minutes by pushing in a thin skewer. If it is properly cooked, the skewer will pass through easily. The total cooking time for a big fish is about 35 minutes.
CapReef (Capricorn Reef Monitoring Program) is the name of a fish study undertaken in our local area where anglers and scientists work hand in hand to monitor the effect of the green zones and coral reef finfish fishing closures.
I recently spoke to Kim Martin and Bill Sawynock to find out a little about the program. In recent years significant changes have been made to management arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Major changes resulted from the Trawl Fisheries Management Plan in 2001, the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2004 and the Reef Line Fisheries Management Plan in 2004. In June 2005 the Fitzroy Basin Association funded the establishment of a community-based monitoring program called CapReef, aimed at collecting information on the effects of these changes on fishing and fishes.
Although it is community-driven, CapReef has wide support from science bodies and government. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Fitzroy Basin Association, Department of Primary Industries, Capricorn Local Marine Advisory Committee, CRC Reef Research Centre, CRC Coastal Estuaries and Waterways Management, Central Queensland University, Capricorn Sunfish, recreational fishing clubs and conservation groups are among those giving support to the study. The whole project should run for the next ten years or more and the results may influence the direction of future efforts.
Part of the program is to collect information on changes to catch rates and to encourage anglers to provide their trip details, a flyer has been developed (thanks to Kim Martin) to leave on windscreens at boat ramps along with a laminated CapReef card. You don't need to leave your GPS marks, just the general area. You can report your catch simply by phoning the CapReef hotline on 1800 077 001 after each trip. It's a free call and will only take a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can fill a form and fax it to (07) 4926 3335 or mail it to PO Box 9793, Frenchville Qld, 4701. An electronic version of the form is also available: just send us your email address and we will send it out.
CapReef will give you a cap after you've logged 5 trips and a T-shirt after you've logged 10 trips. So please keep the CapReef card handy in your tackle box or near your phone, then call the project team when you get back and report how you went, even if you didn't catch anything.
CapReef is about finding out what is happening in our fishery and your input is vital. For more information contact Bill Sawynok on 1800 077 001 or email --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 1944