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Never smile at a…
  |  First Published: November 2003



‘CROCODILE’ is the word of the month around here. Northerners would find this a bit ho-hum but we Southern Queenslanders don’t see many ‘flat dogs’ on our own turf. Numerous sightings of a croc last month and subsequent reports have been met with derision, jokes and stories about goannas. I too was rather sceptical about it all until just the other day...

Some years back I recall hearing of a couple of mates dragging a 40ft bait net around in Lake Cooroibah. They hauled the net up into the shallows and discovered (allegedly) that they had hauled in a 3-4ft crocodile. Immediately upon dropping the net and scarpering for the nearest tree, the said croc sensibly fled the scene and of course hasn’t been seen since.

Naturally the rumour mill goes into overdrive when croc sightings occur on the Sunshine Coast. I’m sure the bars and nightclubs are a very good breeding place for crocodile stories, particularly when fed by those travellers that have come from the north and have recently seen a few of these fascinating creatures.

Amongst the other stories floating around are legends of a crocodile that’s apparently lived in the Coolum swamps for years. Locals reckon they hear it barking from time to time – or perhaps they heard the mangy border collie from down the street. Another worthy yarn that may contain a smidgin of truth is the one about a pair of likely lads who spent a couple of months wandering around Cape York 10 years back. I’ve heard that they brought a few young crocs home for a bit of a prank. Subsequently released into the Noosa River system shortly afterwards, they could possibly have attained a length of 3m or so by now.

Recent sightings of this seemingly lost reptile have been far and wide. From the sandy banks of the Frying Pan island near the river mouth to some 40km upstream, this lizard seems to enjoy getting around. The ferry crossing has been visited several times according to some witnesses, as have Lake Cooroibah, Lake Cootharabah, Boreen Point and just about everywhere else as well.

The authorities say that the feared estuarine crocodile, more commonly called a ‘salty’, ranges from about Broome in the west to Maryborough in the east. I know for a fact that they are found south of Broome, and I am rather sceptical about their presence, in decent numbers, south of Rocky. Gladstone sees a few I know, and rare sightings occur in the Bundaberg area and I reckon that’s about it. Accept of course for Noosa!

Alas, all is not lost! In mid-October I spoke to a reliable witness who’s spent many a day trapping crabs and fishing in waters far north from here, and he knows a crocodile when he sees one. On the morning we crossed paths he had been tossing lures about in the upper reaches of the system when one became snagged on some hidden object. Whilst leaning out of his tinny and up to his shoulder in water probing for his snagged lure, the aforementioned crocodile surfaced right next to the boat. The said boat is 12ft in length and the offending reptile is apparently a mere foot shorter. This unforgettable experience is indelibly etched in this angler’s mind, and he is intent on providing proof! During the next week or so he intends to spend quite some time lurking in the area, camera at the ready.

ESTUARIES

Most of the Sunny Coast estuaries are well and truly warming up for summer, and by November the warmwater species will be in full swing. Whilst the breaming has been more than acceptable through to early October it’s unlikely this will last much longer. Of course, bream are available all year round and they are a great species for kids to target with bait offerings. However, the quantity and quality drop off during the warmer months and the humble and widespread flathead take over.

They too are available all year round, however, they congregate for their spawning run at this time and as such they can be easy targets. During September and October plenty of flathead were caught along the coast including quite a few large henfish. These big girls are the future of this fishery and should always be released. It’s best to take a couple of fish of around 50cm home for a feed. They are better eating anyway.

The mighty dog tooth bream, better know, as the mangrove jack, comes into its own in November on the Sunshine Coast. Whilst our population of jacks isn’t quite as good as many northern systems, there are plenty here and they are a regular catch. Most are taken as by-catch when chasing flathead with live bait (particularly at night), but snag bashers also catch their share.

Bibbed minnow lures are the best bet and the most fun as far as I’m concerned. Tossing the lure well back into the snag and slowly working it back out again is the key to success. Many lure tossers retrieve too quickly. A slow, erratic, twitchy retrieve is the way to go for these red devils. A lure with a reasonably large bib is perfect for the job as it will bounce across most structure, and when the retrieve is paused it will slowly rise. During this rise a subtle twitch or two will often draw a strike. Jack, barra, threadfin, bream, cod, Moses perch and even tripod fish will take a lure worked this way. Unfortunately, so will catfish and the occasional shark too. Who knows, you might even hook a crocodile!

1. Mangrove jacks will be on the chew during November on the Sunshine Coast. Brisbane angler Tony Ham tempted this one out of the snags on a day trip to Noosa.

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