Finally the weather has hit hot again, and along with the heat comes the longer feeding sessions of some of our favourite species.
Fingermark and mangrove jack are about in unprecedented numbers, even in the so-called hotspots. The Causeway Lake is up to standard and hardly a day goes by without several quality fish weighed in at the local kiosk. The Fitzroy is showing a healthy supply of fingermark and jacks along the banks down towards Connors Rocks and Casuarina. In this area there must be thousands of features that can hold any number of fish, from barra to jacks, and time is the only drawback when it comes to checking them all out.
A good depth sounder is the most useful tool in a boat. As well as regular surveys of the bottom and water at every level, the sounder tells you whether to bother with a snag or not. Featureless, average-looking stretches of water often contain a log or rockbar that can change the shape of the day.
I used to worry that noise stops the fish playing the game, but I’ve been proven wrong. On a recent trip with a mate, he used a rod in a way that it wasn’t designed for, and broke it. When he smacked it on the side of the tinny it worked like a switch – the next half dozen casts produced fish. I don’t recommend this to everyone; it probably won’t work every time. However, if things are slack try a bit of noise – it might excite the fish into action. We have used ‘sonic berley’ (turn Midnight Oil on the radio) on plenty of occasions when nothing has been happening and it has turned up trumps. Fish such as bream and grunter come over to investigate the disturbance and the free meal.
Grunter have been showing up at Connors and back up to Pirates Point. The trick to know whether the grunter are on is to look over the river on the town side of the meat works – and the amount of small tinnies is a dead giveaway. To tinnies equals no grunter. The old blokes that haunt the middle reaches of the river won’t let go of too many secrets but they can’t hide when the fish are chewing.
Barramundi season has just ended in our neck of the woods, after some quality fish were taken at nearly all the estuaries in the area. The yellow zones are already allowing some of the big breeders that hang around many of the local headlands to breed without the stress of nets to contend with. The dry has meant that the majority of breeding size fish in The Fitzroy are further upstream than in previous years at this time. On our occasional excursions to check spots for The Barra Bounty we’ve found stacks of small barra in the 250-400mm range, and hopefully that will mean more breeders in coming years.
Central Queenslanders are blessed with some excellent containment fishing within a couple of hours’ drive north and south. Places such as Lake Awoonga and Peter Faust Dam are starting to release fish in the sizes only heard of at Tinaroo. These dams are open all year round but, as you would expect, the barramundi definitely feed better over the warmer months. Before you plan a trip to any of these places, contact the rangers to organise fishing permits and also for the keeping of any barra out of the closed season. At Awoonga during the barra closed season (from midday on November 1 to midday on February 1) there is a limit of one barra over 120cm in possession. Minimum sizes apply all year round.
According to sources at Awoonga, their breeding program for mangrove jack is one of the biggest in Queensland and Lake Awoonga may have the biggest stock of mangrove jack in Australia. Now that is something to talk about. They are even introducing sea mullet, which are likely to relieve the pressure on the barra fingerlings.
Lesser mackerel have had a boom year at all of the nearby macky spots. Doggies have been seen in school sizes that we haven’t seen for a long time. In the last few years we have had to go wider and wider to score anything approaching a decent catch. They have shown at Findlay’s Reef, Forty Acre Paddock and Outer Rock with enthusiasm we are not used to.
The Patches out from Emu Park and Keppel Sands have been the reliable areas, and until recently we’ve had dribs and drabs. Anybody who chased mackerel this season had success, whether it was dogs, spotties or Spaniards. The closer spots have been producing fish that are mixed in size, so it pays to take out the measure stick or sticker on the inside of the boat. There have been reports of guys at Keppel Sands hitting Quartz Rock, landing a bag limit, dropping them off to shore and then returning for another batch. This is the reason for limits in the first place, and anyway – how many fish can a man use? Fortunately, the Fisheries patrol has an idea of who these dodgy fishos are and they will be watched as the spotties and doggies move in again.
Big black jew made an impact across winter and they will slow down over the next couple of months. The warmer water must move them into deeper water, and they only come in on the nights just before and after the full moon. Judging by the amount of huge jew landed this winter, they need a break anyway.
Schools of jewies approximately 250-300mm are small black jew and are undersize. They are regularly mistaken for soapy or river jew and are kept. I don’t know why, as soapies up here taste shocking. According to the Grants bible, river jew are OK eating, but I don’t think he never ate one out of the Fitzroy River. You can identify a small black jew by the two rows of spots or blotches along the dorsal fin and the tail, with some small spots on the lateral line.
Cobia (black kingfish) have come back with vengeance. From Liza Jane, Barren, Outer and Man & Wife, cobia have snuck in and stolen baits that were trolled for Spanish mackerel. This isn’t a bad thing if you favour cobes, but it can be annoying when you want Spaniards. The schools of cobia are made up of fish that are all the same size; it’s rare to catch a cobia more than a kilo or so different from the rest.
Floating pillies is another way to target cobia, and then you can bet mackerel will come around – particularly if you’re only using mono leader.
1) Scotty with a spotty. There are plenty of mackerel around at the moment.
2) Gus with a Outer Rock cobia.
3) Even Brisbanites can catch mackerel!Reads: 365