Fingermarks After Dark
  |  First Published: November 2005

Right now I feel like a kid in a candy shop! November has always been one of my favourite months, with the marvellous hot tropical weather matched only by the incredible quality of fishing on offer.

The barra boys have already started to get antsy as their prey is now officially regarded as by-catch on the east coast and plenty of tinnies are packed away for the wet season lay-off. However, being a charter guide in the Townsville area, I am happy to inform you that there is a lot still on offer for keen anglers thinking of making a trip north.

Creeks such as Crocodile, Cocoa, Alligator, Morrissey’s and Cattle will all hold good numbers of grunter this month. Go up the creek at, or near, low tide and look along the banks for any sign of shell grit in the mud. When you have located a section (the aforementioned creeks have multiple options) use your sounder to locate heavy rubble pads, which should be nearby.

Anchor parallel to your chosen spot using two anchors, one fore and the other aft, as this method allows you to fish multiple rods with a pushing tide. One anchor, on the other hand, will force you to fish only from the rear of your vessel.

Small, live greenback herring are by far the best bait for big grunter, although dead baits of herring, squid, mullet or even fresh strips of steak have been known to tempt fussy fish.

Use the smallest sinker possible to just hold your bait on the bottom, with a running rig down to a 3/0 hook of your choice. Most grunter anglers swear by leaving their reels in freespool with the ratchet on to let the fish take a good run of line before setting the hook. This helps their hook-up rates considerably.

By-catches for this method of fishing include fingermark, cod, bream and mangrove jacks.

While the weather is good it will definitely be worth visiting local headlands such as Cape Cleveland, Orchard Rocks, Burdekin Rock and Bare and Bray islands.

Any sign of half decent weather will see a congregation of fingermark experts anchored up at night all around these areas. Large fingermark are nocturnal feeders and the number one bait is live squid.

The easiest way to catch live squid is by angling a light source into the water in the location you plan to fish. Squid will find this irresistible and sooner or later venture up to hunt small fish and prawns also attracted by the light. You can scoop them up with a fine mesh prawn scoop, throw a drawstring cast net that closes at the bottom or use a squid jig.

Paternoster rigs are the most effective way to keep your bait up off the bottom and in plain sight for the night-time hunters. Lightly pin your baits on a strong 6-7/0 hook; even small fingers have mouths large enough to swallow a hook this size!

Keep a good eye on your tackle if using rod holders, as fingers don’t muck around when they hit, and often hook-ups last only a few seconds before they bust you up.

Recently there have been medium to large GTs and good-sized black jew mixed in with the fingermark schools, so I suggest using 10kg line and 60lb leaders as a minimum.

Further offshore the shoals at the back of Magnetic Island and the wrecks located at closer in reefs such as Keeper, Lodestone and John Brewer have all been holding large numbers of big trevally, nannygai, emperor and cobia.

Closer to the reef, water temperatures have well and truly hit summer peaks and as a result, red throat emperor and coral trout have reached almost plague proportions.

If you are fishing the shallow parts of the reef, remember you will be competing with the commercial live trout boats. Generally, recreational anglers fish the deeper coral reef and bombies in around 80-100ft of water.

Finding these areas is just a matter of sounding along the reef drop-off and keeping an eye out for contour changes and schools of fish holding on the bottom. Keep a floating line out the back as big Spanish mackerel and cobia have also been cruising these spots.

As the weather starts to warm, chasing fingermark like this 77cm model at night is a great way to beat the heat.

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