River of Kings
  |  First Published: February 2009

The immediate heat of summer has dropped a bit and it should be a bumper March with plenty of action offshore, inshore and in the estuaries.

The large amount of freshwater in the rivers has boosted prawn stocks which inturn has kept the whole system on the up. The river is looking very good and has an unusual amount of baitfish and prawns around that can only help improve the future.

Barramundi as usual have kicked into gear in just about all the creeks and the Fitzroy. Due to the big fresh flows slowing the professional effort and areas in town now closed completely to netting there will be more midsized fish around than previous years. Last year we had a very good run right up to the cold snaps and regular catches through winter.

For barra use both bait and lures depending on the run-in tide, the current and the spot you are fishing. The ideal bait spot is anywhere just off the fast flow where you can float a big prawn or poddy in tight past a structure. Lures on the other hand come into play when you can’t get a livey into the zone.

King salmon (or threadfin) are another fish that have relished in the conditions and we are seeing more of them in other areas. The Fitzroy is renowned for big kings pretty well the entire length of the river downstream from the barrage, but Port Alma is gaining in popularity as it becomes more accessible to the average Joe. Places like Coorooman Creek and Waterpark Creek have populations of king salmon that are growing slowly and they have been relatively untargeted because not many fishers had actually seen them there. I think angler education is another reason more species are being taken in spots they were never heard of before.

In our region the king salmon prefer muddy dirty water and colour changes where they can ambush small baitfish or smash prawns and small crabs into the mud banks. When looking for threadfin keep an eye out for golf ball sized dents in the mud as the tide drops. This is a sure sign they are working that area and they will be there on the making tide hitting any critters along the tidal edge.

As the tide rises well placed live prawns or poddy mullet are very hard for them to ignore. King salmon are a hard fighting fish that a number of locals prefer to catch and eat far more than their iconic counterpart: the barra. We also catch the odd threadie on lures while chasing barras, though I can’t seem to get them regularly except on live baits.

Grunter, bream, fingermark, mangrove jack, cod and muddies are also working this month. Mudcrabs have been taken in the deeper spots in the slower currents just off the main channels; the fresh has pushed them out of the little creeks into saltier parts. The River, The Causeway, Ross, Pumpkin, Deep, Sandfly, Fishing, Undiscovered, Waterpark and Coorooman Creeks all are thick with crabs so take your pots when you go fishing.

Pirates Point, Connors Creek, Coorooman Creek, Waterpark Creek will hold grunter in the holes around the rock bars, the deeper channels and cockle beds mainly around the new and full moons. Drifting over the undulating bottom with a big prawn or herring does the trick more often than not.

Black jew are coming into contention more towards the second quarter. They are starting to appear in small quantities prior to schooling up for breeding in the next few months. They have been taken in ones and twos inside some of the creeks around the wharves at Port Alma and in Corio Bay, as well as the big jew haunts such as Corio Heads, Ironpot, Double Heads and The Pinnacles.

Recently we were up at the Pinns chasing grunter on light gear. We had a hit from what started out like a grunter, but grew big time into a 12kg black jew. It comes as a surprise when they arrive earlier than usual, hopefully it is a sign of things to come.

The top baits to use on jewfishwhen the schools of bonito and small tuna are travelling through the area, are slabs of bonito and mack tuna. The rest of the time whole squid and pilchards score well. Big jewies circle the structures and holes when they are schooling and it is not uncommon to have nothing for a period and then every rod in the boat goes off at once. Just like grunter they often move around the trenches near the structures and not right around the top of the pinnacle.

Spanish mackerel have been a bit cagey earlier this year showing at times when they are normally other places. However they have picked up in quantity at all the known spots. Cape Manifold, Flat, Perforated, the Pinnacles, Conical, Outer, Man and Wife, Big Peninsula, Barren and Child, Humpy, Hummocky and Liza Jane each hold Spaniards so take your pick. Liza Jane works best on a 4m tide at 10am (bigger tides) as does the Pinnacles. All of the other spot fish well any on high before lunchtime. We used to say they shutdown at 10 o’clock for pub opening and start again when school finishes at 3pm, but the shoals and the deep grounds can work all day sometimes.

The bait schools are a bigger sized fish at present that means bonito and ribbonfish (wolfies) are probably the pick troll baits. The other rule is never bottom bash without floating a pilly or live bait because often the fish of the day takes the floater.

Coral trout numbers don’t appear to have changed much with trout featuring in most catches most of the time. Whether it is shallow water or deeper reef they keep on happening. All the local islands have fine trout populations at varying depths from a few metres down. When you are looking for trout start in very close to the rocks and move out a bit at a time. Many of the trout caught around the islands come from the shale type layer structures around the headlands, not just coral reef like the name implies. Live baits, big dead baits or lures can do the damage on any day and even poppers account for trout around those rocky, washy, shallow outcrops.

Redthroat emperor, cod, parrot, tuna and wahoo have been taken in the last week or so and as usual the redfish are firing too. The bigger reds have moved back out to the deeper waters this side of the shoals, but as a rule to get regular catches you have to cover lots of miles.

If Hughie plays the game and gives us some good weekends instead of boss’s weather we are in for a top month.

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