The weather hasn’t been that bad this winter as the extended blows of southeasterlies haven’t arrived. This could all change though, so be prepared to fish whenever the weather allows, regardless of prior commitments!
Even when the weather turns foul at this time of year, inshore areas seem to remain quite calm and fishable from even the smallest tinnies. Inside Cape Cleveland and around Magnetic Island are very popular areas, and plenty of good tablefish are caught in these locations. When the winds are blowing the big trophy fish seem to get lockjaw, so targeting bread-and-butter species is a good alternative.
There have been good reports of school or doggie mackerel around the shipping channel markers, Alligator Creek weed beds, Pallaranda, West Point and Burdekin Rock. This should continue this month, and you should be prepared for the odd Spaniard to show up chasing the doggie schools, especially on the western side of Maggie. Floating the humble pilchard in a small but consistent berley trail will fool most fish, but remember to check the zoning of the area as yellow zones permit only one rod per person if you’re not trolling.
If, like me, you prefer to cover some ground and troll for your doggies, you may like to try the new lure from the Classic stable, a downsized copy of the Classic Bluewater. I have given it a burl and the doggies have been jumping all over it.
Another bread-and-butter fish worth chasing this month is the blue salmon. Schools of these hard-fighting fish are being found in the shallower systems south of Townsville, with the best reports coming from the Haughton River on the last of the run-in tides. Live prawns fished where rubble or structure leads onto mud, or even slight colour changes on the bends, are the pick of the areas to look for salmon. As always though, watch your sounder for schools holed up in a new spot.
The Maggie Island Shoals are holding really good red emperor and large-mouth nannygai at the moment. As a result, when the weather reports are favourable many small tinnies in the 5m bracket can be seen there making a dent in the population. Some reds are have been reported to be over 12kg, as have the cobia (black kingfish) that are regular catches in these areas. Early mornings and evenings are the most productive times, and are well worth the lost sleep. The boys from Formset have their new boat Ripple back on the water, and although they have been fishing wider than most boats some of their catches have been brilliant. Faraday Reef has seen most of their attention, but skipper Dean Sciffilitti says Hopkinsons Shoal is still providing some of the best trout fishing off Townsville. With Hopkinsons being only a few miles past Lodestone, it’s a viable option for most boats capable of fishing the shoals and close reefs if the weather is calm this month. Hopefully a few boaties will be able to get out there to tangle with a few trout or even one of extra large packs of Spanish mackerel cruising the area.
Barra fishing is starting to hit its pins this month as the fish are getting used to the cooler temperatures. With high tides after lunch, fish the shallower systems such as the Barratteas or the Haughton. Morning high tides are better fished in deeper areas like Morrisseys Creek. This is all about the smallest change of temperature putting the fish into feeding mode.
If we get an extended period of warmer weather, slightly heating the water, it will be a good idea to fish rock bars and open shale pads. If we continue with cooler water temps, however, you’ll want to fish hard in heavy snags or structure. Live prawns fished on a dropper rig around the snags are the only way to consistently hook these barra. A ‘hold on and hope’ fighting technique is often employed, as what feels like a little fish can suddenly turn into a freight train.
If you’re a lure fanatic there are plenty of good prawn imitation lures on the market. At the right time and fished properly, they will all work. If I had to pick a favourite, I would probably go for the D.O.A. prawn. It can be worked slowly in the snags, you can add extra weight to get it down when needed, and it’s cheap.
Last winter saw a good run of grunter on the northern beaches. The trick was to fish the last of the run-in and first of the run-out on the bigger night tides. Baits were more of a case of how keen you were; some anglers fished live prawn and herring while others fished frozen squid, mullet fillet or prawn, and all of them caught fish.
The locals that tipped us off about the run of grunter have been very tight lipped so far, but they seem to be stocking up their bait freezers at the moment so I suspect the fish are not far away, if they’re not here already.
Finally, for one of our dedicated readers, Gary Powis: yes, the whiting are also on the beaches. Cungulla to the south has had some good reports but not from the Salmon Creek mouth like you would expect. Rather, the fish have been coming from the gutters and drains along the length of Long Beach. Any of the beaches and yabby beds you can access inside the bay all the way around to the Ross River mouth are running red hot with good whiting catches. It’s the same at Shelley Beach and, further to the north, Bushland Beach. If you see Gary down on the beach or at the boat ramp, stop and have a chat as he is happy to share his whiting knowledge.
A good cobia taken while trolling for mackerel off Cape Cleveland.
Riley Jones hooked up to a good flathead.Reads: 2018