Spaniards and… snapper?
  |  First Published: August 2009

‘The windy city’, a catch cry borrowed from the yanks, is how frustrated reef fisherman have been describing Townsville of late. We can’t complain too much though as the early parts of winter saw some great weather for long periods of time. I guess we were overdue for the mango winds (southerly trade winds) to make an appearance.

Reef fishermen are not the only ones getting a little nervous about getting out. At the start of September the annual Mike Carney Billfish Challenge will be held, with prizes totalling $45,000 and categories for boats over 8m and under 8m. This tag and release tournament can become quite uncomfortable for the smaller boats fishing in strong winds, but reports of massive bait schools already on the marlin grounds around Bowling Green Bay have game fishermen fired up and ready to go.

The other upside to all that bait that the Spanish mackerel, which are starting an annual spawning run, should stay close to the coast and well within reach of a mid-sized tinny. Shoals off the back of Bear and Bray islands and even the islands themselves are holding good mackerel on the bigger tides. Don’t expect this to last forever though, as they will be on the move headed for Rib Reef.

Closer to Townsville, Cape Cleveland and the surrounding reefs and rocks have also been holding some good Spanish macks. Around 10-15kg is the average size but there is also the odd 20kg monster cruising about. Slow trolled wolf herring are the best baits for a big mack and most local tackle stores have plenty in stock.

Reports to the north from around the bottom end of the Palm group have been patchy and the mackerel may just not have reached up there in good numbers. Still, spear fishermen are saying they are in good numbers off Rib, Brewer and Bramble so maybe the currents just haven’t taken the schools of macks into these areas.


Creek fishing has also been affected by the winds as anglers in small boats chase a feed. Simon Polletti of Giru Fishing Tours spends most of his time in the Haughton River and has laid claim to a better season than most; his barra have averaged 60-70cm with at least half a dozen over the genuine metre mark. Live prawns fished in and around structure have been the only way to catch barra, and Simon is of the opinion that September and October will be no different.

Lure fishing for barra hasn’t really slowed that much either. Peter Robinson has been braining big barra over the 120cm mark slow trolling Killalure Terminators in the freshwater reaches of Ross River. Those anglers fishing in the salt have been having great success using lightly-weighted soft plastics or suspending hardbodies, both fished hard against the snags.

The only targets that have become a little more hit-and-miss have been mud crabs. It seems you can clean up one day and catch nothing the next. Fresh baits of kangaroo tail or chicken frames are still the most popular and with good reason, as the crabs find it hard to resist these baits. If you find an area that delivers plenty of undersize crabs, continue to work it with fresh baits anyway. Move your pots slightly with each tide and change the baits as there should be some legal bucks in there somewhere.


Every now and again a species of fish turns up where and when it shouldn’t, and Doug Morrison’s snapper is one such fish – an 82cm specimen taken off Two Foot Rock at Cape Cleveland. He was out chasing some fingermark when the snapper stole his live bait, and Doug reckons it was like fighting a wet sock compared to a big finger! (You may or may not know that the Queensland Government has changed the name of this great fish from fingermark to golden snapper to be in line with the Northern Territory so they can commercially market it. But until Queensland adopts some of the Territory’s other fisheries management principles I for one will not conform!)

Congratulations to Doug on his great catch.

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