Up with Sparrows
  |  First Published: December 2009

Perfect weather has greeted us in 2010 and for many locals, this time of year means hooking up the boat trailer and heading out to test some newly acquired toys on some of our prime targets at the nearby reefs.

Most anglers have been trying to snaffle some prized coral trout in the shallow sections of the reefs. The trout have been biting well and the proven method of a whole pillie with the ball sinker right onto the hook has been producing some quality fish.

Out wider in the deepwater between the reefs, the nannygai fishing has been productive. Night fishing can also be very productive, however be on the lookout for the ever-present threat of storms and do not take risks.

For those who have made the trip offshore chasing some nice bottom fillets there has also been the bonus of a few stray mackerel around.

The hot summery conditions can be quite a challenge when fishing inshore up in the tropics. Fishing in the heat of the day can be a struggle, however, the rewards of some nice table fish is well worth the effort. I don’t recommend fishing in the middle of the day but rather concentrate your efforts around the mornings and afternoon into the evenings when conditions are a little cooler and comfortable.

Evening fishing in the local estuaries can be a very pleasant change, and of course a great option is to chase fingermark in the deeper water with live baits or get closer to the timber and target mangrove jacks.

The bait fishing enthusiasts have been nailing a few decent grunter on flesh baits on the esplanade flats and this will be a good option going forward through January. The best times to chase the grunter is early morning on a rising tide and remember fresh is the best bait, particularly for these fish that forage on the bottom for food. If you can use a cast net then any of the following strip baits of mullet, gar, mud herring or sardines and of course fresh prawns will be just fine.

When looking for the right type of bottom to fish for grunter the best and simplest way to find out is with your anchor. Usually we chase these fish in shallow water, 3-4m, and look for a hard shell grit bottom, which you will find when you inspect your anchor after you pull it up. If you are fishing on a plain mud bottom, forget it and move on until you find the shell grit. Use a light ball sinker, small hook (1 or 2/0), soft mono trace (40cm) , spin rod with a soft tip and allow the fish to suck the bait in and run before striking.

There have also been a few threadies starting to show up and this month will also be a good time to chase the salmon, as both the Cooktown and King salmon become more common throughout the next few months. You can catch these on either lure or bait, but as they can be quite easily spooked on lures they are more commonly captured on bait.

Luring tips

This month is also a good time to chase a few jacks on lure and there has been some nice captures. Unfortunately, the captures have also included the odd closed season barra in the salt arm of the local estuaries. Naturally all barra caught during this time must be released unharmed.

My tip for fishing the estuaries is to be early, really early! I have always found at this time of the year when it is so hot it is well worth the effort to get on the water before daylight and fish the hour or so before the sun comes up. The fish are often a bit more active in this cooler period of the day.

Have you ever had those occasions when your lure keeps getting cheek-slapped by a fish and then failing to hook up despite your best intentions? This doesn’t happen so much with jacks but is quite a regular occurrence for barra that are not so much in a feeding mood. The fish become so teed off at the invasion of their personal space with your lure, they will slap the lure with the side of their face and as it is such a hard area you often fail to get a treble point to penetrate into the flesh and end up with nothing more than a cheek scale. Anglers often tend to strike back when they get a hit especially from a barra. My tip is if you keep getting cheek-slapped, slow down the retrieve rate and allow the fish to take the lure before locking up.

This is also a time to take extra care on the water with all of the extra traffic and inexperienced operators. Over the holidays there are often more people on the water trying out new equipment, boats, and trailers that are either brand new or have been laying dormant for months.

When I was chartering we used to see some of the funniest events just after Christmas at the local boat ramps. People get in a rush at the ramps and forget some of the most basic things and disaster can strike. In addition, the beginning of heavy rains may not be too far away and this can mean plenty of unusual things floating around, such as big logs, etc, that have been washed down stream.

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