Seasonal Spread
  |  First Published: January 2010

This month plenty of the favourite local fish species are red hot.

Offshore the red fish are on the chew in lots of the rubble patches and fern country from about 40-80km and wider for the bigger boats.

Tides don’t always mean much to the bite; timing a fishing trip is determined by when the conditions allow you to head wide safely.

The mackerel hunters have been doing well as the summer run of Spaniards continues. They sometimes take time to locate if you are only chasing Spannos, but they are in small numbers at most of the recognised spots. The Keppels, Liza Jane, Flat, Perforated and Cape Manifold are always worth a look for the guys with bigger boats.

Cobia are another fish that were once more prevalent in summer and now fish well all year round. In February and March they hit the spots like Findlays and Forty Acre giving even anglers with small tinnies a chance at a horse.

The wider reefs and the shoals have a huge population of cobia, which can be very annoying when they are taking baits and lures meant for Spanish or reefies.

Grassy sweetlip, parrot and coral trout go well around the islands with the better fish caught usually over summer.

Whiting, bream and flathead are available at the moment in slightly lesser numbers than the cooler periods.

The beaches have also had another run of good sized dart keeping the family beach goers active either fishing or chasing worms for fresh bait. The bottom of the tide coming in is normally the best and you still have time to grab a few worms before settling into a session.

The islands provide stacks of empty beaches loaded with queenies, whiting and trevally. Now the resort has shutdown temporarily they have started getting quality fish on the main beach at Keppel once again.

Muddies continue to make the reports and the fresh flows of late have livened them up a bit. Take a pot or two up the creek with you and keep them in sight because the thieving share farmers have increased with the crab numbers.

Beautiful barra

Barramundi have come off the closed season and reports indicate there are a few about. Just prior to the season closure there was an excess of fish just under or around the 50cm mark. The large amount of baitfish and ideal growing conditions may have pushed these fish closer to keeper size now.

Barra are one of the best species to keep, most importantly because of their breeding input. Barra are all male fish and only become female when they reach four years of age and 90cm. So in a perfect world we would only keep fish up to 80cm so the bigger males can fertilise the females prior to changing sex.

Once barra become female they are much more valuable because they release millions of eggs each year and the bigger the fish the more eggs she has. This time of year there are barramundi spread well through the system.

The rain at the end of December and January has given many of the juveniles a chance to go upstream into the fresh to grow and also let the already fattened fish come back downstream into the salt for breeding.

As a rule more barra are caught in February than any other time in our area. The hot days act like a switch to turn on feeding mode. Dad always said you catch more fish when you are uncomfortable and the February heat fits the bill.

Late afternoon thunder storms are good times to fish for barra too as the lightning cracks make whole systems go on high alert and any well placed bait or lure has the opportunity to connect to an estuary giant. Be sure to take cover if the storm looks like it’s heading towards you, remember to always follow the safety first mantra.

If storms bring flooding rains the barra only slow down for a short period before they recover and get straight back into feeding mode.

The Fitzroy River is the prime location in our region and probably has the best chance of landing a barramundi at any given time. There is so much structure it is hard to pick only one spot – just use trial and error and move around until you find the one that works.

We usually start casting at the rocks next to the boat ramp and work our way up or downstream with the tide. Frequently we score good fish right beside the ramp at Nerimbera where most guys zoom past missing the fish that have come in on the previous tides.

I find by using lures we can cover a far bigger area when the fish aren’t really on the chew. But when they are on in the town reaches, you can anchor up underneath one of the bridges and land more than a dozen fish in a session without having to move.

Locally produced Richo lures are favoured by the majority of local barra specialists as they meet the criteria to catch fish in the river. This is one place where the lure that can get deep very quickly will do the most damage.

We have had most success working a 7m+ diver at varying depths after the initial hard twitches to gain depth. By using the deeper diver it is easier to fish different depths at different speeds until you find where the fish are.

There is no shortage of live bait around the ridges in the river or the local estuaries. Prawn sizes have increased substantially with the rain and are probably the best live bait going at present.

Popeye mullet are the next choice for live bait in the river. Although they are great bait they are the hardest to catch without ambushing them. We used to walk the banks and sneak in close before casting but the increased number of large crocs in the river means the best option is now using a cast net from the boat.

Other barramundi spots that hold top fish are Coorooman Creek, which has timbers and rock bars worth a look when the weather is warm.

The Causeway Lake is a good location too. The best spot is around the actual causeway bridge and it goes off when the tide rushes over the causeway on run-in tides over 3.6m.

Ross Creek at night between the boats and under the bridge is a good location to target barra with decent sized live mullet.

Fishing Creek is a hot spot at low tide. Cast lures into the pools along the deep mangrove edges or along the Black Banks for best results. Similar to Fishing Creek, Waterpark, Deep and Sandfly creeks need to be worked over a whole tide to get into the better spots, which are mainly under mangrove ledges in the holes as the tide turns.

Corio Bay has quite a few rocky outcrops and mangrove banks and is probably the better spot for picking up top live bait almost all the time.

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