No Lounging Lizard
  |  First Published: January 2010

When you think of Lizard Island the first type of fishing that comes to mind is chasing black marlin, and not just any black marlin, but the thousand-pounder type! People travel from all over the world to use it as a base to come and do battle with these monsters, but the area around Lizard Island is also a top quality fishery for a host of other species too.

When on a recent charter out to Lizard Island we saw all the game boats out in force fishing the drop-off for big blacks. However, we decided to focus our efforts in the lagoons and sheltered parts of the reef for the other numerous species on offer.

We found numerous reefies and GT that were quite willing to put a significant bend in our rods. Fish like coral trout, red bass, Spanish and shark mackerel, various species of cod and a plethora of other fish, which I often struggled to identify, called the shallow water home.

There were a few techniques that we used to make the trip more productive and these might help you to put a few more fish in the boat if you are fortunate enough to fish this area one day.

Go early

The marlin season generally starts to get under way around September and by October there are game boats working all up and down the ribbon reefs as well as the reefs further north.

Most of these boats spend the morning targeting smaller fish around the reefs to use as bait for the big blacks, which means that by the end of the season the fishing is a lot tougher than it is at the beginning. Even though these outside reefs are extremely remote they are still sensitive to angling pressure and it does show. For this simple reason it is often wise to get up there before the crowds.

Lagoon fishing doesn’t suffer too much from over fishing as the bigger game boats can’t really get into too shallow water. Therefore the fishing in the super shallow areas remains excellent.

Tackle Requirements

The fishing terrain around the outer reefs off Lizard is extremely unforgiving country, and the majority of the fish that you target will be quite aware of how to rub you off on the nearest bit of rock. There is not a lot of sand out there so every time that you make a cast you have the potential to be bricked or cut off by a fish that eats your lure.

Even though it is great fun catching fish on light tackle, the general consensus is to beef up the gear – Either you turn the fish’s head or you lose your lure.

The fishing is very visual with impressive surface strikes being the norm rather than the exception. As soon as you get the hit remember to start moving the fish towards you and more of your lures will survive the trip. I have seen guys get busted off by fish even before the ripples from the bite have subsided. Fairly heavy spin gear with reels around the 4000 size or bigger will hopefully get you out of trouble.

Rods don’t need to be too long as the longer you go the more you generally forfeit in pulling power, so try not to go over 7 ft. If you have trouble deciding on which outfit to take go for the heavier one.

I would suggest 50lb braid to be an absolute minimum, simply because there are also a lot of good GT around. You will quite often be fishing in a meter of water for red bass and trout only to have a 30kg GT come out of nowhere and engulf your lure. A good trade off is 80lb braid simply because it can be used on both the shallower stuff as well as the GT fishing.

We also made extensive use of twisted leaders because they travel well through the guides and last that little bit longer when a fish does get you in the reef. For the shallower stuff we make our twisties out of 60-80lb mono and for the rough stuff we use 100-120lb mono.

Spool your reel with a hollow braid and will be able to splice a loop into the end of the braid, but if not then a bimini twist will do just fine. The twisted leader can then be attached to the braid with a ‘cats paw’ or similar loop-to-loop join.


Poppers, stickbaits, soft plastics and minnows will all catch fish on the reef. The larger lures will work on the GT, while the smaller models tend to catch more red bass and coral trout.

If you are fishing areas that hold both then try to use a mid sized lure, by this I mean something around the 80-100g sized lure. The Nomad Cubera, Halco Roosta, Bills Bug or any similar type of popper will get you amongst them.

The Shimano Gunz, Nomad dogtooth or Chaos Surface Walker range of stick baits work really well but a good tip is to go the floating model and rig it with double rings and single hooks with the barbs crushed. The reason is that when you get busted off it usually doesn’t take the fish long to get rid of the lure and it will then float back up to the surface.

On the soft plastic side of things it really doesn’t matter exactly which brand you use, of more importance is the jighead size. There is generally a lot more current out on the reef so you often find yourself casting 1oz or heavier jigheads to get the plastics down.

A really good and cheap alternative to the poppers and stick baits is a Slugo, Bozo Cruncha or similar large straight tail plastic rigged on an oversize worm hook. One of these in a bright colour fished over the shallow flats works really well and if you do lose it, it won’t break the bank. Try to get it to walk-the-dog just under the water quite quickly throwing in the odd pause. You will see the fish rush over to grab it. It is truly amazing fishing.

It still amazes me how a 2kg fish could grab a lure on 80lb braid rigged on 100lb leader and bury it straight in the reef. Obviously they eat their wheaties and spend a few hours at the gym before heading out to look for a feed.

The reef

The fishing in this area is memorable but it is mostly the location that you are fishing in that makes it so special. If you are a regular visitor to the reef then some of its special visual attributes will not be as appealing, but for first time visitors it blows the mind just how beautiful the arena is that you spend your time fishing.

There is also a phenomenon that happens around these outer reefs off Lizard around this time of year. They are called mobile bombies. Picture a school of GT approximately the size of a footie field that are cruising along the edge of the reef and you will understand what they are. I will leave you with a little scenario that we experienced on one of the days fishing.

We were fishing the outside edge of the reef casting for GT. The boat was a 51ft Riviera and we had five anglers taking turns at the back casting. Two guys were hooked up to good GT when something caught my eye out to the starboard side of the vessel. I looked out of the fly bridge and saw a large green patch working its way slowly up the reef towards the boat. It was a massive school of GT.

I yelled out to cast anything out in that direction. The deck hand Alex was onto it and hurled a popper towards the pack. The lure landed on the fringe of the school and was demolished by about 20 fish. Another popper landed and it too lasted seconds. I then grabbed a rod with a plastic and cast it out, bang straight on. By this stage the fish were all around the boat. I grabbed another rod and cast it out of the fly bridge and once again the hook up was instantaneous.

We had five rods bending with two out of action after being busted off. We landed all five fish. They were an average of about 25kg. All this carnage happened in less than 15 minutes. It is a truly special place

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