Rains fire up fishing
  |  First Published: February 2010

We have had a lot of rain in the last month, which has had more effect on the anglers than the fish.

Many of our estuary species only slow down for a short period and then go back to normal, especially species such as barramundi, king salmon and tarpon. During the 2008 floods the mouths of all the creeks going into the river fired for barra, fortunately the majority were tagged and released.

Most estuary fish are used to having fresh flowing through their system and sometimes it even triggers a feeding response when food is washed downstream. In summer we often head down the creek when it is wet because there are fewer boats on the water and our catches seem to be as good or better than a normal day.

The start of barra season was partially hindered by the remnants of cyclone Olga that made it’s way down the coast and gave us a fair percentage of our yearly rainfall.

Another positive was many of the nets normally strung throughout The Fitzroy had to be pulled out while the flow was strong and that gave a lot of the barra and salmon populations breathing space at least for the short term.

The gurus said the majority of fish would still be under size and they were, but there were a few decent fish taken mainly in the town reaches and this side of Nerimbera.

Prawns and lures have accounted for the large share of the local captures in all of the local systems. The rain has assisted the prawn growth dramatically lately and you should never leave home without your cast net. It’s well worth spending a session or two chasing prawns for the table and bait.

Decent size king salmon have risen in numbers, once again mainly in the Fitzroy River.Look for the prawns and the dints in the mud banks and you are on the spot.

They like eddies and structures and will readily work depths where up to half of their body is out of the water. It is best to set up just before the bottom of the tide with a livey or two under floats and another with a tiny pea sinker above the hook to flick almost onto the bank.

Although king salmon don’t respond to berley very well, they are attracted to the commotion of schooling baitfish, poddy mullet and prawns. Use a breadcrumb and tuna oil mix thrown onto the bank at the waters edge for the start of the run-in.

The berley will slowly bring quite a bit of activity to where you are fishing and that will bring in fish like barra and kings to see what happening.

Mangrove jack, fingermark, bream, flathead, queenfish, salmon, grunter, trevally and whiting were the order last month and have not slowed at all.

If you can dodge all the crab pots and find a quiet spot the fishing is great around March.

We have been doing a late afternoon run either up the creek or down the river. I keep saying that people miss some of the best fishing they will ever do by not fishing after dark.

Last week we arrived at the ramp about 4pm and all the boats that were fishing Corio were either leaving or waiting for the ramp. Many of the blokes we spoke to said how quiet it was and they were mostly disappointed.

Not as optimistic as when we left home, we set off down to Solero to get some live baits and check a few snags on the way. The tide was wrong for bait gathering so plastics and supermarket prawns came out. This was one of our best creek sessions of the year.

I put back three small barramundi then moved onto grunter and big bream. The average bream we scored went 1kg and they were all caught hard up against the rocks under cover while the grunter were all in the deeper troughs of the undulating bottom. We were home by 9pm with a very healthy feed and not a sign of sunburn.

Grunter remain on the increase in Waterpark, Fitzroy and Coorooman. Some of the grunter taken in the previous weeks have touched the 2-3kg mark. They are hitting fresh prawn or decent frozen river prawns over most other baits. However they can be taken on greenback herring, small poddy mullet, squid and occasionally on pilchards.Look for holes or cockle beds, drop-offs along mud banks in the creeks.

In the river the better spots have that undulating bottom with ripples around 80cm where the grunter hang down under the main current waiting for food to drop in. Grunter feed stronger around the full moon and in some places they also like to chew on the dark nights in other spots.

The temperatures and the weather have usually dropped a little by now and the fishing offshore lifts to the next level.

Plenty of the deeper water varieties move in to the closer reef and rubble patches giving the average angler a better chance at scoring quality species normally only caught at the wider grounds.

Big grassy and yellow sweeties, large- and small-mouth nannygai, red emperor and even rosy jobfish hit places like Jim Crow and the line of country that runs right up the coast starting about 38km east of Yeppoon.

The main rule for fishing these areas is locating bait schools. Wherever the bait is the predators are sure to be nearby sooner or later. The bait schools mainly consist of iodine bream and hussar, both of which are among the best red emperor and coral trout baits anywhere, so we always have a bait jig on standby.

One trick I have learned after spending hundreds of dollars on bait jigs over the years is to cut them in half so that there is only three hooks on each jig. This way it’s easier to store on a regular rod and doesn’t get caught in everything it comes in contact with. Also half a dozen iodine bream swinging around can wreck a bait jig in no time.

Try rigging a live hussar or iodine bream under a float too, because they work exceptionally for big Spanish, wahoo and cobia.

Cobia have moved in around the islands and close reefs in numbers after giving the offshore boys a caning for the last few months.

Places like Liza Jane, The Pinnacles, Findlays, Man and Wife and Forty Acre all can hold cobia, particularly when the bait schools are around.

Black kings are around too, especially in fast moving currents moving past the structures obstructing the flow creating eddies and pressure waves. They bite better very early inside the bay although tides are the main factor with bigger tides being best.

Spanish mackerel are still going fine when the conditions allow. Because of water clarity the majority of Spaniards have been scored a bit further from the coastline than usual. As long as the bait schools hang around, the Spanish will be too.

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