Winter runs red
  |  First Published: June 2010

Winter weather, don’t you love it? The cold rocks me a bit, but I can’t remember the last time we could head offshore three weekends in a row, let alone the recent four.

The bait schools are staying longer bringing with them good numbers of predators. Schools of yorkies and northern pilchards have flooded the bay and often come into Rosslyn Bay Harbour with the tides.

It only takes one or two casts to get enough bait for six months (no kidding). One cast I had this week caught 54kg and I needed a mate with a second rope to lift the net out of the water. Bagged up in 2kg packs it means a few months of one of the best baits for pretty much all species from pelagics to reefies to estuary fish.

The Bay is looking as good as ever and the mackerels have taken advantage of the clean waters and the plentiful baits to hit the headlands or local reefs right from Quarts in the south to Five Rocks and Cape Manifold in the north. The coming weeks look very good and the small tinnie brigade are already getting a taste of what’s to come in the next few months.

The long awaited grunter have fronted in numbers from the recent full moon and should be a great prospect on those cold glassy afternoons that we get in winter. Evenings either side of the full or new moons are the best time to get them. The pick spots have been The Pinnacles, The Rama, Manifold and The Cape Capricorn jew hole.

Grunter will take a variety of baits including fresh flesh strips, squid, pillies and big prawns. They like the trenches around structures and don’t usually venture up too far from the bottom. Many first time grunter hunters make the mistake of fishing the top of the wrecks or pinnacles and miss the school down below on the lower country.

The rigs used can vary and depend on your preference. We use either a paternoster with two longer droppers down quite low hanging just above the lead or a big running ball down on the hook when the current isn’t so vicious.

Cobia have been somewhat puzzling the past few years, as they stuck around for the whole year and not the usual runs in the middle of the year and another around Christmas. Many times they interrupted the Spanish mackerel fishers as they mugged nicely presented ribbonfish and Watsons bonito.

This year the cobia left on cue and have returned when they are supposed to. At present they are thick around the islands and just about any mackerel spot where there are pinnacle type structures or a fast current leaves a trail of a point or headland.

Cobes will take live bait, a well-presented dead bait or lures when they are in the mood. Big livies need a stinger hook placed right behind the last dorsal fin just under the skin with the point poking out. The smaller sized livies don’t really need a stinger and can stay alive longer if you pin them through the thicker piece of skin just above the eyes.

When black kings are in attendance they show up big time on your fish finder so you know how deep to set your gear. They take knife jigs in the deeper areas and we have found Taipans or Flashas work very well over the shallower grounds like Findlays or Rita Mada.

Lately I have been using a big plastic trying to get a cobia but undersize Spaniards or barracuda keep smashing it. When a cobia takes a plastic it doesn’t do the same damage as the razor gang and it will last for a few fish. Our best softy is the biggest Drop Bear with an extra bean sinker super glued to the head.

Although cobia are not quite as good as mackerel on the table, they do make a top BBQ fish and can be smoked as well.

For offshore bottom fishos the quality run of fish is continuing through June with no sign of slowing yet. Saddle tail sea perch, nannygai, red jew and snapper are dominating the majority of local captures. They have swarmed the close rubble patches and are probably part of the reason that grunter were slow starting. Most of the fish landed have ranged from 4-10kg making them a very welcome addition to the esky.

They have a fair range of territory and will often move up the sides of larger pinnacles, structures or wrecks depending on what they are feeding on at the time. Water that is 20-60m deep with bottom from fern to rubble is a likely spot. Don’t drop your pick until you find the school or bait schools.

When fishing for big schooling type fish like reds, drifting for too long over a big area can spread the school and make it hard work to get a decent catch. That’s why we drift until we find the fish and the first fish comes up, then we anchor up, put over the berley bomb and get ready.

Like the other red fish they like a big bait and while fishing for emperor they often grab the top bait while reds grab the bait right on the bottom.

They will readily take different baits, providing it is fresh (or fresh bait that has been frozen. We always start off with the frozen stuff and as we get iodines or hussar they get slabbed and added to the smorgasbord as required.

I often hear people saying that big nannygai doesn’t eat as well as the smaller fish. If you bleed them immediately on capture (or use Iki-jima to spike them) and put them straight into the ice slurry, they are as good as you’ll get.

Queenies have also come on like they haven’t had a feed for days. Some of the guys chasing big trevally in the wash around the islands have been picking up a few extra large queenfish.

My most successful method for nailing queenfish is a long cast into any white water around the rocky outcrops and ripping a big rooster popper back at full tilt. Sometimes they will only grab the fastest lure and other times it pays to vary the speed.

The islands beaches all hold queenies and anywhere you see the hardiheads or herrings you can bet the queens and trevally won’t be far away. This is the best time to flick out an unweighted live hardihead and just watch them smash it.

On days when it is too windy to get offshore there is always a quiet beach somewhere around the islands that will give you the fishing fix you are after, even if you only have minimal gear with you. A couple of light spin plastics outfits, a cast net and a small setup tackle box and you are set.

Once the kids hook on to a fair queeny and it starts jumping they will want to come over to the islands all the time – it beats roaming the streets anytime.

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