Fish boxes go red
  |  First Published: December 2009

Thanks for reading my first article in QFM. It’s a bit humbling to be writing articles alongside my childhood hero John Gooding, who is now also a good friend of mine.

I will deal with the destinations I regularly fish aboard my charter vessel Incredible. These locations are also the common haunts of fishos departing from Bribie (Spinnaker Sound and Bongaree), Caboolture River, Redcliffe (Scarborough and Clontarf) and ports such as Shorncliffe on Brisbane’s north.

Consistently strong northerly winds have dominated this past month. Up in this neck of the woods we mostly travel 20-30Nm east and north to our fishing grounds across open bay and shallow breaking banks, so there have been plenty of cancelled trips. There are certainly days when I envy the lads out of Noosa, Mooloolaba and the Gold Coast Seaway with fisheries on their doorstep.

Wide Caloundra has been covered with tiny pearl perch 80-150mm long. Pro crabber Bruce Sutton told me they are even potting pearlies as small as 50mm.

While this has led to lots of throw backs from these avid bait thieves, the signs are there for bumper pearly seasons in a couple of years.

It is also great to have positive relationships with pro fishermen. These guys, along with the charter fleet, spend many, many days a year on the water and are always the best point of contact to identify trends in our fishery.

Some larger pearlies are starting to show up again as well. The best bait for the big pearlies is a butterflied pinky (yellow lined butterfish) with the backbone removed. This bait can withstand the pickers until the better 2kg+ fish come along.

Red is the colour of the fish box at the moment, with solid Moses perch coming off the western edges of Wide Caloundra in good numbers.

Further east there are hussar in depths ranging from 60-85m. While these guys are normally consigned to the bait board further north, they are a close relative of the red emperor and in my opinion chew just as well.

Black spot wrasse or pigfish as they are commonly called (no, they don’t have a curly tail but lips that fold back that look a little like a pig’s snout) are also in good numbers in the water deeper than 80m.

Pigfish will bite through a northwesterly wind when most other species shut down, so I often target them in 85-100m of water during spring and early summer when these winds blow.

Wherever you are catching pigfish there are also usually plenty of sergeant bakers. While they are great fighters, they are also full of pin bones, so forget them for the table. Sergeant bakers make great flesh bait for more piggies and other reef species.

The excellent run of trag jew or taraglin we experienced during late winter and spring has just about tapered off. This was the best season ever in my experience for these tasty critters so I am hoping they will return in the cooler months next year.

The trag covered the northern end of Shallow Tempest on the eastern drop-off north to the Cape and east to the 100m line. It didn’t seem to matter what depth we were in, every lump of rock had its own trag pile. The trag that are left are bigger fish and prefer live bait if you can source it.

The yellowtail kingfish have also slowed markedly this month. Usually small kingies will bite their heads off in the shallow Cape Moreton reefs through to at least February, so hopefully this is just a temporary aberration. Anything goes with these critters.

Jigs, plastics, trolled lures all work; if they are hungry kingies are the ultimate lure omnivores – and they even eat bait and livies as well! A bonus has been the good cod that have been hanging around under the kingy schools. We have landed a number of gold spot, tomato and Maori cod on livies sent down for kingies.

I am hoping for a break in the weather. Over the next couple of months the shallow reefs really light up with the increase in water temperatures, and the tropical species such as spangled emperor, cod species, fusilier, wrasse, venus tusk and hussar all increase in numbers and size.

Rocky Reef Fishery Discusions

The Snapper Network Working Group of DPI has met and viewed the final four options for inclusion in the Snapper Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for each of the recreational, charter and professional fishing sectors.

I am sad to say the option of a four month closure to bottom fishing for pearl perch (our main target species up this way), snapper and trag jew is still on the table.

Options two and three don’t have any support from the charter guys and precious little from the rec sector for their dose of pain either.

I believe the time has come to explore a genuine co-management structure between DPI and stakeholders for the management of the Rocky Reef Fishery. These discussions would need to include budgeting models and perhaps the outsourcing of some of DPI’s traditional roles in Queensland fisheries management.

These discussions would need to take place initially at a policy level, to ensure there is an adequate legislative framework in place to progress issues and awareness of the imperative for a positive co-management process.

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