Seeing red before Christmas
  |  First Published: November 2017

We are quickly approaching the final stages of another year once again, and some diehards are already setting up their Christmas decorations. With spring in full swing, we wind down the previous month with some great catches and look forward to the final month of spring as things look to heat up.

The persistence of the large gold-spot cod has been surging on through the last month around the islands, which is great to see, as these guys put up a great fight and fare well on the table. For those who took my advice… told you so! They taste great.

Another fish that we have been seeing plenty of is the grassy sweetlip. Fantastic numbers of these critters have been caught over the past month and should continue. As mentioned in my previous articles, they are arguably one the tastiest fish in our region and you can find sweetie throughout the Whitsunday Islands with a running ball sinker rig. Most rigs work on them, including micro-jigs! Micro-jigs have accounted for some thumper sweetlip to 60cm and seem to be the go-to lately, with many other species loving the look of them.

Another species that you should give a go this month is the longtail tuna. We have seen them on the increase and they should be quite thick this month. The Whitsunday Passage has been loaded with bait and tuna, so finding a school or two closer in shouldn’t be an issue.

Multiple techniques are delivering the goods when targeting these stubborn fighters. Trolling hardbodies, skirts, baits and casting small artificials (including flies for all the fly fishos) into the feeding frenzies have all accounted for their fair share. They are a fantastic fun and fight to the bitter end. They won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth either, as the longtail make for great eating. The sashimi lovers out there will be drooling, as they make delicious sashimi. As always though, you have to look after this fish as soon as it hits the deck. Bleeding, then removing the gills and insides, and placing into a very cold saltwater ice slurry will see you getting the most out of your catch.

Do keep an eye out around these schools of tuna for there should be some sneaky billfish hanging around as well. It is the peak of the season for billfish, so targeting these impressive fish will be an option, especially with the cleaner water that has been hanging around with the smaller tides.

Along with the run of the aforementioned species, we should be starting to see our run of cobia. We have seen a fair few coming over the side and numbers should increase as we go on. Live baits, jigs and dead baits have been doing the damage. Once you have managed to fight the beasts to the top, scan the water around the hooked fish as they usually have one or two companions joining them for the ride, and a well-prepared rod and bait could see you with two cobia on! Be careful once they’re on board though, as they tend to go nuts. A hook in your skin is bad enough, let alone a hook in your skin with a frantic cobia hanging off the end of it! You can find these cobia pretty much everywhere you find your nannygai and reds or large bait balls you see in your travels.

Nannygai and red emperor have also been out in force and should continue through this month as the weather heats up. Large numbers have been around and finding yourself a few shouldn’t be too hard. As we all know, they are great fun to catch and great to eat an the usual techniques of dead baits and live baits will bring them aboard.

A trip to the reef this month should also see you rewarded, as the good catches just keep coming. Most reefs are producing great numbers of coral trout, red-throat emperor, spangled emperor and red emperor. Remember though, if you intend on travelling that far, be prepared, as it is easy to get into trouble out there and you are a long way from home.

Being out pretty much every day, and listening to our VHF all day, we are constantly hearing of boats that are in trouble out on the water. Although some can’t be avoided, a lot of issues can be if the skippers are prepared properly and leave nothing to chance. Not only is it yourself you have to think about out on the water, but also the safety of your passengers, and the safety of the volunteers who man the rescue teams.

Have a good one this month and stay safe.

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