Winter fishing has been reaping the rewards of the early season flood events and should continue to get better in the months to come.
Whiting have come on with gusto after a mediocre start to the year. All the creek mouths are firing, particularly at the start of the incoming tide.
The pick baits are whatever is locally available where you are fishing. Yabbies do the trick in areas where yabby beds are nearby and beachworms work best up the beach or at the mouth of Corio.
Coorooman Creek, Long Beach at Joskaleigh and Keppel Sands main beach have been fishing very well lately. From the beach many fishers tend to cast out too far and often miss the better fish, which can be right at their feet.
The beaches north of Yeppoon hold neaps of worms so it pays to collect them at the last of the run-out tide and use them on the start of the run-in so.
The long-term benefits of the floods and severe rains that affected the clarity in Keppel Bay earlier this year have already started to show. Now the bay looks somewhat normal and the salinity levels have risen, the bait schools have also returned bringing predators like mackerel, tuna, trevally and a heap of bottom fish as well.
Mackerel are back on again with a vengeance. Doggies or school mackerel are the local favourite as they are prolific and widely available across the region. The bigger school macks have made an impact at the wider islands and the shoals while moving in closer to shore.
On the cooler glassy mornings you can get amongst them at almost every headland from Emu Park up to Army country and all the closer reefs.
For small tinny crews Rosslyn Bay Harbour is a great location as the mackerel hang around the outside points and sometimes inside the main entrance; so travel can be as little as 100m from the boat ramps. The eastern side points north and south of the harbour walls and Double Heads all have walking access to the water too.
Floating pilchards is the most common method for mackerel, with throwing slices and slugs a close second. Flashas, Bumpa-Bars and Raiders are all successful and can bring the fish closer to the boat when the school follows the track of the speeding lure.
The school macks generally hang on one side of a structure; which side depends on tide or current flow. To get the most out of each lure cast, especially when fishing the reef edges, cast out as far as you can, let the lure sink to the bottom and then wind as fast as possible. Allowing the lure to sink, gives it a much longer run at the depths where the fish are holding.
Despite fish kills earlier in the year, the schools of big black jew have returned again in numbers. The local jew holes fire up as the weather cools, particularly four days before and after the full moon. Corio Heads is a place I fish regularly, usually heading out before dark.
The fish can take a while to come on, but as soon as the first fish arrives it can be mayhem with the others all grabbing baits at the same time. The school macks tend to slowly circle a common feature like a pinnacle, rock or deeper hole as they search for a feed.
Many times on a quiet winter night just as the moon peeps above the horizon, you can hear the drags all go off in the first boat. Then the drags screech boat by boat until the fish arrive at your boat; all the while the fish are circling one particular structure.
Black jew are also fishing well and will take a variety of baits from fresh flesh to pillies and squid. If schools of bonito, tailor or big herring have been about during the day then those fish will be the best bait that night.
A whole squid and a whole pilchard cocktail on the same hook has been the undoing of many black jew caught in the area. Most of the locals now chase these big jews for sport only taking one or two for the table. and the shallow depths usually make for a successful release.
The shallow depths usually make for a successful release. As an added bonus the shallow water fish tend to fight much harder and longer than the deeper water models, which seem to give up the fight as barotrauma sets in.
Barotrauma comes from the expansion of gases in the swim bladder and other organs when fish are pulled in fast and don’t have time to adjust to the changes in water pressure. This causes bulging eyes, distended intestines and the stomach pushed out into the mouth.
The paternoster or snapper rig is the most the commonly used set-up so the bait wafts about just above the bottom. Jewfish will normally test your gear out for a couple of runs, but when they eventually come in they are almost always lying on their side. Take the time to swim the fish properly on release these fine fighting fish the best change of survival after release.
Reefies of all species are having a fair run coming into June with the close reefs as well as the wider spots all producing. Red emperor, red jew, cod, parrot, sweetlip, hussar and coral trout have remained in good quantity all year so far.
Bream, salmon and cod are the next lot that go hard over winter close inshore. The islands have different seasons and at present the queenies and trevally are working the beaches pretty hard. Large schools of hardiheads have kept the action happening particularly on the beaches around the Keppels.
Mud crabs seem to have used the extra feed earlier in the year to good advantage and as yet have not shut up shop with plenty of quality bucks still gracing pots.