Well here it is, the change of season! The warm water species start to slow down and the winter species really fire up. The cooler weather usually brings more stable conditions, with light westerly winds during the morning are making it quite easy to poke your nose out the front of Facing and Curtis islands.
Is seems that everyone in the Gladstone region goes mackerel crazy, so I thought this month I would go through some top locations, best tides and what baits and lures to use to boat yourself a few Spanish this winter.
Most people use a lever drag overhead reel spooled with 30-50lb monofilament line and a rod anywhere from 5’6”-7’ in length. However, I believe longer rods are better, with a reasonably soft tip acting as a shock absorber for when they are making their powerful runs.
Spanish mackerel can be caught on most tides, but majority of anglers prefer to chase them on the larger tide sets, as it focuses them towards current lines created by reef edges, headlands and shoals creating turbulence where the bait becomes disorientated. The neap tides can have them more spread out, so it might take a bit more time to find them.
The big debate has been should you use bait or lures? There is no correct answer for this as they both have their days, however, as a rule of thumb big baits capture big fish.
Wolf herring, along with school mackerel and juvenile Spanish (making sure they are of legal size) are up there with the most popular of baits, and the best way to rig these is with gang hooks and weighting the front of the fish to get to the desired depth. When they are very active you can also use baits such as skipped garfish, so it pays to mix it up on the day to see what they like. You should always try and match the hatch, so if you know they are feeding on something in particular, then using that will increase your chances of getting the hook-up.
When it comes to lures you are better off running a spread with lures at different depths to optimise your chances of finding where they are sitting. Working in a tackle shop I see many lures come and go and there is a new popular mackerel lure almost every week, but in the last few seasons the most popular lures have been Samaki Pacemaker and the Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum in dorado and purple colours. These lures can be trolled at high speeds without blowing out of the water and their tight actions really fire the mackies up.
I have saved the best for last, as chasing Spanish on surface is visual, exhilarating, frustrating and dangerous all in one, but it has to be the most fun way to target them. When casting for Spanish on surface lures don't use wire because it seems to shy them away. There is no water too deep - at wider shoals such as Innamincka you can have them launching out of the water to eat your lures anywhere up to 50m deep. If you have two people on board, its always good to have one person running a popper and one running a stickbait until you find what works and if it is glassy calm use two stickbaits as they seem to like a more subtle approach.
Offshore opportunities are becoming more regular and the reports are showing that its fishing very well. Rock Cod Shoals and Tullarook are continuing to produce quality red throat, some nice Spanish and even the odd big red emperor. The larger vessels that are heading wider are also being rewarded for their efforts with big numbers of coral trout, plenty of reds and red throat, not to mention some of the biggest Venus tuskfish I have seen for a very long time.
Northern areas up around Cape Capricorn and the Gutters are always an option on the neaps for targeting large-mouth nannies, cobia, grassy sweetlip, red emperor and snapper, with some of the more inshore areas holding large grunter.
The neap tides have been a great time to hit the wrecks. There are plenty of wrecks to choose from in our area, such as the Barge, Red Dolphin, Moreton Star, Bindaree and Nautilus just to name a few. Wrecks offer a host of different fishing opportunities from jigging for pelagics to bottom bashing for offshore species. Slow pitch jigging around wrecks is a great way to cover both, as you will typically find large schools of trevally and cobia suspended off the top of the structure. There is also the change of nannygai, hussar, grunter, snapper and black jewfish plus many more.
The harbour is also fishing very well with some large barramundi being caught around the rock walls and rocky outcrops around the islands along with the wharfs, keep in mind that exclusion zones apply.
Plenty of people are targeting black jew and at the moment they are quite prevalent, so it's worth getting yourself some quality squid and mullet fillet and rigging yourself up to get a few. Be sure to check the new laws around bag limits as well as they have had a change recently and you don’t want to get caught out.
Golden snapper are becoming another popular target species around the harbour and for good reason. They tick all the boxes: they look good, fight well and taste even better. Golden snapper and black jew are difficult to catch and release as they both suffer from barotrauma when being pulled from depths greater than 8m, however, with the correct methods if can be done. If you’re after more information in regards to releasing these fish come down to the shop and have a chat to the team.
On the flats there are some good numbers of blue salmon pushing up on the bigger tides along with some monster flatties. These species both love shallow water with plenty of ambush points, so the larger tides around the full and new moon are always a good time Around this time you will find them feeding around gravel bars, rock walls and mud flats, whereas the neaps have them in slightly deeper water usually more easily targeted on vibes and prawn imitations.
Blue salmon are also making a move into The Narrows and most estuary systems in the region, which offers a great target species for either lure casting or just relaxing and soaking a bait. Over the last few months the grunter have been everywhere throughout the area and the monsters that Toolooa Bends system is known for are turning up. It’s also worth fishing the Calliope in the upper reaches near Beecher Bar along with The Narrows around Ramseys Crossing and Boat Creek.
Big winter bream have already started to make a move into the Boyne River, especially around the mouth and can be taken on fresh yabbies, prawns and herring. We have has a few people coming through chasing the whiting and seem to be getting some good numbers from the Lillies, Farmers Point and Yellow Patch, so grab your kids and take them out to get into a few bread and butter species.
Lake Awoonga is continuing to produce barramundi, however, they’re found out on the deeper points in the main basin seeking more stable water temperature. It’s worth having a good quality sounder when targeting these fish as it makes it easier to find them. Vibes are great for this style of fishing.
Another great way to target these fish when they’re suspended in the deeper water is with prawn imitation lures. This is a more subtle approach than a vibe, especially if you’re fishing a school that has been previously pressured.
This time of year is a great time to be fishing in the Gladstone region, so grab your gear and get out and enjoy what our beautiful region has to offer.