Racking up the reef catches
Last month offered some absolutely stunning weather and yet again offshore anglers were frothing at the bit to get out there and get stuck into reefies. They didn't miss out either - so many quality captures have been rolling in from the outer reefs. The best thing about fishing in CQ is the diverse range of species on hand to target whether you're inshore or offshore.
I am sticking to my word here and saying that without a doubt this has been one of the best years for coral trout I have ever seen. Fresh and live baits are great for targeting the mighty coral trout, however anglers here have switched onto another way to target these species that seems to be equally as effective, if not better. They often seem to produce a more quality class of coral trout. Two different styles of lures have been the undoing of plenty of quality CQ trout. The Samaki Vibelicious Thumper Tail 30g 125mm is a large soft vibe lure perfect for depths anywhere from 5-40m, depending on the run. The Ecooda Live Shrimp 127mm comes rigged with a weedless jighead, however it seems that when targeting coral trout, it is better to take that hook out and rig it with a standard strong jighead such as the Berkley Nitro Saltwater Pro. The best part about there lures is how simple they are to use. Both can be sunk to the bottom and hopped slowly up to roughly 1m off the bottom, and then you can use a shower sharp hop, creating a bit more action. The by-catch from using this technique is amazing, with the amount of different species possible keeping you on edge, never knowing what you are going to pull next. During the last few patches of good weather, cracking red emperors have been captured. If you're new to targeting reds, a great rule of thumb is that big baits catch big fish, so hard baits like a hussar fillet, mullet fillet or cuttlefish are top options. If you are targeting reds on the wider reefs, waters of 40m+ seem to be the most consistent. However, the biggest reds in our area come for only 2.5m of water inshore around the 12 Mile. It's all about finding that isolated structure such as mommies, ferns, rubble or the latest craze, wonky holes. Spanish mackerel have still been getting around in a big way, with plenty of fish in that 10-15kg size class. It always pays to be prepared for that monster fish to show up, especially if you are trolling baits. Of late, schooled fish have been reported around the current lines at Bustard Head and some big fish have been caught at Rundle Island. If you're heading to Rock Cod Shoals make sure you have a floater out, because if they are around they will usually hone in on it pretty quickly.
The shelf has been quite good for anglers that like heading out wider, with some quality pearl perch and goldband snapper, as well as snapper and amberjacks. Jigging for these deepwater species has been very effective. Generally fishers have been using electric reels, as it will hurt on conventional tackle because it's a long way. Wrecks are always on the cards for people heading out the front because there is a huge range of different species to target. Soft plastics and jigs are very productive for pelagic species like trevally, mackerel and cobra, especially when you can see them suspended off the bottom on the sounder. Most times, you can find patches of bait on and around the wreck where you can use bait jigs to collect livies. Livies have been producing more quality fish such as nannygai, coral trout and even red emperor on the wider wrecks.
With the days getting longer and water getting warmer, the great estuary fishing we've been having should only improve. Calliope still has got some big bream and even the off blue salmon coming through. With this warmer weather, barra and jacks have already started. The upper reaches are always worth a look on the larger tides and at neap tide, fish are more focused from Diamantina Island back to the mouth. Toolooa Bends (south trees) has continued to produce plenty of grunter with some absolute monsters taken on a variety of baits and lures. The mouth of Wild Cattle Creek is one for the kids, as it's a great place for chasing whiting and flathead on a run-in tide, as the water flows over the sand bars where the yabby beds are.
On the points and rock bars around the islands, plenty of barramundi have been about with black jewfish and golden snapper, especially on the neap tide sets where you can easily fish slightly deeper water. If you can find concentrated bait, big fish won't be too far away.
Everyone is so keen to see what this season brings for Awoonga, with the absolute monster pulled from the dam back in July that was over 1.4m and 46kg. It is a great sign to see fish of that size, so let's hope there are a few more beauties kicking around. There were fish being pulled from there consistently throughout winter, mainly on shallow diving hardbodies as well as larger 5 and 6" paddle-tails.
For all the latest info on whats biting and where, drop into the shop and have a chat to the boys! The team have their finger on the pulse to what is happening in the area, and are sure to point you in the right direction.