By Anthony Cass - Pelagic Hunter
The promising start we saw to winter with stable weather patterns didn't last long and the windows of opportunity to get offshore this month have been few and far between. The whales are still around in large numbers, and it shouldn't be long until we start seeing them swimming south instead of north and their numbers begin to dwindle as their annual migration draws to an end. Those who have jumped on the limited opportunities to get offshore this month have been well rewarded on fishing grounds that wouldn't have seen a boat in weeks in some cases. Strong offshore currents have also brought a boost of life to our local systems.
The inshore reefs have been firing with a great run of snapper this season. The artificial reefs in particular have been producing some quality fish. GPS coordinates for the artificial reefs are easily obtained through the Queensland government's department of Environment and Science website (https://www.des.qld.gov.au). The artificial reefs provide great starting points when “sounding around” and looking for fish, as mentioned in previous months. Curtain Reef in particular, while holding many great fish, is an excellent starting point with the Bulwer ledge running to the north. This area is a well-known haunt for extra large Cobia as well, so it's always worthwhile trying a large live bait fished at around mid-depth in case one of these big Black Kingfish is lurking nearby. Be ready though, if you do encounter one of these very powerful fish they will instantly swim straight for the bottom and try to bust you off on the first ledge, crevice or wreck they can find.
My favourite live baits are Tarwhine, which are often mistaken for Bream and are a common by-catch when chasing demersal species around areas such as this within the bay. When using Tarwhine for bait you still need to ensure they're of legal size, which is 25cm. I find anywhere from 25cm – 35cm will make great live baits for large Cobia with a single 8/0 – 10/0 hook pinned through the back just below the 3rd or 4th dorsal spine. Cobia will inhale a live bait head first so rigging a live bait in this manner will ensure good hook position to increase the chance of setting the hook while also causing minimal harm to the bait. I've often had a ‘livey’ swim around under the boat all day and not get eaten, only to be de-hooked at the end of the day and swim away as if nothing happened.
Don't forget, it’s currently closed season for Snapper and Pearl Perch, so if caught while chasing other demersals they must be immediately returned to the water. The season will remain closed until 11:59pm on Sunday 15 August.
It’s peak time for Spanish Mackerel. I've mentioned them a lot in the past few months and it's all been building to this. This is your last chance for the year to get a big fat winter Spanish Mackerel before they vanish completely from our local reefs over Spring. The run of Spanish which will return in Summer are generally a smaller class of fish than the Winter run. They're here in massive numbers, all around the 15kg – 20kg mark. They're in the pre-spawn period of their spawn cycle and are feeding very aggressively to fatten up before spawning. They can be found on any of the reefs running north of Cape Moreton, from Brennan's Reef to Hutchison's Shoal. My preferred method of targeting them is to start up-current of a reef about 200m or so, turn the motor off and start casting large timber stickbaits as I drift toward the structure with the current. The bait fish get caught in the turbulence and ‘eddies’ caused as the current hits the reef with the Mackerel patrolling the deeper water nearby. Dawn and dusk are the optimal times to target them, however, at the moment they're readily biting right throughout the day.
These types of large timber lures can be hard to come by at your average tackle store as they're more of a specialty item. I source mine online at https://castmag.co, a great local company with their “Fatboy” stickbait proving time and time again to be irresistible to a large Spanish Mackerel.
Tight lines, folks!