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Chasing Golden Trevalley on the Magnetic Island flats.

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Enjoying one of the many beautiful beaches of Magnetic Island.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Townsville to Host the Flotilla for the Reef

An alliance of environmental and community groups (see groups here) is organising Townsville’s first Flotilla for the Reef. It will take place along The Strand on Sunday 19 of October and is aimed at drawing attention to the damage that mega industrial ports and dredge spoil dumping do to the Reef. The flotilla will call for a ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Flotilla spokesperson and James Cook University Marine Biology student Ms Jacinta Tonkin said ‘We will be marching along The Strand alongside the flotilla of boats to send a message to the state and federal governments that we want the incredible natural icon; the Great Barrier Reef protected for all time. We’re calling for a ban on dumping in the World Heritage Area’.

Interested community members can register for the flotilla by clicking here!

‘Even though the state government has signaled plans to dispose of dredge spoil on land at Abbot Point, we have not seen any commitment to ban dumping at all the other proposed mega industrial port expansions in the World Heritage Area, let alone any concrete plans showing their intentions at Abbot Point’, said Ms Tonkin.

‘Plans that will require 100 million tonnes of dredging, significant amounts of dumping in Reef waters, and an increase to 7000 ships crossing the Great Barrier Reef each year are still in place.

‘Fishers, divers, boat owners and community members are invited to bring a boat or kayak if they want to join the flotilla. Non-boaties can join the land march from 10am, meeting on the beach next to Tobruk pool on The Strand. People interested in bringing a boat are asked to register at flotillaforthereef.org.au and to arrive in time to register their boat before 9.45am.

The flotilla and march will finish at Burke St Headland, where scientists and Reef advocates will talk about the health of and the need to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Local bands, including young duo Terrapin, will entertain the crowd. Food will be available.

Participants are encouraged to make costumes, signs and banners to make this event special and spread the message.

Details: Sunday October 19, starting on the beach next to Tobruk pool. Boat registration from 9am-9.45am. March and flotilla starting at 10am.

Pre-event Photo opportunity: 3.45pm on Thursday the 2nd of October at the jetty at the end of Anthony Street volunteers will be inviting boat owners with snorkel masks

For interviews contact: Ahri Tallon: 0423 515 941 or ahri.tallon@gmail.com
For more information go to: www.flotillaforthereef.org.au


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Family Fishing Day

Friday was family fishing day. According to the weather man, this was the pick of the days to be on the water. Light 5-10knots winds were forecast and we planned to try a run to Maggie Shoals to chase some Spanish Mackerel and Nannygai. But with strong Northerly winds blowing late Thursday, I wasn't convinced we would wake to calm waters. When I woke at 4am, the Beauro was still showing a steady breeze. Preparing the rods for the day saw me placing 8 or 9 different outfits into the rod locker. I just wasn't sure where we would end up and what we would be chasing. Anything from Barra in the creeks to Marlin off the Cape was a possibility, just depended the weather. Even packed some old pillies and gar, just to cover all bases.

When we arrived at the ramp at 5am, there was definitely a light wind making its presence felt. We launched and began to run toward the shoals. But it was just too uncomfortable for an hour long run with two kids and a wife! So we decided to try the creeks and see what the weather did as the morning progressed. But the fish here just didn't want to play the game, so it didn't take long to make the decision to run to the Cape and investigate conditions out wide.


Initially we sounded around the inside of the Cape for anything interesting, but then poked our nose out the front for a look. As it happened, the swell was horrible, but the wind wasn't too bad. So I decided to wonder on over to a mark about 3km away. Even if we just did a few drops of some plastics for a Fingermark. At lease get a chance to see if things would settle.

We sounded around the mark and found a couple of really nice bommies that looked promising. Conditions made using the electric to anchor a little testing, with the odd wave making it over the bow of the boat. But once settled into position it was definitely fishable. It wasn't until now that I made Tania aware there was bait on board! Immediately I had to rig up a hook and sinker on the Stella 8000SW so she could investigate what was below. And it din't take long and she was pulling up fish after fish. Unfortunately, most were small or undesirable! But thats what you put up with when using bait ;-)


I continued to work the old faithful Threadybuster lure. Even in 16m of water, these lures get down quick and attract all sorts of attention. And spiced with a little S-factor makes them even more irresistible. This was also a great opportunity to put some turns on my Stella 4000SWB combo. This reel is loaded with 20lb Power Pro and sits on a T-Curve 701. Its a great soft plastics combo, but is more suited to offshore work and has not had a whole lot of use thus far. While the Thready didn't attract as many bites as the old stinky pillie, the fish that did hit the lure were of a better quality. I managed a couple of Nannygai and the biggest Grassy Sweetlip that I have ever seen. At 50cm I was hard to believe it wan't a Spangly.



Conditions did slowly improve as the morning progressed, but not enough to tempt me to go further offshore. And by late morning the tide slowed and so did the bite. I made the decision to run back to the creeks to have one last go for a Barra on the falling tide.

Back in the bay and the pesky Northerly wind was starting to build. But I was determined to give the Barra a go. We spot-locked on the dropoff I wanted to fish, and a couple of Barra were showing on the Side Image of the Humminbird. It didn't take too many casts and a nice fish smashed the Threadybuster. This fish ran hard and had me all around the electric motor. Barra are not really well known as being a hard fighting fish for their size, but this one had my on edge the whole time. A couple of jumps and very tense moments and the fish was led into the waiting net. Dinner! At 65cm this was almost a carbon copy of the fish I landed just one day earlier. The kids were excited as, they just love fresh Barra fillets. And one of this size is just perfect to feed the four of us.


Lachy and I tried for another one for over half an hour. But it wasn't to be. The wind was now in the 15-20knot range and we had long run home. So we called it quits. Glad we did too, the run home was very wet!


The Minn Kota iPilot motors never cease to amaze me. The iPilot feature kept us dead on the mark all morning. And despite the breezy and sloppy conditions, the batteries were still showing almost full after the mornings fishing. If you are sick of anchoring and re-anchoring to postion your boat on small marks, do yourself a favour and get a Minn Kota iPilot. You will NEVER look back!

Mid-week Barra

Lately it seems all the good weather has been during the week. Luckily I can actually take advantage of this at the moment. Thursday was forecast to be good, and dropping, while Friday looked like the pick of the days for a run wide. So I decided to put the family on hold for the Friday run, and grabbed Mark from work for a run Thursday. I though we would again go for a run around the creek mouthes with the Threadybusters.

We headed off nice and early, but were greeted by a Northerly breeze and hefty swell. With confidence the weather would only improve, we persisted and pushed comfortably across to our location. By the time we got to where we wanted to fish conditions had really improved. And it wasn't long and it totally glassed out.


We fished the remainder of the incoming tide out the front, but only managed small fish. There were numerous, but nothing big.



As the tide topped out we pushed onto the flats and tried to get to the mangroves. At 2.8m there was only just enough water. The lecky was churning up the mud, but we could hear Barra boofing up the back of the groves, and bait was pouring out the front. We gave it a good shot for about half an hour, but falling water had us retreating fairly quickly.

We then headed into the creek to work the Mangrove edges as the water feel out of the roots. We tried a few different Hard Bodied lures and some DOA's. But despite great looking water, we managed nothing more than a nudge from a baby Barra.

Back out the front the wind had really gotten up. But I suspected the Barra may now be in the deeper holes as the water fell off the flats. So we positioned the boat in the chop and got to work with the lures. It didn't take too long and a solid fish hit my Threadybuster and took off. He bloke the surface quickly and gave us a good view, Barra! A solid looking fish, he worked me back and forward around the boat. With only one hook lightly in the mouth, it was a couple of anxious jumps before he was lead into the net. High 5's, a few photos and at 65cm a nice fish in the eski.


It wasn't long and a second fish smashed my Thready. This only hit hard and immediately launched in the air. My line went slack and I thought I had lost the fish. But I wound quickly and soon found I was still attached to the wildly jumping fish. This time the lure was firmly embedded into the fishes mouth with both trebles. This one wasn't getting away easily and was soon in the net. At 61cm it wasn't as big as the first, but dinner all the same.


Soon it was Marks turn with a yell of 'yeah, I'm on'. Well, he was on alright! A massive bucket mouthed big girl soon got her head and shoulders out of the water wildly shaking her head. I haven't see many big fish, but this had to me over 1m. She made my 65cm fish look like a guppy! It was incredibly tense as the massive fish had Mark back and forward around the motor. But unfortunately a couple of jumps later and the head shakes wore thought the leader and she won her freedom. Still, a spectacular sight and we were happy as pigs in mud.

We keeps going a little longer with no more hits. The wind was only building and we bailed for home. What an amazing day. Funny how a quiet morning can become a great day with only a couple of nice fish.

The Threadybuster lures have really been doing the job for me. They are definitely my goto lure for this style of fishing. I have been fishing them on a Stella 4000FI and 15lb Slick-8 PowerPro. The reel is on a GLoomis SJR-843 IMX. This an incredibly light and capable outfit for working soft plastics.

Grunter and Threadybusters

I am on school holidays at the moment, and how should holidays begin? With fishing of course! So last Saturday I headed off for a solo run to work some Threadybusters around the creek mouthes. Andrew was off fishing,and ultimately winning, the Hinchinbrook Barra Comp and the family had other plans. So I was on my own for the morning.

It was very quiet overall, with just about everything that could go wrong going wrong. But I managed to play around with a few small Trevalley and Queenfish that found the Threadybuster offering too good to refuse. And eventually persistence paid off when a nice 50cm Grunter took the lure. It really helps to spice up the Thready with a little S-factor when targeting Grunter. 


It was a beautiful morning on the water, with a flat our run home just before lunchtime in glass condition. One Grunter is not enough to feed our family any more, so I took the sides off and cook up some fresh fish and chips for lunch. Spectacular eating, less than 2 hours from water to plate! 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Weekend Exploits

Definitely some mixed results fishing last weekend. Decided to take the Kayak for a paddle down Alva Beach way to chase some Flathead. This time last year we had a fantastic session with over 20 fish caught in the 50-60cm range. But times have changed! Came home with a big fat doughnut. Paddled all over the upper reaches of the inlet, and made hundreds of cast. Not even a bump! Spoke to a few other anglers in the area and it was pretty much the same story all round. Very disappointing, great looking water and a beautiful place to go for a paddle.


Sunday morning I decided to go for a solo run in the boat. Had to make up for the day before somehow! Winds were predicted to be 15knots, but I suspected the morning would be ok. So I put the boat in early and headed to my spot. Light 5-10knots on the water, easy fishable.

I arrived at the mark I wanted to fish and found another boat already anchored. These guys were bait fishing and their lines we hanging off one side of the boat with current. I did the right thing and dropped the electric in and approached on the up current side. I said hi to the guys and asked how they were going. Initial response was a bit aggressive with usual 'you know its a big ocean out there'. But after a bit of a chat they soon realised I knew the area well and wasn't trying to poach a mark. I was more than willing to move on with another spot not far away. But they were anchored above the mark and sending baits back, while I wanted to sit below the mark and cast lures up. I said I would stay well clear and we managed to politely fish the spot together.

It was quiet, but not dead. I managed a few Salmon and a couple of other smaller fish. But it wasn't producing the bigger fish I had hoped for. So after an hour or so I moved on to the second spot.

This spot was marking up some quality fish. With good numbers of Barra showing clearly on the Humminbird 998. But despite working the Threadybuster over and over the fish, the just would not play the game. But that seems to be a common story with the Barra of late.


I managed a few other smaller fish, but persistence paid off when eventually a decent fish hit the lure. No monster, but clearly a better fish. Soon the familiar pattern of a nice Grunter came into view and was led into the net. Just a quick iPhone photo of this one!


Only a handful of casts later and my Threadybuster was crunched by something solid. I hard hit, but took a second or two before exploding and tearing off line. The Stella 4000FI sung as the 15lb braid pealed off. But eventually the fish stopped and I was able to recover some line. Then off she went again! This repeated several times before I got a glimpse of a large silver fish in the water. At first glance I though it was a big GT, but I didn't get a good look before it was off again. But it didn't matter, all I knew is it was a big fish! Eventually I worked the fish back into view and it was then identified as a big Queenfish. Now to land this sucker! I managed to get the fish into landing range several times, but being solo I had to get it in just the right position to grab the tail. I caught a glimpse of the Threadybuster sitting in the side of the mouth, just one hook in the fish! It was a nervous few minutes, and several lunging runs later, before I got hold of the tail and lifted it aboard. At 105cm this was one lump of a fish! I managed to get the GoPro snapping some pics on auto from a rail mount. Didn't turn out too bad for a selfie! Check out the gob on that fish! Did I mention how much I love Threadybuster lures??!!


It was now later in the morning and I had promised to be home early. So after a few more casts I headed off for home. Apparently it was going to blow 15knots. But I ran home at WOT in almost glass conditions.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Using Google Earth to find fishing spots

** Warning ** Large images are used in this article. Please allow time for these to download ** Warning **

Recently a comment was made on Facebook about the fact that 'with the advent of Google Earth, no fishing spot is secret'. I have been using Google Earth now for over 10 years to check out various fishing spots and to find ways into new locations. So I thought I would put together a small article that might help a few people get started.

Download Location

Firstly, Google Earth is available for download at https://www.google.com/earth/. The Google Earch application is available for both Windows and Mac platforms. I use a Mac, so screenshots shown here may differ slightly from the Windows version. The web based Google Maps can me used in a similar way, but the proper application offers more customisations and adjustments needed for this article.

Settings

After downloading and installing the software, you want to ensure the imagery being generated is the highest possible your computer and internet connection can handle. The highest settings are not selected by default. Enter the Preferences and tick all the boxes for the best possible settings. The settings I use are shown below. While here, ensure your Lat/Long units match your GPS as this will make entering marks much easier. My GPS is setup to use Degrees and Decimal Minutes (xxº xx.xxx'S xxº xx.xxx'E) so that is how Google Earth is setup.

Changing the date

Google Earth compiles its imagery from a series of scans made from satellite passes. Some of these images may date back as far as 2002 or even earlier. The newer scans will generally be at a higher resolution as new satellites and better technology is used. This will allow the user to zoom in further and still keep the detail needed to identify objects. But the latest scan is not always the best! And sometimes the 'default' image that loads is not the latest scan. In the Google Earth toolbar is a show historical imagery  button. With his enabled a timeline slider will appear in the top left of the screen. Small lines on the timeline indicate periods in time when images were taken. You can slide the slider, or press the forward and back arrows, to cycles through the various scans taken over time. Sometimes the default, or current, scan is taken on a bad tide or is obscured by cloud cover. In these cases an older scan will give more information that is useful to fishermen. Its always worth cycling through all the images for an area to identify the one most useful. Just keep in mind that creek mouthes and sandbars move over time, so images that date back almost 10 years may be very inaccurate for this purpose.


In the image below the default image for the mouth of Morriseys Creek is show. Compare this to the scan taken back in 2013 where the tide was low and the water was clear. Now sandbars and deeper channels can be clearly seen. Much more useful for fishermen.

Queensland Globe

Queensland Globe is a mapping and data application that can be implemented inside Google Earth. As an interactive online tool, Queensland Globe allows the ability to view and explore Queensland maps, imagery (including up-to-date satellite images) and other spatial data. The Queensland Globe is made available to the public as part of the Queensland Government's open data strategy.

To access Queensland Globe, download the kml file from this link. Open in Google Earth and the options shown to the right become available in the layers panel. Turn on the imagery option to see the Queensland Government high resolution satellite and aerial data. Not all of the images are better than Google Earth, but most are. Most imagery is at a 50cm per pixel resolution, but some of the aerial photography is as good as 10cm per pixel. Compare the examples below with the latest Google Earth image on the right and the Queensland Globe image on the left.



Other features include property boundaries that can assist in identifying places you can and cannot access, and contours that could be useful for hiking.

Extracting a GPS Position

One of the most useful features of Google Earth is the ability to extract GPS positions directly from the map. When you hover the mouse cursor over the map, the GPS position is shown in the bottom right corner. In the interest of accuracy, its best to zoom in nice and close for this.

You can also use the pin  icon from the toolbar to drop a pin onto the screen. Then this icon can be dragged around the map and given a specific name. These can be save into Google Earth for later use. The dialog box for the pin will show its current Lat/Long position.

Checking out Marks

Using the pin feature above, you can also manually add a GPS coordinate into the dialog box. This will move the pin to that position. So if you have been given a GPS coordinate that you want to see where is, you can enter it and then locate the pin on the map. In the example below, the GPS coordinate from Shark Shoal, provide on this website, has been entered and the approximate position show.

Locating Creek Channels

Using the feature described above, its possible to collect a series of marks to enter into a GPS unit to follow deep water through a creek mouth. Select an appropriate scan and use the Pin or Cursor to write down a series of GPS coordinates that follow the deep water into a creek. 10 or 15 points may be needed to get an accurate entry all the way through the flats. Enter these into the GPS unit of the boat and follow. This is great for a new creek you may not have entered before. Just be aware that the GPS coordinate may not be accurate and sandbars and flats change over time. Always proceed with care. In the diagram below an image of Sandfly Creek is being used to identify the deep water through the channel and into the creek mouth.

Locating Dirt Tracks

Google Earth is fantastic for finding tracks into places you would not otherwise be aware of. Dirt tracks are usually really easy to see from above. For the Land Based fisherman this is incredibly valuable information. It will get you into sections of a river or creek that are otherwise only accessible via boat. The one thing you need to be aware of, however, is gates, fences and private property are not identifiable from Google Earth. Often you will identify what looks like a great access point into a creek, only to find its behind a locked gate or on private property when you get there. In the example below, a dirt track from the water treatment plant into Sandfly creek is show. It was once possible to launch a small boat here, but this track is now behind a locked gate.

Inshore Shoals

Shallow water insure shoals are easily identified from clean, clear imagery of Google Earth. Its often necessary to scan through the history as shown above to get an appropriate image. But as shown below, inshore shoals like Virago and Middle Reef off Pallarenda are clearly visible in the clean shallow waters.

Locating Boat Ramps

Unfortunately many of the Boat ramps locate in Townsville and the majority or North Queensland are poorly signed for people new to the area. Google Earth can easily locate ramps on creeks and beach access. Tracking back through the roads in will identify how to locate these ramps. You have to zoom in nice and close and take a good look around to find a ramp. But once found they stand out nice and clear. The image below shows the distinctive parking area and ramp access through the beach at Pallarenda.


And in the image sequence below, the ramp onto the Haughton River at Cromatary Creek is clearly visible, even at low resolution. Zoom in and the ramp is plane as day.

Secret Spots

With Google Earth, those secret spots are thing of the past! If the scan from the satellite happened to be completed on a day with lots of boats on the water, its possible to locate good fishing marks by identifying congregations of boats. Without giving too much away, in the image below a couple of congregations of boats can be seen around Salamander reef and 4ft Rock. There are also 3 boats sitting on a mark somewhere between the two!

Green Zones & Reef Names

There are many kmz files available on the Internet that can be loaded into Google Earth to add additional information. The follow two are worth downloading.

This Green Zone kmz file can be downloaded and opened into Google Earth to display current GBRMPA Zoning locations. While this can be handy when checking out new locations, it will overlay all Google Earth imagery. So it will need to be turned on and off in the side-bar as needed.


This GBRMPA Reefs kmz file will overlay the location and name of every reef in the GBRMPA region. Even many of the smaller shoals are highlighted and named. This is incredibly handy if you are unfamiliar with the Reefs being discussed on the various Social Networking sites.

Distances

Google Earth has a built in tool for measuring the distance between locations. Select the ruler  icon from the toolbar and pick between line or path. Then click location on the map to generate distances. This can be done as either a straight line (useful over open water) or as a path along many points (useful in creeks). The distance can be displayed in any units. In the image below, the distance from the ramp to the mouth at Cocoa Creek is being estimated at 3.06km. Driving distances on land can just as easily be calculated.

Summary

Google Earth is a really powerful tool for locating new fishing grounds, especially for the land based angler. It is easy to spend hours looking around, zooming in and out and dropping pins all over the place to check out at a later date. Just keep in mind that conditions change over time. Always take care when navigating on the water as sandbars and creek often change from year to year with floods. Fishing Townsville takes no responsibility for grounding or damaged caused from using Google Earth to navigate on the water.