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Fly Fishing

Chasing Golden Trevalley on the Magnetic Island flats.


Enjoying one of the many beautiful beaches of Magnetic Island.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Rattlesnake Reds and Macks

Thanks Ward for getting the story of our little 2 boat adventure underway. Although we didn’t break any rods, lose a landing net or a shirt, our day also started a little on the wrong side of Murphy’s Law. I had left my landing net and gaff at home, got hooked up in the bait jig while unhooking live herring and lost the lid off the berley pot along with my nice big frozen block of berley all before 6.30am. More about that later!

My crew for the day was my good mate John and his son Dan and nephew Adam, up for the weekend from Brisbane. Being a big believer in always keeping an ace up my sleeve, I took the opportunity to jig up some live bait from the northern Middle Reef channel marker just as the sun was appearing over the horizon. We managed about a dozen large greenback herring and would have been hot on Ward’s tail a littler sooner, had the hooks on the bait jig been a little blunter and hadn’t penetrated all the way through my shirt! Thanks to John’s expertise with a pair of pliers, the culprits were carefully removed and we on our way.

The 6m Hooker made easy work of the surface chop and before long we were drifting alongside Ward’s Stacer, sounding out any structure and baitschools that were in the area. We found a small cluster of larger fish tucked into the flow-on face of a small lump on the bottom and also a nearby baitschool that was moving between the lump and a rubble patch.

Keen to get into some action, we dropped anchor up current of the lump and put the berley pot to work. Within 10 minutes a cloud of fish about 20ft thick had appeared out of the bottom structure and the lads started to pull fish. I was just thinking to myself how much I love my berley, when John informed me that the blue berley bucket lid was now 20m behind the boat. My worst fears were confirmed when I saw my prized berley block floating off into the distance, perfectly releasing tuna oil soaked particles as it bobbed in the swell. The good news is that about an hour later the tide turned and the lid and berley block came floating right back past the boat. A few lucky casts and the berley block and lid were reunited with the berley bucket. It was going to be a good day!

Unfortunately there were no Spaniards around, but the next couple of hours still produced plenty of grunting and groaning from the lads as they landed some good nannies and a few other species to top off a hot session.

For those of you who are like myself and want some specifics, the larger nannies came on the bite immediately after the turn of the tide. Best baits were whole pilchards, squid and live greenback herring. The school mackerel were all taken a couple of feet off the bottom and came on the bite as the tidal run picked up, about 2 hrs after the turn of the tide. All of the macks were taken on a 45g Bumpa Bar in green – absolute killer lure on the larger doggies. Due to the CRFF Closure, all nannies were released.

All up a fantastic day catching fish and catching up with mates - and plenty of laughs as well.

Before I go I must thank Ward for providing us with so much entertainment while landing his northern bluefin tuna. Usually you would have to buy tickets to see such a show! Champion effort mate – and yes, I will help you build a new fly rod!

Saturday 25 October 2008

Tuna on a fly

Strange but true. We decided to go for a fish today even though the weather was marginal. The boat and the fishers needed a run!. So Dion rang around and we had two boats up for a fish.

We decided to leave the boat ramp at 5am and head out to a spot off Rattlesnake Island. Liam and I arrived at the spot first while Dion and his crew collected live bait from one of the marks closer to Magnetic Island.

The spot looked OK with a nice show on the sounder. we did a couple of drifts and Liam landed a nice nannygai. He followed this up with a couple more. When Dion arrived we did a few drifts together again Liam getting a few hits and Dion's boat landing a few.

We decided to anchor as the drift was fast and not overly productive. Liam lost a few baits but Dion's boat started to clean up! They proceeded to land some nice nannygai, trevally and assorted fish. All reef fin fish of course where released. We were trying to catch some mackerel for the annual seafood night for the Church club.

At this point there were no fish for fly but then as all seemed lost Dion started to land a couple of nice size doggy mackerels. With this came a hard hit on fly and after a fairly heavy battle a nice 10kg tuna was landed. I think the fish still won as the fly rod was now three piece instead of 2!! nice fish but we need to work on landing these suckers! Anyway after some deliberation and soul searching I pulled out the spin stick to see if there were any doggies left by Dion. I decided to drop the metal lure beside the boat and watched the lure go down with the sounder. As it neared the bottom I noticed an arch appear below it. So a couple of cranks and fish on! A nice use of the sounder (very lucky!!) After a bit of a slow start a nice finish to the day. We will not mention the landing net that went for a swim and Liam's fly shirt decided to go with it! Well done to Dion and crew they looked like they had a great day and all reef fin fish were returned to the water.

Wednesday 22 October 2008


Just a reminder to all fishers that the changeover date for the new 406MHz EPIRB is fast approaching!

According to Maritime Safety Queensland, if it is a requirement to carry an EPIRB as part of your safety equipment, from 1 November 2008, it must be a 406 MHz digital EPIRB. That means all craft operating beyond smooth and partially smooth waters must carry a 406MHz EPIRB if more than two nautical miles from land. That's probably the majority of readers.

It is also a requirement to register your 406 MHz beacon with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority must also be advised of any change to ownership and vessel details.

The 121.5/243 satellite service will be discontinued in February 2009.

Philip of Rising Sun Marine has informed me that the GME MT400's are out of stock in his store, and likely out of stock all over Townsville. The GME was selling for $425 (great price). However, he has said that he has a VERY limited number of ACR 406 EPIRB's for the fantastic price of $460. However, due to the drop in the Australian Dollar. New stocks are likely to be slightly higher in price. SO GO GET ONE! Oh, and mention you came from

Sunday 19 October 2008

Fishing Location - North Cardinal

The North Cardinal would have to be one of the most overlooked fishing locations out of Townsville. This is the furthermost channel marker heading to sea from the Townsville harbor. At approximately 10nm from the boat ramp, this spot can be easily reached within a 20-30 minute run on most days. The marker is positioned just outside what would form a line between the back of Magnetic Island and Cape Cleveland. As such, it is located wide of turbid inshore waters. The marker is generally surrounded by clean fast running blue water, attractive to most pelagic species. However, at this distance from shore, windy conditions can bring up a rather uncomfortable sea. My suggestion is 5-10 knot winds for boats under 5m. Often, even in 15knots, conditions are comfortable, until the last mile or so. Here the oceanic swell can pick up, and with the added chop make life difficult. Water depth is around 12m at the low tide. Being the only obvious structure in an otherwise barren area, the pylon can attract massive schools of bait fish, particularly herring and scad.

The easiest way to reach the cardinal is to follow the first set of leads out of the harbor. Half way out the channel kinks to the port slightly. At this point there is a second set of leads to follow out of the channel. However, rather than follow this second set of leads, simply exit the channel straight ahead. The cardinal will begin to show up directly on this heading.

The Fish

As with most locations in Townsville, the fish caught at the North cardinal will depend on the time of year. Some of the fish I have caught here include Mackerel (School, Spotted and Spanish), Queenfish, Trippletail, Nannygai, Cod, Tuna and other smaller demersal species. School mackerel tend to be big, 60-70cm on average, and all the Queenfish I have caught have been close to or over the 1m mark. I have also caught several Trippletail approaching 10lbs. Winter is probably the prime time here, as this is when the mackerel make their appearance. However, having said that, I have caught good numbers of larger school mackerel here as late as Christmas! During these later months the mackerel will hold deeper where water temperatures are cooler.


Regardless of the time of year, if you are after big fish, live bait is the best way to go. And let’s face it; usually there are plenty on location. I have found that bait collects on the up-current side of the pylon, and sometimes up to 50m away. Sound around the area to locate the schools. Herring are definitely better than scad, so concentrate on the bait schools from mid water up. These are usually the herring, with scad hanging closer to the bottom. A simple $2.50 bait jigs will do the trick. Make sure you have at least 2 or 3 spare jigs in the tackle box. If mackerel are around, you can quickly loose jigs as they hit the baits before you can get them in the boat! Also, ensure plenty of bait is collected; 15-20 baits can disappear quickly if you hit a hot bite!

I’m not a big fan of wire traces, but single hooks and mackerel don’t go well together. But, minimize the wire as much as possible. As little as 5 to 10cm of light single strand wire is enough to prevent most bite offs. I fish live herring on mustard big mouth hooks. Size of hook should match the bait being used. When the water is running, hook the herring carefully through the front of the eye socket. A running sinker keeps the rig simple and minimizes the number of knots involved. Sinker size should match conditions. I have found baits do best when fished off the bottom, even for Mackerel. A number 4 bean will keep baits down in the peak run of tide. The running sinker will allow the herring to come up off the bottom just enough. But keep your hands tight on the rod as the bait goes down, often this is when a mackerel will hit and run.

If live bait is hard to come by, pilchards are by far the best dead bait. But buy only the very best. Cheap pilchards tend to be soft and hold poorly on the hook. I like to fish half pilchards on a double gang here. The tail can then go over for burly! I don’t use wire on gang hooks, even for mackerel. The extra strikes will be well worth the odd fish lost. Depending of the run of the tide, pilchards can be fished un-weighted, or on the bottom with a running sinker.

Lures and flies will work around the cardinal. Metal slices thrown past the pylon and allowed sink to the bottom before a rapid retrieve work best. The bumpa-bar range of lures are excellent jigged up and down through the herring schools, or close to the pylon itself. Burly isn’t usually necessary here, as the pylon is the attraction. Small-medium deep divers such as the flatz-rat will also pull strikes, but only if the fish are thick and hungry.

The best tide appears to be the last half of a strong incoming tide. This is when the very cleanest of the ocean water is brought in close. Peak time of day is definitely sunrise. Combine the two of these for the very best fishing. However, the odd fish will be picked up in the middle of the day on the slackest of tides, especially if live bait is employed.

For best results the boat needs to be positioned so baits hang nicely back toward the pylon. If the boat swings of one side of the mark, up-anchor and reposition the boat. A little effort is getting the boat right will pay off. There’s no point fishing where there’s no fish!

Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure Dates

Just a friendly reminder that the first of the Fin Fish closures begins this Wednesday. The following is directly from the DPI&F website.

Commercial and recreational fishers and charter boat operators around Queensland are being reminded that coral reef fin fish are off limits for three nine-day periods from October to December.

"The closures are in place to protect spawning aggregations of some iconic coral reef fin fish species like coral trout," said Fisheries resource manager Dr Brigid Kerrigan.

The closures for 2008 will be:

  • 22 October to 30 October inclusive
  • 21 November to 29 November inclusive
  • 21 December to 29 December inclusive

For Queensland commercial fishers the closures apply to all Queensland east coast waters between latitude 10°41´S and 24°50´S.

For recreational fishers and recreational fishers on charter boats the closures apply to all waters within the Australian Fishing Zone adjacent to the east coast between latitude 10°41´S and 24°50´S.

"The closures, which occur every year, change depending on the new moon phases so it is important that people who fish for coral reef fin fish keep up to date with the latest information," said Dr Kerrigan.

For up-to-date information on recreational fishing rules and regulations check the website or contact the Business Information Centre on 13 25 23.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Barramundi slow in the lagoon

Thanks to knowing some, we got to take the kids aboard the Navy vessel parked in the harbor today. Thanks Tim. But when I told Sebastion this morning that he was going to go on a big boat, he got all excited. He was walking around the house yelling "gig boa...gig boa". I think he thought we were heading out fishing on our boat as its been a while! So after their sleep today I decided to take them for a little fish in the freshwater lagoons.

We only fished for a short time. And it was very quiet. Lachy landed one Barra about 36cm, and I missed a couple of small bumps. We heard a few little boofs under the weed, but nothing spectacular. Sebastion caught a little Tarpon, and that made him happy. I think we may need a bit of rain to get the water and fish moving again.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Tarpon are on!

After having a great fish but challenging for sooty gunter, we tried fishing our local tarpon spot. Before we went, the Townsville Childrens Fishing Challenge was held off Pallarenda. I am not sure how many children fished but basically there were over 300 plus. The area off Pallarenda beach was thick with young kids having a go!. An amazing event and again well organised by Trevor Fuller and his crew.

After a great morning and then watching Ford smash Holden on the Mountain we decided to finish the day with a quite fish. We arrived at our spot and noticed the Tarpon moving straight away. We both landed tarpon within the first minute! Thankfully this time the fish kept going and by the end, an hour later, we landed about 20 fish between us. Liam landed the most and probably the most difficult. He had to cast between two trees plus a tree behind him and in front. He missed the first shot but landed the fish on the second! Well done!

Sootie Grunter in the fresh

100th Post!
With the wind forecast to blow all weekend the only option seemed to be to hit the freshwater. So Saturday afternoon Ward, Richard and I headed North to Wards favorite freshwater river. We left about 1.30pm a bit of 4-wheel-driving in Wards new car and we were fishing by about 3pm. Ward and Richard fished fly, and I fished my trusty soft plastics.

The water level was a little low, but it made access to the deep holes and sunken timber a little easier. We threw at several good looking locations, but failed to hook anything. We did spook a few sooties sun baking out in the open, so out hopes were high. We moved on upstream working the timber hard. The water was running pretty quickly, so the lures and flies didn't stay in the strike zone very long each cast. Any fishing was going to have to be pretty quick off the mark. But sure enough, just when I wasn't expecting it, a big hit came from one of the sunken logs. He pealed line off pretty easily from my light Stratic 1000. And I though he was going to bury me. I had forgotten just how hard these little bundles of muscle fight! But he was quicly worked out in the open, into the fast water that is! And after a minute or two he was at the bank. A nice plump fish.

Successive casts in that area produced a follow and a coupe of hits. But no hookups. Time to move to the next snag. On the way we saw a nice patch of deep open water. Worth a cast or two anyway. Richard managed a follow, and I landed a small sootie from here. But a nice patch of snags up stream kept us moving.

These looked good, had to hold a fish or two. Sure enough, a couple of casts in under the overhanging timber and 'wack'. Another small fish. Successive casts into here produced a hit a cast for 10 or more casts. But none would hook up! I think they must have been hitting the long tail of the squidgie. Ward and Richard, who were both still on nil at this stage, gave the fly a shot. But it seems the fish had stopped by this this stage.

It was starting to get dark so we headed back toward the car. One last try at some timber in front of the car. Ward finally managed a fish. And a good one too. There always seems to be a fish to be had in the timber right where the car is parked! It was now getting dark, and we had a long drive home. So off we headed.

Friday 10 October 2008

Townsville Kids Fishing Classic

Just a reminder for those with kids. The annual Kids Fishing Classic is on this Sunday at Pallarenda. Details are as follows.
  • Venue: Pallerenda Beach
  • Time: 6.30am (start) 9.30am (weigh-in)
  • Cost: FREE
  • Contact: 47224467 Sun Community Newspapers
For children aged 16 years and under.

Fish for great prizes and learn about safe, legal and ecologically sound fishing techniques from experienced members of Townsville's leading fishing clubs.

Fishing will be followed by lots of fun for everyone plus a free Townsville City Council sausage sizzle.

Nominations should be lodged by 12noon on October 11th at Pro Tackle, 247 Dalrymple Rd, Garbutt or by 4pm on October 10th at Townsville Sun office 155 Hanran St, City. Nominations will be accepted on the day of the Classic but be prepared for delays and queues.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Pictures Added Finally

As I have been away for the last week in Victoria, I was unable to get pictures off my camera and uploaded for the last few posts. However, they are now up! Please take the time scroll down and take a look, there are some good shots there.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Land Based Townsville

The fishing report today is about land based fishing around Townsville. The reasoning is based around a couple of thoughts. When the weather is not right for open water it is nice to fish in the fresh, sometimes a short land based trip is all there is time for, and in this case the Church Club had a land based competition.

The plan for this trip was to fish on Friday and Saturday. Liam and I chose 4 different fishing venues and moved through three on the Friday and one on Saturday. We only moved if the spot was not working or we had achived our target species.
The first place we tried was our sure fire Barramundi and Tarpon hole south of Townsville. We arrived around 7.30am for a morning fish. The hole we usually fished was starting to weed over but we persisted. After an hour no touches so we moved to our next location. This time we parked near the Haughton river and went for a walk. We found a nice spot were another stream entered the sytem again this place looked the goods. We tried upstream and downstream of our starting position but the bank stopped our progress in both directions. Again after an hour we stopped and headed for our original location. On the way we had a play with the new truck! It was nice to get back to some basic 4wding! After being a little silly we went back to see if the Barramundi were interested in playing. We arrived around 10.30am and found a couple of young lads already there. We had a few casts but the music from there car and again a lack of fish drove us home. Hope the boys did well.
The last place for the day was closer to dark around 5.30pm. Again a location close to home. This time we were chasing tarpon and finally just as we were about to leave, we both managed a couple of fish for the competition and a reasonable size Tilarpia . Liam landed the most and he pointed out a couple of fish for me to cast to, as he was not in the right position to get to them. Luckily for me they came to the fly. So after an hour at this spot between us we had 7 tarpon.
The last day we thought we would try a little further from home. We took the girls with us and had a nice day out. We fished the spot pretty heavily chasing mainly sooties with a possibility of Tarpon and Barramundi. The spot we chose was fairly small in area across the bank. This proved useful as usually the sooties held close to the opposite side! Usually this spot is productive for at least a couple of fish each. Today nothing came to the fly. Liam missed two and I did not get a touch. So after a few hours of fishing over the two days we went to the weigh in.

This was interesting to say the least. I usually go for the social aspect but this time was different. The folk in the club had a hard weekend of fishing. As it turned out Liam won the Junior competition! So well done Liam. I had a good result with a win in the Senior Men and Lure division. As much as it is not about the winning it was nice for fly to come up on top against all types of fishing.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Finally Some Nannygai!

Edit: Pictures added.

Beautiful break in the weather at just the right time. Arrived back from holiday at Mission Beach late Saturday. With the forecast of a drop in wind Sunday night I was keen for a Spanish Mackerel. A Spaniard is Wards last fish for his top 10, so I knew he would be keen to head out with me.

We met at the ramp at 4.30 Monday morning. The plan was to head to the shoals, and shoal hop our way out as far as we needed to find the fish. Our first stop was at about the 16nm mark. A patch I found a couple of years ago. It has produced the goods in the past, but nothing special in quite a while. A sound around didn't reveal much, so we didn't even drop a line!

Next we made a short run to a nearby wreck. Fish were showing, so we dropped anchor. After about an hour of running a burley trail we had nothing in the eski! I was fishing a floating pilchard and squid on the bottom, and Ward fished fly as always. The decision was then made to go wider.

I headed for Shark Shoal. I had never been there before, but had been told it holds good numbers of Spanish Mackerel. That was good enough reason for me to spend the extra fuel and go wide. But we hadn't gone more than about 5miles when I spotted a spike of bait on the sounder. A quick mark with the gps and we spun around. A quick drift and a drop of a metal slice resulted in an instant hookup from a Mack. But it threw the hooks pretty quick. Next few drops of the Bumpa-bar achieved nothing. Time to try the bottom. So I baited up with squid and dropped down. Instantly I hooked up on a good fish. Big head shakes and a fish that didn't want to come off the bottom. I had my hopes up! Shortly a nice fish appeared beside the boat. A Nannygai! YES. The fish was netted and brought aboard. Clearly in excess of 5kg, a few pics and a handshake and she was put on ice. Successive drifts resulted in a few good bites, but no hookup. That is until the 'freight train' jumped on! Unfortunately I will never know what this fish was, but I was hooked solid for 10mins. I could feel head shakes, but couldn't lift the head off the bottom. And when it ran, well I could do nothing! Against 50lb braid and a locked drag it was pulling the boat slowly around! But eventually leader gave way. A good thing too, I was hurting. By this stage another boat in the area had come over. The were clearly trying to 'ping' my spot. Bloody rude buggers! Not wanting to loose my new spot the same day I found it, we decided to keep going to Shark Shoal.

On arrival the sounded clearly showed there was plenty of structure here, and I could see the Macks on the sounder. But there wasn't the huge bait schools I was expecting, and the Macks were pretty spread out. We tried drifting a few times, me with metal off the bottom and Ward with his fly. But we were in successful. Ward did manage one blistering run. A good fish that he was hooked up to for a few mins. But it bit through, well shredded actually, a new trace he was trying. But other than that things really were not working. So we decided to try trolling. At least we could better cover the area. I trolled my favorite red and white Rapala and Ward his fly. First pass and instant hookup. Big screaming run. But what appears to be shot drag on my Calcutta 700 resulted in a bust off when the drag stuck. The drag feels terrible now. So it was put away and my other 700 brought out. Ward had a hit at the same time, but was instantly bitten off. Second pass and another hookup. This time the fish was landed. A nice 4-5kg Mack. Ward's line came back minus another fly, but we are unsure when the hit occurred. It may have been while the line sank as he netted my fish.

Another pass and another hookup. But this time I could feel bumps on my line as I was fighting the fish. Then nothing! Sharks? Time for a new lure. Couple more passed and a couple of bumps, but no hookup. Then we spotted them! A HUGE shape under the water near the lures. So this was why it was called Shark Shoal! I had been warned about the difficulty of landing fish here due to the sharks, but I was expecting masses of bronzies or the like. Not 3 or 4 massive tiger sharks bigger than my boat! It was obvious they knew boats meant food, and they simply followed us waiting for a hookup! Ward managed a fish that soon turned into a shark. Funniest thing ever. Ward on a 12-wt fly rod attached to a tiger shark. I still don't thing the thing knew it was hooked!! When it became obvious we were not going to get a fish on board we decided to head back to my new Nannygai spot.

We were almost there when Ward spotted a sea snake on the surface. I had been told that this can be a great way to find new spots, as there must be something on the bottom the snake lives at. A quick sound around soon showed a patch on the bottom. First bait down and a nice little Nannygai of about 55cm came up. Ward then hooked up on what was clearly a good Nanny! But he took it easy, not wanting to pull hooks or bust leaders. He was on the fish a good while, several good runs along the bottom. But sure enough, the fish found structure. It must have hurt to loose that fish. Further drifts resulted in a nice cod and some other small snappers. But no more Nannygai. Our friend in the red tinnie again joined us from his near by spot. I'm not sure I should have pictures of my boat on here anymore? Or if I should even write reports? But I guess there are always rude people. With the first baits down generally getting the goods, we decided to try the original mark again.

Sure enough, first bait down and another 5kg fish joined his mate in the eski. And sure enough, the little red boat follows! Another bait and it was another freight trait. And that was it for me! My arms were shot!! Ward missed another couple of hits here, and was bitten off again. I think our mates might have succeeded in getting our mark as the sounded around and suddenly shot back to their original spot. If you did get it guys, please look after it!

That was it for us, a gear day by our recent standards! And I am still hurting from those trains.

I am currently in Victoria typing this report on my phone, so I apologize for errors in spelling and formatting. I also have pics to add when I get access to a computer.