Beginners Guide: “Reds From DI to 1770” Peter Ford 2017

When you’re flicking through your favourite fishing mag or looking at your Facebook feed, you get the feeling that red emperor’s are a little hard to catch as they seem to be the trophy fish caught in ones or twos, here and there.

Well there is some truth in that, but it’s more so that they are harder to find as opposed to harder to catch, that is unless you go and specifically target them.

You need to know a few things about this majestic fish in order to target them successfully.

Firstly, you won’t find them in any numbers on any of the well know reef systems. The reason for this is they are aggressive feeders most of the time like our old friend the cod and for that reason,  most resident fish are cleaned out pretty quickly.

The waters off Double Island Point and up the outside of Fraser Island are one of Qld’s most prime grounds for chasing reds for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, you have to cross the Wide Bay Bar or use what’s known as the fisherman’s gutter which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As well, you need to have a boat that is capable of travelling the distances necessary to go beyond the reach of your average day tripper and charter operators.

Plenty of people including the charter operators fish the grounds up to 15 nautical miles from the bar with occasional good results but it’s the areas beyond this that are likely to bring the best rewards.

When fishing these areas wide of the bar out towards the shelf, I always head in a direction that takes me ultimately to higher ground as other tasty morsels can be found there but it’s the no mans land in 45m-60m.

Approximately 5-10 nautical miles in from the shelf is where I have found the most productive areas if you are prepared to search around.

When searching, you need a sounder capable of reading well at speed and once you are 20nm out or more, stop on anything that has bait and have a drop. Make sure you use big flesh baits or livies if you can get them and allow pickers to have a go at your bait.

Don’t be in a hurry to strike the fish, if the reds are there, they will soon move in and take it away from the pickers.

Also sound around the areas you locate on your way out as that nice little rock or rise may just be 50m away as bait tends to always be around multiple locations near to the one you just found.

Although red emperor can be caught all day, they go best first up and again on sunset. I can remember a trip off Double Island some years ago. There, two of us landed  eight reds in 30 mins just as the sun went down.

The Bunker Group off the coast off 1770 is another red emperor hot spot. If you know what you’re doing the same principals apply, try to fish the areas that are not getting hammered on a regular basis.

This area is a lot more fisherman friendly with the protection of the reef system making overnighters a lot easier as you can always find somewhere to run to if it starts to blow.

The reef system is around 30 nautical miles from 1770 and offers a couple of great lagoon options for sleeping overnight – Lady Musgrave at the southern end and Fitzroy Reef  about 20 Miles further north.

Reds can be found inside and outside the reef system and I have found the grounds about 5 – 10 miles inside the major reef from Lady Musgrave to Fitzroy productive for chipping away all day, picking up the odd one here and there as you fill your esky with plenty of other tasty reefies.

Night sessions in some of these locations can also turn it on with big sweetlips and reef jacks making their way into your esky as well. Around this time last year, I was heading back at 4am from Musgrave to 1770 when I ran across a large patch of bait.

We had thrown out all our old bait so we filleted up a nice red throat and sent a couple of baits down and I immediately hooded up to something huge, it was a 14kg red and my good mate Davo hooked an impressive Maori cod just as the sun was rising.

This was in no man’s land as I call it, about 20 miles from home proving that the peak bite times can produce some awesome fish.

From about September through to Xmas, you can find legal reds as close as the 9 mile off 1770.

Another area to get into some great reds is north of Sykes Reef, mainly because it is fished less than the main reef system further south but you need a good forecast and plenty of fuel as the trip to this area if you don’t stop is roughly 50 nautical miles.

The difference in these locations a bit further north is the by-catch, if you don’t find the reds you will more than likely find you have filled an esky with larger than normal reef fish.

On a trip I had to this area in August of this year, my other boating buddy Darren landed a 15kg model followed soon after with a 10kg but that fought well above its weight.

If you are wanting to step up from your normal reef fishing exploits to chase the elusive red emperor,  then I suggest a couple of videos to watch produced by Greg Lamprecht of Wicked Fishing. Firstly “Double Island Point and Beyond ” and “Breaksea Spit and Beyond”.

You will find both videos invaluable for tips on catching these powerful reef dwellers.

Peter Ford