FYI: 1770 By Peter Ford 2016

For many southern anglers, the lure of tropical species like red emperor and coral trout combined with a reef system full of picturesque islands and coral cays that allows safe overnight anchorages, all only 30 miles from the mainland,will have them towing their rigs six or seven hours north hoping to tick these species off their bucket list.

So let’s start with a checklist that will ensure it’s a good experience for you.

First and foremost, get your boat and trailer serviced. The amount of people I see up there who are in trouble before their trip has really begun is amazing. Wheel bearings on long road trips cop a hammering so my advice is to replace them every 12 months when you get your boat serviced, regardless of their condition.

Also, Fisheries are frequent visitors to the ramp and will certainly check your catch and safety gear so make yourself aware of the bag limits and green zones. The 1770/Agnes Waters tackle shop can provide you with all you need in that department.

It’s worth noting that the Agnes Waters petrol station is open from 5am till 11pm most days and you can get bulk ice in 20kg bags as well as bait and some food supplies.

The local Volunteer Marine Rescue operates from 6.30am till 6pm on channels 16, 81 and 82.

So onto the fishing. The key to catching big fish is not how far you go but when you go and what bait and methods you use. For example we have fished many marks inside and out of the reef system and found a distinct difference in what you catch by day and by night, with live bait and with dead bait and even plastics and jigs.

On our last trip in early November, we had planned to head north to Sykes Reef and then fish further north again up to Broomfield, but the weather gods were not shining on us with 10-15 knots of southerly wind forecast, increasing to 15-20 knots later the next day.

It’s a long slog back as a southerly blows straight up between the reef and mainland offering no cover at all. So a decision was made to fish the Fitzroy area which gets some pressure but can produce great fish if you attack it the right way.

We usually stop at a wreck about 6 miles from 1770 to get livies. It’s pretty much on the way to Fitzroy so always worth a drop. On this occasion, we loaded up with yakkas and a few slimies and then put the hammer down as it was just on dawn.

Getting to these spots early before anyone else will greatly improve your chances and putting your first livie down on a nice show of scattered bait will almost make you sweat with anticipation.

With a livie on its way down, it wasn’t long before I felt that nudge, nudge and flutter of the livie who was clearly trying to avoid being breakfast. But it just wasn’t his day as my rod buckled and loaded up big time. After a couple of runs trying to take me into the reef, I managed to turn what ended up being a nice trout, about 4kg.

As the morning went on, we moved from spot to spot picking up red throat, parrot and the odd trout on livies. We then decided to take a run outside looking for ground.

No sooner did we get out there and 15 knots of southerly started to blow so plan B came into play which was to head for Boult Reef where some good trout and red throat can be caught in the shallows whilst getting protection from the reef.

The key in the shallows is to anchor in a sandy patch surrounded by reef or bommies then send a couple of pillies down on a hook then reef it up dislodging them on the bottom. This starts a feeding frenzy under your boat and will bring the trout out of their hidey holes to have a look.

From here it’s best to drop unweighted pillies or even better a livie down. On this occasion, it was my offsider Davo who had the livie on and was rewarded within 30 seconds with an impressive trout at around 3kgs. Some nice red throat’s were also caught but as we were getting into the late morning, it all just slowed down so we went west towards the mainland up hard against the boarding Green Zone which proved fruitful again with a huge trout around 5kg hitting the deck, again with a livie.

The wind was getting up over 15kts so we decided to head for Lady Musgrave where we would get some protection that night and hopefully, some wind behind us for the trip home.

We awoke at 4.30am to no wind so we hit the road, 31 nautical miles back to 1770. All the usual chores happened like cleaning up, getting all the rubbish  into bags, washing down everything, so the drive home and washing of boat and cleaning of the 20 odd reefies could happen before tea that night.

Then as we were about 20 miles from home doing 24kts, I saw a small show on the sounder and decided to go back and sound over it and mark it for another day.

There was no real structure but it had bait scattered up off the bottom as if some kind of predators were in there having a dawn feed. We looked at each other and said should we have a drop and after a little hesitation, we did just that.

We had got rid of all the old bait the afternoon before and decided to cut up one of our parrot as a flesh bait. We were in about 38m of water and deployed our fleshies to the bottom. Within seconds, I felt that overwhelming feeling you get when you have no control, my rod buckled and line was peeling off big time. My first thought was a shark, but then it stopped and I started making ground slowly but surely. After fighting it all the way, I saw it was a red and a thumper at that,15.1 kg of solid red.

The next 30 minutes produced 4 nice maori cod and a huge estuary cod, we had almost doubled our esky in that dawn bite window proving it’s when, not where you fish.

Not far from this spot we had fished during the day for very little but at night, it produced spangled emperor, reef jacks and snapper just going to prove my point.

A few resources for you if its your first time there. Accom 1770 have many houses that will accommodate boats. FYI: there are no fish cleaning facilities at the ramp. Check out the Fish and Boat website – it has some starter GPS marks for you.