“Prime Time Pelagics” Dan Bowater 2016

Variable northerly winds, mirror flat horizons and masses of feeding pelagics- now is unequivocally the best time of year for fishing as our (later than normal) FNQ dry season commences. Last month I described the onslaught of trevally species hammering lures in my regular haunts off Mourilyan Harbour. Since that time things have only improved with virtually every pelagic species emerging to feed on all our recent trips.

With all fishing styles showing promise September and October have seen the boat ramps packed rightfully full of punters. It’s all happened after a horror year characterised by a ridiculously late/windy wet season. Most of the successful reef anglers picked up their prized targeted bottom species like trout, reds, and nannys. Naturally I expect there will be some great images of these cracker catches being shown through this edition too!


Stone’s Throw Suspects

Since I had already acquired a nice feed of fingermark the need to target other table species honestly wasn’t at the top of my agenda in September. I like to cryovac seal any high quality species so none of the meat ends up freezer burnt or left to form an unidentifiable blob of frozen goop. It’s neatly stacked in meal portions sort of like playing cards. When the tasty stack shrinks or disappears its then time to tie up some reef dropper rigs! Furthermore, like I described last month, I’m more the kind of angler turned on by the imposing sight of a ferocious high speed surface strike or the sweet sound of an eternally singing drag. That stuff stays in my mind for days afterward. Throughout late September most of my fellow anglers repeatedly gunned it to the reefs chasing their regular table species whereas my mate Ryan ‘Harro’ Harris and I stayed in closer and tangled with faster, crazier and less predictable suspects. We were armed to the teeth with a range of metal lures, vibes and soft plastics with both heavy and light tackle at our disposal.


Fishing with Harro

My usual rule is to start with the heaviest gear then work backward to the lighter outfits thus allowing a good conversion rate on early hook-ups. Obviously when you go light the fight times drag out and the chance of being ‘sharked’ also increases markedly. However, in our current run of balmy weekends ultra high water visibility causes our target species to be super wary of heavy leaders and extra judgmental of lure presentation. At certain times we really had to roll the dice- things got very interesting to say the least! In one instance we were drift fishing a section of deep structure when we sounded a mass of bludger trevally in mid water. Harro was in a state of discomfort some 30 minutes later as he fought one of the biggest bludger trevally I had seen. Eventually it was smashed by a huge whaler shark leaving young Harro quite irate! My turn came when my little 4000 Stradic lit up near one of the inner reefs. We were casting metal lures from an anchored position and some carefully judged drag pressure was needed to recover a concerning loss of 20lb braid. A 12kg GT was worked slowly boat side and made a closing statement by breaking my ol’ faithful ten year old landing net. Like I said last month they are tough buggers. My trip with Harro showed the importance of maxing out the capabilities of your tackle as every handle turn can be one step closer to a conversion. We also had notably more success in drift fishing methods rather than being locked in one anchored spot.


Fishing with Jaz

The ongoing forecast of variable northerlies allowed a follow up session with a visibly more charming angling identity. Making the drive south from Cairns Jasmine Poulos did well to enter the sometimes tough world of pelagic angling. Her favourite lure was the 20 gram Threadybuster vibe used with the above mentioned Stradic 4000 outfit. Versatility is a big advantage when the pelagics get finicky and I find these small vibes can be just the ticket to unlocking the bite. During neap or small tides they really are great performers. Like most lures there is a bit of a knack to the retrieve with gentle/enticing series of jigs against the direction of current flow being ideal. ‘Jaz’ had it wired from the onset; in fact I’m not sure how the lure didn’t get snipped off by the marauding schools of doggy and spotty mackerel below. Actually it did get snipped off a couple of times in the landing net (after the fish were landed!). She is a sneaky fishing comrade, very unassuming and even a bit diminutive until you realise she’s caught more fish (a dangerous pool shark too apparently). Again, with pretty much the entire boating contingent on the reef we had the closer spots uncontested in close. Throw in some tuna and party mix of other trevally species and it sure makes for a really fun day out.


Customised Chaos    

With so many fishing opportunities’ appearing in succession it’s very easy to become blaze` about living within easy access of our tropical fishing nirvana. Familiarity breeds contempt, and great experiences can almost feel numbed if repeated. The weekends of variable northerlies can become so commonplace the mystique behind preparing for another trip diminishes. For me, being based within close proximity to the coastal environment I have been literally lying in wait of the action happening now. Given the toughness of earlier this year (basically the entire period from March to July) it’s worth remembering the value in savouring these chances. In the recent series of trips we have admittedly only really scratched the surface in terms of quality captures. By the same token I for one have refined a few important techniques that I promise will be put to good use later – particularly in getting that light line bite. I can already hear the moans of disapproval from the purist reef bottom bouncing brigade. Although to me fishing is hardly a one size fits all activity. It is more of a customised experience where you are free to create your own unique version of enjoyment and feel the personal thrill in that chase. Best of all places like Mourilyan offer the ultimate location to create this experience- at the moment your sense of adventure and creativity is your only limit.

A Strange Spring Phenomenon

Taking nothing away from the great efforts of so many it was also more than apparent, perhaps in the excitement of it all, that a phenomena I will call ‘death mounds’ occurred. For a couple of weekends numerous photographs featuring insanely huge piles of 50+ dead fish or more predictable backyard line up type images were regularly surfacing on social media. Normally this type of picture might appear as a random inclusion in a series of others or at least at a less common interval. Maybe after such as long spell of awful weather you would expect some more extreme bragging but the sheer scale of it really raised a lot of questions for me. I recall a few nights where I scrolled through a dozen or more consecutive images that resembled an infinite and inescapable series of fish mortuaries. Firstly on this notion of cheering on the biggest pile of long dead, pale and partially thawed fish… I just don’t see how this can be regarded as visually pleasing. Compared to a portrait type image showing in detail the features of a freshly taken living capture- well is there really even a comparison?

Secondly, and probably more importantly, do these ‘death mound’ images serve the interests of our rec angling community that is already under fire from all directions by…hmm just about anyone but us?! I think in days gone by most reef anglers (myself included) have been part of crews that have reached bag limits or simply scored an incredible catch (then done the backyard photo ‘thing’). However, it seems only a portion of the experienced angling community has realised the folly of posting these kinds of brag images. Of course those involved won’t really care now but ironically will be the first up in arms when the general public perceives us all as reef vandals. It is really only an observation/side topic so let’s not get too bogged down by the negatives. Overall it was wonderful to see so many great captures and see so much confidence restored amongst the ramp regulars. Just quietly my boat didn’t miss out on a few bonus table species either (more on that next month). Let the good times roll! Cheers!