The Great Barrier Reef - Reef Fishing
Reef fishing the Great Barrier Reef would have to be one of the most enjoyable types of fishing available, combined with awesome scenery, and large variety of marine life from Turtles to Humpback Whales it’s definitely hard to beat. When fish are a bonus, and that includes a wide range of species such as coral trout to Red Emperor we are truly spoilt on the Great Barrier Reef. Other unique and beautiful fish include Red throat emperor, Barramundi Cod, Maori Wrasse, Spanish Mackerel and heaps more too numerous to list.
There are some definite tips and tricks which can help improve the odds and help put a few more fish in the esky. Some days the fish can be on the chew and you can’t do a thing wrong, Fishing the reef edges in the shallows and the deep drop offs with bait is an easy way to go. Bottom bashing with a paternoster rig is hard to beat, two hooks about 30 cm’s apart about 50cm off the bottom sinker, clearing the coral, most of the time anyhow, trying to avoid those snags.
Best bet is with a couple of hooks you can mix it up a bit. Our favourite for reef fishing is a mixture of squid, pilchards and fresh flesh, from smaller reef fish. Or the old handliner’s favourite, a running ball sinker straight onto the hook.
Make sure you’ve got 50lb braid at least, which will stop most fish, Some are just unstoppable, and will clean you up no matter what you do. You do have to be quick with Coral trout to stop them before they get back into their homes. Recommend using as least weight as possible, and about a size 6/0 hook is all you need.
Look for a live reef, it’s always great to see some surface action, look for birds working, Fusiliers hanging around bommies on the surface and if skittish, a definite sign something bigger is hanging around below. This can be a great time to cast a Popper or Spinner across the surface and hang on, resulting in some spectacular surface strikes from a big GT or Spanish Mackeral.
Keep an eye on the sounder looking for lots of fish life and bait schools, Find the bait, and the fish won’t be far away, with coral trout sitting below looking for an easy feed, and mackerel cruising the edge as well.
Have a look at the current, reef fish like a bit of run, and will sit on the upside of a bommie, waiting for a feed to come to them. Best bet is to anchor up current and position the boat so you can drift, drop baits onto the leading edge of the bommie.
Things are quiet, sometimes no matter what you do, the fish just aren’t on the bite, time to try a few different techniques, This can make the difference from no fish to at least a few in the icebox.
Don’t be scared to move around a bit, try the shallows, right up close to the reef in 5 -10 metres of water, 20 -30 metres is great for some real quality fish, and the deep reefs 50 – 70m is where you’ll find the big Nannygai and Red Emperor. This is where a real quality depth sounder is priceless, several thousands dollars believe it or not is money well spent.
Make sure you’ve also got a good quality GPS as well. I recommend two separate units, with large icon capacity to mark all those secret spots and enable you to work again next time with pin point accuracy. So don’t be scared to move around and try finding the fish.
If fish aren’t responding to bait, try something different, with that many lures on the market and in your local tackle shop, they all work at one time or another, from trolling with hard bodied lures and baits, to casting spinners and poppers, or even jigging with soft plastics, Coral trout can be quite aggressive at times and will hit anything and there is usually always some mackerel around which are great sport and good eating.
Make sure you’re familiar with all the Regulations and zones now affecting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, you almost need a degree in regulation and fish identification to keep up with it all, but maps and fish size information can be obtained from your local tackle shop and boat stores. It’s definitely well worth looking after our fish stocks and will ensure great fishing for years to come, with 35% of the Great Barrier Reef now protected from fishing. Bag limits still allow for a good feed to be taken home.
Enjoy and see you out on the water!!
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