Fishing Reports - Capricorn Islands Feb 2008

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Lagoon Explorer Capricorn Islands Feb 2008

By Nomad Crew: Browse crew >>



Capricorn Islands

Feb 2008



3 weeks

Coral Sea Lagoon Explorer


I think the best way to describe these 3 weeks of fishing was action packed and diverse. We had a huge variety of fish caught, using a variety of styles and techniques. The variety of locations we fished was astounding, and the weather did everything from being perfect for 6 days straight, through to 50kn of wind and driving rain while we were safely anchored up a creek.

We had a morning where we caught 3 GTs over 45kg, with the biggest around 55kg, and this in itself was truly astonishing. We finished the 2nd week with all dories fishing within 200m of each other, with a queenfish and tuna session that lasted for hours. Literally every cast was a fish of some description, and all on surface lures!!

We fished in some new places that were just piscatorial and visually stunning. In fact it would be fair to say that visually, this area would have to be right up there with anywhere in the world for stunning backdrops to a fishing trip. The combination of fishing, great anchorages and incredible scenery has firmly cemented this location in the Nomad Sportfishing yearly schedule. With 4 GTs over 50kgs landed in the first 10 days fishing I think it’s going to be tough to beat that record next year.



The trip to the Capricorn Islands started at Yeppoon, where we collected 8 very excited guys from the Marina. The islands to the north of Cape Manifold were to be our first stop, and we managed to get an afternoon fish in on the first day, just a few hours, but enough to whet the appetite. The guides and myself were also fishing during this first week, a special yearly event that seems to be embedded in the schedule now.

I (Damon) managed to hookup and land a fish on my very first cast for the trip, and Brandon Khoo was also connected on his very first cast for the trip, but pulled the hooks. I landed a GT about 15kgs to start proceedings, and Scott Hillier, along to film for Channel 7’s Creek to Coast was very impressed with the start. Scott was later busted off by a fish around 50kgs, a very brutal introduction to his first GT trip. There were several solid fish landed in the 2hr session on the first arvo, and these same islands were also to be the location for a brace of 45kg+ fish some 10 days later.

The second day saw us move up into one of the creeks, and with exceptional weather we were again fishing the islands out from the creek, with plenty of GTs, spanish mackerel and queenfish on offer. Brandon Khoo landed a golden trevally in the creek around 6kgs, on his light baitcaster, and the queenfish in the mouth of the creek were going crazy. All 4 dories ended up experiencing a 2-3 hour session where every cast produced either a queenfish, longtail tuna, mac tuna, GT, coral trout, cod or a golden trevally. The variety of species all available in the same area and feeding on the same bait was just hard to believe. There were that many fish that all you had to do on many occasions was to swipe a soft plastic through the water at the side of the boat, and there would be queenfish and small GTs just crashing it, literally with the plastic only inches off the rod tip.

While doing this for the camera at one stage, Brandon had a 25kg black GT inhale his soft plastic and scream off towards the bottom. Fortunately the hook pulled before the fish reached the bottom. This session also produced golden trevally on jigs from the bottom, and all sorts of parrot, emperor and coral trout. It was a truly impressive session, and lasted the entire run in tide at this location. We even went back there the next day to find that this seemed a daily event at this location-quite amazing.

High Peak Island and the surrounding islands were the target for the next day, and there were plenty of GTs, spanish mackerel and queenfish to keep us interested, not to mention the exceptional fishing for coral trout on light soft plastics. Tim and Max and Pat had an awesome session on spanish mackerel and queenfish, just near the mothership, while Jason, Malcolm and Chris ventured out to an isolated rock some 8 miles from the anchorage. They found a number of 30kg+ GTs and a congregation of large 20-25kg spanish mackerel. Apparently they had to stop casting for the spaniards they lost so much gear.

The anchorage, scenery and fishing at High Peak certainly impressed all of us again, but we were looking to explore a few new islands this year and a new group lay to the west of High Peak. All the dories left High Peak and made the 15 mile journey over to this group on a beautiful calm day, with the mothership following closely behind.

The sheer number of islands and reefs in this area is simply staggering. There are literally hundreds of islands littered throughout the Shoalwater Bay area, and most seem to have similarly superb fishing.

We were all heading over to the Marble Islands on this occasion, but stopped off at Allandale Islands, and the surrounding 6 islands for a fish during the day. All of these islands produced superb action on big GT’s, spanish mackerel, queenfish and coral trout. Upon arrival at Allandale island, we had a good 4 knots of current hitting the face of the island, and we could see GTs just cruising around on the surface right in close to the rocks. Every cast was met with the same response, a big hit! The thing about fishing this area is that you are often casting around the base of high rocky cliffs, and the combination of the high cliffs, and lush green trees on these islands makes for an incredible backdrop. While this area is vastly different to other parts of the Coral Sea, it is no less spectacular and visually appealing. In fact some guests who have visited both areas say they find some of the natural wonders of this area to be even more spectacular than the outer Coral Sea, and that’s a big call!!

The Marble Islands and the group around Allandale produced heaps of GT’s for all the boats. On average we were landing 5-6 good sized GT’s in a day, and that would be mostly fish over 25kgs, with some up to 35-40kgs landed, and some bigger ones seen, with the odd session where one boat would land 9-10 GT’s in a few hours and see 25-30. With the mixture of other species available on top of the GTs, this was spectacular fishing by any standard. On one particular island around Allandale, I had another shot at a 50kg+ GT, but the hooks pulled after only a few seconds. This was actually a good result, because the cast had been a little ambitious, and had the hooks stayed connected, even my most optimistic assessment would have seen another lure lost in classic Shoalwater fashion. For those who may not have read the previous reports, I managed to lose no less than 18 poppers in our first ever week at Shoalwater in 2006. That was fishing 90lb braid, and I have learned since then that 130lb is the starting point. Subsequently our lure losses were a little better this year, but landing those monster GT’s in amongst the rocks and current is a huge challenge.

Tim Baker managed to extract a GT of over 50kgs at the Marble Islands, and from Max Sothern’s firsthand account, the battle was epic. A big South African versus a monster Shoalwater GT. This was Tim’s personal best GT, and after years of effort, and bustoffs, he thoroughly deserved this fish. It apparently nearly escaped a number of times, but he was able to muscle it out of a few tight spots in amongst the rocks. I was fishing the same location earlier in the day and to pull a fish of that size from in amongst that structure was a sensational effort.

Considering I’m still talking about the first week here, I better get on with this. We finished the first week around the Percy Islands with a couple of excellent days fishing. There is simply so much area to fish around all of these islands that you hardly ever fish the same place twice. I guess the Percy’s were more of the same, sensational fishing for BIG GTs, spanish mackerel, coral trout, queenfish, golden trevally and a variety of other species. Malcolm Crane landed his personal best GT of well over 40kgs, Chris Harrison also landed his best GT of over 40kgs, as did Jason Preece, with a 36kg model from out of some nasty country at the base of Middle Percy. There were the usual monster GTs busted off and lost, and the fishing was generally as we expected in such an amazing place.

The 2nd week started with glorious weather and a couple of planes full of very excited anglers from Canberra. Max Suthern’s group of mates from down south had joined us for this week, while Max and his son Pat had already spent the previous week with us, and were continuing on for another week. Max later admitted to feeling the effects of 2 weeks of mixed GT and sportfishing, but it all ended well for Max by the end of the week.

We fished the Percy Islands for the first day and they again produced incredible action, but the 2nd day we moved down to an area around Hexham Island that we had not fished before. This all sounds a bit predictable, but the fishing for everything was just fabulous. We were catching maori wrasse on jigs, GTs on poppers, big mackerel and all sorts of other critters. Most of the GTs were around the 30kg mark, which is a really nice average size for these fish. In fact this area probably has the highest average size for GTs of anywhere we fish, most of them are around the 28-30kg mark. I think this is because they live in such crazy current, and the life they lead makes them very fit.

The weather forecast was starting to look a little grim, but we were able to get another morning in around Hexham Island before we had to seek shelter. This was one of the best morning’s GT fishing I have yet experienced. There was one little spot at the end of Hexham island, where the current was just hitting perfectly, and the GTs were just stacked up in there. The stats for the 3 hour session were 12 hookups, 9 fish released and over 25 GTs sighted. This included landing 2 fish around 35kgs, busting off one around 40jgs, and seeing one of the single biggest GTs I have ever seen. This fella was the size of the monsters we saw at Marion Reef last year, a good solid 6ft long, maybe a little more and one and a half feet across the back. It had a crack at Dean’s popper, but failed to connect, and then followed the popper to the boat, so we all got a really good look at this beast. My best estimate on size would have been somewhere around 80kgs. I am at a loss to figure out how you would land one that size in the country we are fishing, but it is incredible to see them at this size nonetheless.

That afternoon, we moved down to find some shelter inside one of the creeks of Shoalwater Bay, there was a strong NW wind and heavy rain forecast for a few days. I guess we had to pay the price at some stage for such a run of great weather and sensational fishing. The rain was torrential for about half a day, and we had wind gusts of 40-45kn, but were quite safe and comfortable tucked away in one of the creeks. The NW wind change had pretty much shut down the fishing in the creek, but it was too miserable to even go outside on one day, so this was not an issue.

After sitting out the bad weather and catching a few fish along the way, we moved back to the creek on the Eastern Side of Shoalwater, where we started the first week. This proved to be a great move, as the next morning’s fishing saw some truly epic GT fishing. The guys fishing with Jason started things off with a 50kg GT landed first cast of the day, then followed soon after by a 40kg GT to Mark who was on his first ever GT trip, closely followed by another 48kg GT. Meanwhile, Tim and Max Suthern were getting into them not far from Jason, with Max Suthern ending his 2 week tour with a GT well over 50kgs. This is not to mention the other 40kg GT that Kev caught with Tim as well. All this in a 3hr morning session was just quite unbelievable.

If this wasn’t enough, we had a 2 hour session before the plane came in that was just as good as anything else for the week. We went back to where the queenies and Tuna were on the chew at the start of the first week, and found them doing the same thing. It was another 2 hr session where every cast produced a hit, follow, fish or a bustoff. Most of the queenies were in the 3-4kg size, great fun, and the small GTs were in plague proportion. The GT’s made it hard to get to the bottom to catch a golden trevally at times. Just truly sensational fishing and a great way to finish a trip.

The guys who flew in for the 3rd week were plagued by bad weather, and we were forced to spend a lot of time up the creeks. There were still some personal best GT’s of over 30kgs landed by Michael Cobb and Aaron Cootes, but overall the weather created some issues for us this week, and even though the fishing was still good, the 35-40kn winds, which I might point out are very strange at this time of year, did limit what we could do. But even with this weather all the guys caught fish, and generally had a great time.

Overall, it would be hard to say anything about these 3 weeks other than that it was a huge success. Even in mixed weather, the locations still produced fish, and when the weather was even half decent the fishing was truly spectacular.

There’s really not much more to say other than that the variety of fish, the average size of all the fish, and the stunning scenery puts this area very high on the list of places to visit in Australia. February is the only time of year we can really visit this area, considering the Military zone closures and I guess it is this limited access and the remote location that make it a truly unique part of Australia.

A lot of next year’s trips are already booked due to the guys from this year booking them out, but for anyone wanting a huge variety of species, incredible scenery, and some of the best lurecasting available anywhere, this is the trip for you. I can’t wait for next year, and I know that there’s a few Nomad regulars who feel just the same.


Can’t wait to get back there next year.

Damon Olsen and the Nomad Crew.


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One Response to “Capricorn Islands Feb 2008”

  1. Rhyan says:

    GSF, it’s a 1/0, stout saltwater hook. Tie a heavy cluoser on one of these, throw it with a 350 grain sinking line in a 20 knot wind, and you’d better be ready to duck.That reminds me, I have new hole to patch in my rain shell…

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