EPIC CATCH: Jenny Cooper with a 1.14 metre jew fish caught off Cape Hillsborough.
EPIC CATCH: Jenny Cooper with a 1.14 metre jew fish caught off Cape Hillsborough. Contributed

'How are we going to get this in the boat?'

GREY nomads Jenny and Phil Cooper have been coming to Mackay every year for the last six years in between trips around the continent, parking their wagon at Cape Hillsborough for what they say is a superior fishing scene.

The couple's plans for a leisurely fish just offshore from their caravan at Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park finished in spectacular fashion on Monday, however, when a 1.14 metre jewfish bit down hard on Mrs Cooper's line.

"It took me quite a while to reel it in and when Phil saw it he said 'there's no way I'm going to get that in the net',” Mrs Cooper said.

"(Seeing the jewfish) it was shock horror to start with because I was thinking, how the hell are we going to get this fish on board?”

"Jenny had fought the fish for 20 minutes and worn it out basically, by the time we got it to the boat it was buggered, a bit like us,” Mr Cooper added.

"We had a gaff but if I had mucked about trying to get it (from the front of the boat) we may have lost the fish.

"I had fishing gloves and I put my hand in its gills and I pulled it on board that way.”

After risking his hand to save the fish, Mr Cooper said there was a "big cheer” waiting for them from their friends at the caravan park, with the owner using an excavator to lift up the fish for a photo.

"They couldn't believe it, it was too heavy to hang onto so the park owner went and got his backhoe and hooked it up to the bucket. It weighed 30 pounds (13.6kg),” Mr Cooper said.

"We're grey nomads from New South Wales,” Mrs Cooper said, as Mr Cooper added that since retiring he and his wife had travelled around Australia and had been "coming to Mackay for six years now”.

"The quality of fish here is far superior,” he said. "We have always fished, we caught mulloway in NSW but this is the best fish we have caught in Mackay.”

Aside from Cape Hillsborough, the Seaforth area was also a place churning out champion fish this week with local angler Brendan Pollard wining Tackle World Mackay's July Fish Photo Competition.

Mr Pollard's photo was of a ripper mangrove jack, which came in at 47cm - "quite a large jack for our area”, he said.

He landed the fish while cruising with a mate on an undisclosed creek in the Seaforth net-free zone.

Mr Pollard runs a Mackay-based fishing page on Facebook called Casting Cowboys.

He also participates in fish tagging sessions with Rockhampton-based group Suntag, and says many creeks in the Seaforth area, such as Constant Creek, have been fishing excellently since the ban on gill net fishing was put in place.

"There has been a good change in the last 12 months of catch,” he said. "Obviously it's smaller-sized fish being caught but it's a good sign that the system has been improving.

At Constant Creek "we have been getting some good catches of grunter, mangrove jack and threadfin salmon appearing in school size, which is something we haven't seen for awhile”.

During the trip when Mr Pollard landed his mangrove jack, the mining training specialist from Mackay said they had been just fishing some rock structure on the edge of a creek in Seaforth.

"We were using hard bodies, 2 to 3 metre divers in about the 80 to 100 mill range,” he said.

Fishing on bottom of the tide, Pollard said he and a mate made their way up an isolated stretch of the creek using "quite aggressive action of the lure, working the edges of the bank, looking to get a reaction bite”.

Reaction bites are bites from a fish in defence of territory rather than out of hunger and are especially effective when targeting fish species that like to hang around submerged structures and bombies.

In the inshore game barramundi, fingermark bream and mangrove jack are especially prone to biting out of anger, especially with the larger more aggressive members of the species and in the cooler months of the year when the fish shut down and chase food less readily.

Peppering a submerged rock or wood formation at low tide with plastic lures can be an effective way of targeting such fish.

According to Mr Pollard, his mangrove jack "was quite an aggressive take and I had to fight him pretty hard to get him into some open water”.

For his catch he was awarded $100 by Tackle World Mackay and said he would be using the money to stock his son and daughter's tackle box for their next fishing trip with dad.

Inshore, Mr Pollard believes shallow headlands and flats will be the place to fish this weekend during the high tide.

Barramundi and fingermark bream had been biting out of hunger in recent weeks as water temperatures began to warm, he said.

"We like to promote the net-free zones so any of the net-free zones around Seaforth ... Murray Creek, Constant Creek (are good for fishing barramundi),” he said.

Have you caught a big one recently? Email it to news@dailymercury.com.au

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