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FUN ON FINGERMARK

My last guiding stint in Arnhemland was a bit of a lightning trip and other work commitments meant that I could only snag two days to catch up with my younger brother for a fish after my client's departure from Barralodge.

My clients for this trip were focused purely on barra, so I had packed virtually no bluewater gear, and as fate would have it glass out conditions greeted Andy and I as we crept out of our favourite little coastal creek after a great night's surface fishing for bazzas.

Only a short run offshore from this particular creek Andrew had found some gravel patches that were holding some good size golden snapper (fingermark). It took about 3 seconds for me to harass him into blasting out to this area, as my plane wasn't flying out until that afternoon and I was determined to fill my trip with as much fishy goodness as possible!

Golden snapper (fingermark) are one of my favourite species, both as a fighting and eating species, and when I lived at Barralodge I spent a lot of time offshore looking for new ground and putting clients onto these awesome 'goldies .

As Andy gunned the Ocean Master out towards the spot, I quickly started ferreting through our tackle bags looking for appropriate offerings for our fingery friends. If this type of fishing had of been on my itinerary I would have packed plenty of ZMan 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ, ZMan 7" Scented Jerk ShadZ, ZMan 4" Scented ShrimpZ and big GrubZ, all the placcies that I have had past success with.

Luckily Andy had some 6/0 HeadlockZ HD jigheads in 3/4 ounce, which were perfect for the job at hand, but as to what to load them up with, well this time all I had was paddle tails. I flicked through the plastic wallets until I came across some bigger offerings, including ZMan 5" Scented PaddlerZ in my favourite colour (Redbone) and one of the newer colours that I had been having good success with around Hervey Bay (Sexy Mullet).

Andy pulled up at a small reef complex, about halfway to his gravel patches that had produced in the past for us, but after rigging our plastics and dousing them with some Pro-Cure scent our first drops were both intercepted before they reached mid-water. I loaded up my Millerod, only to be bitten off and Andy's fish darting around in short erratic bursts gave away the fact that the spot was loaded up with small macks, super keen on shredding our leaders and reducing our already limited jighead supply. The decision was made to continue on out to the wider spot and hopefully leave the razor gang behind!

I tied another leader and before long Andy was dropping off the plane and setting the boat up for our first drift. Although fingermark inhabit a wide range of environments, from creeks, man-made structure like jetty pylons and also offshore reefs, they also like these more nondescript gravel patches and gutters.

It pays to focus close attention on your sounder when mooching around or trolling offshore, as you may come across some new honey holes that don't jump out at you with pinnacles and uprises, but a more subtle change in bottom hardness or depth.

Andy had run over this spot on a previous trip and had proceeded to pull some real nice specimens off it. I was stoked when my first drop reached the bottom without a 'mack attack'. I then proceeded to lift the PaddlerZ off the bottom a metre or so and let it 'swim' back to the bottom. It must have been two or three of these 'hops' before I came up tight on a powerful fish that had my 4000 Stella giving a bit of line and my Millerod loaded up nicely. Down the back of the boat Andrew was in the same situation. He was on the Redbone PaddlerZ, while I had gone for the Sexy Mullet colour.

The other advantage of these types of spots is that there is not as much nasty stuff down there to get 'bricked' and 'busted up' on, so once off the bottom you can take it a bit easier. That familiar gold/maroon colour soon materialised in the water column and I was wrapped as a pair of beautiful fingermark came to the net. We repeated this process over and over, with some ripper fingeries coming aboard. Keeping a few for the Barralodge chef and releasing many others.

It is a well-known trait of these fish to put down the school after being released. A lot of Territorians employ a 'dobbers box' when fishing for them, keeping fish destined for release in a live well whilst fishing and releasing them when finished fishing. I think it's important to remember a couple of things on this.

1.Bag limits are in possession limits, so any fish in your live tank counts, even if destined for release.

2.The fish's condition and welfare. It is for this reason we don't employ this scenario. If the fish go off the bite we move to new ground and try and pick a few off it.

One thing with fishing is that you are always learning and once you think you know it all, you cease to get better. The lesson I learnt on this one was to remember not to 'pigeon hole' myself as far as lure selection goes. If I had of had my full kit, I would have gone straight for the Jerk ShadZ, with the PaddlerZ not even getting a look in!

Andy has also had success on the ZMan 5" Grass KickerZ on the reef, so I will definitely put a paddle tail amongst the mix when next in this scenario... although I am very keen to also try a TT Arrow Jig covered in Pro-Cure Squid Super Gel Scent. A known squid lover, the golden snapper should be all over this like me on a Wild Turkey can!

Luckily I don't have long to wait, as I am guiding three mates shortly who are very keen to experience not only the barra, but the many species that inhabit the offshore reefs of Arnhemland.

Fish on!!!!!

Shaun Taylor

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2017