It’s that time of year again on the East Coast when the large highs dominate weather patterns and bring long runs of south-easterly trade winds along the Central Queensland Coast. With these long runs of wind, also comes the green cool water. For the topwater enthusiasts like myself, on the Capricorn Coast it means hard work for the prized giant trevally! But not to worry, because accompanying the green water comes another great surface crunching fish, the Queenie!
Queenfish are often snubbed at by fishermen for two reasons. Firstly they are often looked upon as a by catch while chasing mackerel and giant trevally and two, because of their average table fair. With all of the other quality eating species around, it’s understandable. However! As a light tackle sport fisherman, they offer everything. Long hard runs, crazy direction changes, huge leaps and best of all they take surface lures all day long!
Queenfish can be found anywhere from estuary to 50km offshore but the main principals are, bait, current and structure. I like to focus my attention on rocky headlands and inshore islands. Prominent points, semi submerged rocks, bottlenecks between islands or rocks, are all great fish holding areas. Look for areas with fast moving current adjacent to deep water and whitewash! Tides are a huge factor in finding the currents and planning your attack. The fish will shut down around tide changes (not always but quite often) so aim to be at your desired location while the tide is pumping for your best results.
They often favour sitting behind or adjacent to the structure, plucking off baitfish that become disorientated from the back eddies and current break ups. Like other pelagics, they will also hunt along the pressure edge (the edge of the structure facing into the current). So it pays to come in from the up-current side and work the pressure edge first. It does get difficult trying to fish this edge because the current is pushing onto the fish. By dropping the electric motor in or having someone on the motor at all times, will keep you from drifting over them and shutting them down. Queenfish are quite aggressive and aren’t easy to shut down completely but they will become shy on the surface.
How you want to set up for them is entirely up to you. There are a couple of things you might want to keep in mind though. In the same areas you chase these fish you will quite commonly come across large GT’s and Mackerel. The next time I skip a pencil popper through a school of feeding Queenfish, only to have it robbed and taken deep into the abyss by a raging GT, will not be the first and surely will not be the last! A 4000 sustain paired with a 5-10kg 3zero spooled with 20lb power pro and 30lb leader will suffice just fine for smaller lures. However, this is what I would consider to be the lighter end of the spectrum. Upping the tackle to perhaps a 6-10,000 sized sustain spooled with 30-50lb power pro over a terez black medium heavy for larger lures. This will see you not only knock the fish over faster for a healthy release, but at least give you a fighting chance if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to hook a rampaging GT. It will come down to the age old debate of should you have as much fun as possible with the target species or be prepared for all possibilities. Keep in mind you really appreciate the sport of these fish on the lighter tackle!
Ocea and orca stickbaits from 115mm up to the 190mm are perfect for the job. They cast a country mile and are super versatile. I prefer to skip them flat out. Then once the fish get onto it, slow it down into a super twitchy (walk the dog) type retrieve. The floating orcas sit vertically in the water then with a sweep of the rod, dive below with the most irresistible darting action. It always pays to mix up the retrieve and style of lure. What helps for me when they shut down is using the sinking orcas and letting them sink through the water column before retrieving. The strike will often still come once the lure is on the top but it helps to get in their face if they are a little hesitant.
Should you choose to take the heavier route, then make sure you don’t bring the fish in too quick so that it thrashes all over the boat. These fish are super agile and green fish are extremely dangerous! No one wants to have their session cut short to go to the hospital and get a set of trebles cut out of them - especially if you’re a long drive from the boat ramp. Trust me! If you haven’t dealt with one of these fish on the deck, you will find out very quickly how real that danger is! The fish can also do a lot of damage to themselves and it’s always better to see them swimming off nice and healthy, should you choose to release them! Remember, tight lines and most of all, have fun!