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Fishing Report: Swain Reefs Trip 2010 29/10/2010



The first summer-ish storm usually marks that it is that time of year again - the time I look forward to all year: our annual pilgrimage north to Gladstone to board the MV Booby Bird to embark on an epic week long adventure to Swain Reefs.  Swain Reefs are 260 km North East from the main land and offers great reef fishing for anglers of all skill levels.


Everyone boards the big boat: MV Booby Bird early Saturday afternoon for the long trip out to sea.  This year we fished the NW edge of the Reefs, (165km due East of Yeppoon)  spending the majority of the trip at ‘Herald's Prong Number 2' Reef which ended up being great fishing as the reef is very exposed.  The first two days saw us experiencing SW'lies up to 30 knots but this settled down to beautiful light winds.


The Booby Bird is a 24 meter long vessel with 100 square meters of rear deck space where 15-20 anglers can fish to their heart's content.  Fishing from the big boat is great, but dory fishing is so much more flexible. There are six Sea Jay 4.2m tinnies (aka dory) that are available day and night for the duration of the trip for morning and afternoon fishing sessions. They are equipped now with essential mod-cons like depth sounders and UHF radios. You can anchor off the edge of the reef or drift fish depending on the conditions and fish feeding activity.


The group of anglers who meet annually for this trip love this week because of the diverse fishing environments that the Swains Reef area has to offer.  Each little reef may fish differently to the next and work at different ends or entrances at certain stages of the tide. That is why it is important to pick your skipper and deckhands brains prior to setting off each morning in your tinny. Beginner anglers need to follow the experienced angler in their group who has been fishing the same area before.


Although there were a few quality fish caught at anchor, Dad and I preferred to drift around with a large sea anchor out to slow us down.  While drifting we were able to cover much more ground and never knew what we could stumble across.  We generally concentrated on the zones where the water was flowing off the reef as this same principle is used in estuary and local reef fishing to predict the best feeing areas.

I trolled lures between each drift period which resulted in very good hook-ups.  The lure producing the best results ended up being the Citer metal bibbed wooden minnow! Over 70% of catches this year were coral trout with the other 30% being red throat emperor, spangled emperor, cobia, parrot, venus tuskfisk and blue spot trout.  The divers also managed a tidy haul of big crayfish, coral trout and prolific parrot.


Some of the best catches to note include; spangled emperor to 65cm, bug fat trout around 60cm, red throat to 60cm and cobia weighing in at 12kg.  Some coral trout caught in deeper water were coming up in crimson red colour and the ones caught in the shallower water were a beautiful light bluey-purple colour.  This was something I hadn't seen before at my local stomping grounds and was pretty amazing to consider.

Tacklewise; every year some passengers take half a tackle shop onboard with them and it surely took them as long to unpack as it took to drive home from Gladstone.  So detailed below is my essential tacklebox and rod/reel combo recommendation for the trip!


1. 60LB and 80LB Surecatch leader - 100m of each

2. No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 barrel sinkers - 25 of each

3. 5/0 and 6/0 4200D Mustad hooks - 50 of each

4. Citer Wooden Minnows (metal bibbed)

5. Berkley Firestick Mungo Bait lures

6. Slambait 5 inch soft plastics in a varity of colours

7. Berkley ½oz x 5/0 Heavy duty jig heads


Other things to consider taking include:

· Boga grips to handle toothy fish.

· A multipurpose set of large pliers that can open and close hook eyes.

· Sharp braid scissors

· A sharp knife

· A pair of gloves to hand fish.


Hopefully this gives anybody who is going to the Swain Reefs in the future a rough idea of what kind of gear you should need before considering a trip. I've only been back home since Saturday afternoon and my wife is going to cringe when she finds out that I'm already looking forward to next year's trip!




Noosa: Whiting along the north shore. Good numbers of whiting and flathead from the mouth to the Frying pan. Jewfish and a few trevally from Woods bay. Mangrove jack from Weyba creek on live bait at night.


Maroochydore: Flathead to 60cm around the cod hole boat ramp. Flathead and bream at dusk in the southern channel. Trevally up to 2kg and big dusky flathead from the Cod hole. Mud crabs from the mouth of Petrie Creek.


Kawana: Whiting, flathead and bream along Kawana Beach. Flathead to 70cm and a few bream off the Mooloolaba Rock Wall. Sand crabs throughout the lower reaches.


Caloundra: Good numbers of quality whiting from Golden beach on live worms and nippers. Queenfish, bream and large flathead from the board walk on live bait. Mud crabs throughout the upper reaches.




Prized catch - Mark with a beautiful iridescent red coral trout caught in the deeper water at ‘Herald's Prong Number 2'.


A lighter coloured coral trout caught in shallower water - note the light purple/blue colours.


Red throat emperor pack a punch when hooked up, this one took a good 10 mins to coax in.


Coral trout like this one were targeted with fluorescent 5 inch Slam Baits.


Mark with a heavy spangled emperor caught on the drift on the first day the winds eased.


Matt with his best spangled emperor which fought long and hard after hitting a Citer wooden minnow.

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