If you are rugged up and shivering through the cold in the southern half of the State at the moment, you’re probably dreaming of WA’s warm northern destinations. In this week’s edition of ‘Scott’s Spots’, Western Anglers’ Scott Coghlan takes us to the remote Montebello Islands, where the sun is shining and the fish are biting – a great combination at a dream fishing destination.
Simply called the Montes by most, this stunning group of islands with an atomic history offers some of the best fishing we have on the west coast, with a wide range of options available.
Most people who fish the Montes do so with live-aboard charters and there are a number of operations that run regular trips to the area, operating out of Karratha or Exmouth.
These charters generally base themselves within the islands each evening and then explore the local waters during the day, with the fishing alternatives ranging from flats action around the islands themselves to deep dropping and billfish out in the deep blue. Some anglers do their own trips to the Montes in trailer boats, but this is not to be trifled with.
It’s a long way from the mainland and the weather can be unpredictable, not to mention the need to be totally self-sufficient, including enough fuel to cover your fishing miles and then get you home again.
However, the rewards can more than make up for the difficulties getting there, such is the quality of the fishing.
What you want to catch at the Montes really comes down to personal preference, given the range species that call the area home.
For those who love the real bluewater action, sailfish and marlin can be found out wide and are regularly taken trolling, as well as occasionally showing up at the boat when anglers are bottom fishing.
At times sailfish will be found in big numbers in quite shallow water and can offer some amazing fishing. Rankin Bank is known for holding large numbers of wahoo, while dogtooth tuna can also occasionally be caught there.
Dolphinfish also show up in the deep blue, while those who want to deep drop can try their luck for ruby snapper and grey-banded cod. This can be a good evening option when the weather is at its best and the ocean is calm.
For those who were wanting a real challenge, fishers could even try their luck for a broadbill swordfish.
One of the most impressive areas of the Montes has to be Tryall Rocks. It is as fishy looking as a spot can be and is renowned for producing some big giant trevally. Casting lures around the exposed rocks is nerve wracking and even moreso when a big black GT materialises.
Tryall also produces Spanish mackerel along the drop-off and it’s quite common to see big schools of tuna busting up nearby.
There are plenty of good spots around the Montes for those who want to target the range of local demersals. Gold-band snapper, red emperor and Rankin cod are among the regular catches, and anywhere there is a bit of life on the bottom there are usually Spanish mackerel not too far away.
Spaniards are prolific in the waters around the Montes and will take a toll on jigs meant for bottom species at times.
Trevally are another common capture when bottom fishing and they just love jigs.
In closer to the islands, the fringing reef is home to several species of trevally, including more big GTs. Flicking lures into the wash is the best way to find some action and you need to hold on tight when a fish is hooked. Some big goldens and gold-spots also show up here and in the calmer water inside the reef.
The shallows around the Montes will produce a range of species including several species of trevally, shark mackerel, coral trout and spangled emperor.
Fishing in 2m to 3m of water around bommies is a good way to find the trout and spangos, but you need to turn them quickly before they make it back to structure. It’s great fun on the right gear, until a big GT comes along and ruins the party!
There are some solid mangrove jack around the islands, and mud crabs as well.
For the fly fisher, they can target the elusive permit and blue bastard in the shallow sandy bays around the Montes, while there’s also plenty of trevally cruising around as well.
Shore fishing is not too popular at the Montes, with most of the action happening on boats – but that’s not to say it doesn’t produce. There have been many good fish caught from shore over the years, including big GTs, coral trout and spanglies. Going ashore is also a good way to check out some of the historic artifacts left behind after the nuclear testing.
The Montes boasts an array of marine life and if you’re there at the right time you could even see tiny turtles hatching and beginning their treacherous journey in the predator-filled waters of the Indian Ocean.
There are more than 170 islands at the Montes and the area’s rich natural beauty makes it the perfect location for an extended fishing trip.
It’s home to more than 450 species of fish including many that are on bucket lists, so it’s little wonder the Montes continues to be one of our favourite destinations.