This has been the strangest winter and spring I’ve ever seen for offshore fishing.
In late October, we saw water temperatures over 24ºC off the coast. There had already been catches of medium sized black marlin, sailfish and blue marlin in Gold Coast waters, as well as a few mahi mahi and wahoo, which makes predicting the fishing for December very difficult.
Nevertheless, it is definitely worth getting your trolling gear out and start chasing billfish and mahi mahi this month.
I put my boat in for a major refit in October as it is generally the quietest time of the year, but since it has been out of action the gamefishing has been on the improve all along the coast.
While the small black marlin up north were pretty quiet this season, there have been a few fish showing early in Hervey Bay, and plenty of big sailfish off Mooloolabah. There is good potential for a hot bite off the Gold Coast this month.
Generally, if the small black marlin don’t show we get a run of bigger fish from 40-100kg. It would be worthwhile spending time on the bait grounds such as Spot X, Kirra and Point Lookout slow trolling slimy mackerel targeting medium blacks.
If the water is warm but the bait is scattered, a spread of lures is worth trying as you will definitely cover more water in a day, and this is also a great way to get a feed of mahi mahi.
The current generally starts to run hard later this month and this usually makes bottom fishing on the wider grounds difficult at best. If the current slows, jigging metals is a good option as you will still get to the bottom and there are usually a few amberjack and kingies still around.
Closer inshore the reefs are generally pretty quiet and the old Gold Coast Rule of ‘troll in summer and bottom fish in winter’ definitely applies.
The Spanish mackerel season has been a cracker on the Queensland Central Coast, and it is likely that we will start to see Spaniards, spotties and cobia start to turn up on Palm Beach Reef later this month. As the first current pushes in, the mackerel will hopefully start to arrive in numbers. There has been plenty of bait on the inshore reefs so hopefully we will see a repeat of last year’s mackerel season where it was pretty easy to catch your bag limit.
The Nine Mile off Tweed is also worth some serious effort this month and is often the place where early season black marlin and wahoo are encountered. As the water warms and the current runs, the fishing in this spot improves markedly. Trolled baits such as skipping gar can be particularly effective at this time of year.
At times there are also plenty of mahi mahi just wide of the Nine Mile as well in December.
This month should see plenty of afternoon storms and some wild swings in barometric pressure. This is the time to start chasing mangrove jacks and trevally.
Jacks will be most active at night, and will bite well into the dark especially when there is a bit of moon. The other advantage of fishing for jacks at night is that they tend to move well away from structure and are further away from busting you off. It is a great feeling when you hook a jack in open country, because it puts the odds in your favour.
I like to have three rods rigged when casting for jacks. I fish a popper as the first line of attack, and when they are active, this often gets crunched. Sometimes we get swirls and follows, and if this is the case I change to the second rod where I use a shallow running minnow or jerk bait about 10-12cm long. Small Smith’s Sarunas, Bombers or Shallow Halco work well. On the third rod I fish a soft plastic shad or a lipless crankbait to work the deeper sections. If things are quiet I do five casts on each rod and work this until I get a hit.
Mud crabs will be another prime target this month, and after a fresh I find uncooked chicken carcasses hard to beat. These baits are tough, cheap and readily available. The ultimate crab bait for overnight sets is a fresh chicken carcass with a tuna or mackerel head jammed inside it. This is a great and very durable bait.
Remember to mark both your float and your pot and measure your crabs accurately because checks by Fisheries Officers are quite frequent and they take no prisoners when it comes to crabbing offences.
Whiting will start to move out over the flats as conditions warm up and if there are small jelly prawns about poppers are well worth trying. After a bit of rain they also feed well on yabbies.
Flathead will start to drop off in size and numbers this month as all the fish have now spawned and are moving well back up into the estuaries. Sometimes, on a cool morning, they are worth chasing in the central Broadwater on plastics, but at this time of year trolling is often more productive.
Another species worth chasing on lures is big eye trevally. Over the last few years the population of big eyes seems to have definitely increased, with some monsters up to 70cm turning up at times in the Nerang and Coomera rivers. They love small poppers and are a super aggressive fun fish to catch. They aren’t very good eating and should be carefully released. The best time to chase them is on a run-out tide at night.
Overall, December is a great month to fish the Gold Coast. In this year of wild, weird and unpredictable weather it is hard to guess what species may show, but there are certainly plenty of options.Reads: 2857