Holiday Hive
  |  First Published: December 2010

January is without a doubt the busiest month on the Sunshine Coast waterways. Noosa in particular will be bursting at the seams with visitors from all over the world, and this means increased boat traffic and limited parking at the few ramps on the Noosa system.

There is scarcely enough parking at boat ramps during the quiet times let alone peak season. This issue has been raised with Council many times but to no avail, as the main problem is where to put more spaces.

The unfortunate result of limited car and trailer parking is the nearby streets end up choked with boat trailers and angry residents. Tempers can flare at ramps too with queues to get in and out of the water, and of course time wasters or those dills that park right in the middle of two lane ramps and dawdle aimlessly. Colourful language and some very funny insults are generally the result.

The message is ‘be patient and be ready’. Prepare as much as you can at home so that launching is quick and efficient. The next bloke to cop an earful at the ramp wont be the last that’s for sure.

The fishing has been consistently inconsistent for some months. Very ordinary weather cycles have prevented all but the biggest of boats venturing across the Noosa bar for weeks at a time, and rain squalls on top of the excessive wind and swell have made offshore fishing very difficult. However, those that have been able to capitalise on the brief windows of opportunity have done very well.

The hallmarks are there for an excellent mackerel season. Spotties at the southern end of the coast in October was a very good start indeed, and this was followed by some big Spanish mackerel and a few wahoo through November. Hopefully by the commencement of the new year we will have big masses of pelagics in Laguna Bay, and right up and down the coast.

Last season was one of the best in recent memory with big hauls of spotties, northern blue fin and regular Spaniards being caught quite close in. Jew Shoal was a good starting point and at the height of the season simply drifting with unweighted pilchards on gangs was enough to collect a great feed of tasty mackerel. And of course it is also great fun!

On other days bottom bashers picked up quality mackerel by having an unweighted pilchard or live bait cast well away from the action around the boat. As long as those maddening mutton birds are all gone by January, this will be a must-do tactic.

Trollers very often pick up the better quality mackerel and wahoo. Big lures such at CD-18 and the like will do the job, however towing a bonito or tailor around will very often score big fish. Even trolling a rigged gar or pilchard can bring serious fish undone, and the Davo’s Spaniard Special is a great tool for this type of fishing.

Bottom bashers will have plenty to aim for with a few snapper available right through summer, along with the delectable coral trout, amberjack out wide and pearl perch, Moses perch and all manner of wrasse and cod on the go. The last snapper season was a bit of a let down through the cooler months as the water temperatures didn’t really get low enough to encourage the snapper inshore. However a late run of big fish saw some pretty happy anglers all along the coast in mid to late November. Pilchards and fresh bonito were the go along with soft plastics.

These days I rig up my reef fishing reels with the American-made Schneider High Performance Braid. I find that 30lb braid, with a very fine diameter of only 0.27mm and excellent knotting qualities is strong enough to wrestle any big fish out of the bottom structure. I generally tie a double at the business end of the braid of about a metre using a spider hitch. I like this knot because you can tie it with your eyes shut after a while, you don’t need to use your toes or other peoples hands as you might with more complex doubles and, importantly, it has never let me down. I use the same knot when tying a double for barra casting and it has never failed.

Then, I tie on about a metre and a half of Schneider Braid Compatible leader, generally 45lb is the go. I do however carry lighter and heavier leader material on the boat should the need arise. Once again there are several ways to tie on a leader, with the Albright my choice. The uni knot is very good and the blood knot a close third. A sinker to suit the conditions and a strong, black, sharp hook of around 5/0 – 6/0 size completes the rig.

Last summer we also saw an excellent run of mahi mahi. These beautiful fish are often sight cast to after following a berley trail right up to the boat. If you are lucky enough to experience this toss an unweighted pilchard out to the ‘dollies’ as they cruise around the boat but hang on tight at they go berserk once they feel the sting of the hook and a bit of uncomfortable weight.

There are plenty of cod and groper variants off Noosa. Please check regulations before you keep any of these fish. Night is the preferred time to target cod, and up to about 90cm they are pretty good chewing. Over this size they tend to become a bit rubbery and are best released.

Tusk fish of various varieties have been a mainstay of many offshore sorties of late, along with a few pearlies, the odd thumper grass sweetlip and a mix of squire, cod and Moses perch. So, there are plenty of options for locals and visitors alike.

For one of the busiest areas in Queensland during peak periods such as the Christmas holiday period, Noosa really does fish very well indeed. Don’t overdo it if you venture offshore and find a mob of active fish, whatever they may be. By all means take a few for a feed and then head in and leave them biting for next time.

The river will also be an exceedingly busy place with all manner of watercraft widespread. Be careful on the river this holiday season and keep a good watch for speeding jet skis and slow moving kayaks. Despite this boating pressure there will be plenty of fish caught in the river, including bream, mangrove jacks, flathead, jew, whiting and many other less common species.

Finding your own little piece of river to enjoy will be a chore, so early starts will be the go. You might like to head up into the lakes and try drifting for flathead with the run-out tide or casting the snags with hardbody minnows for jacks. Prospecting around weed beds with soft plastics is a very good way to find flathead, and other species as by-catch.

There are plenty of options to explore and if you need some advice get yourself into a tackle store and ask questions or take a guided trip with Phippsy on the river or Fishing Offshore Noosa, if offshore fishing is more your preferred gig.

In late November local group NICA (Noosa Integrated Catchment Association) had a film evening featuring the very anti pro fishing ‘End of the Line’. The film was alarming in that it highlighted the plight of some offshore fisheries, and in general pointed the finger of blame at the pro fishing scene, be it trawl netters or long liners. In many ways the production was also quite alarmist and indeed some of the panel of local ‘experts’ saw it that way as well.

I am happy to follow the rules and regulations set by DEEDI and so should we all. We might not agree with every bit of legislation, but by and large they are there for the good of the fishery and longevity of individual species. Prime examples of sustainable fisheries that seem to be improving rather than on the decline are the mackerel fishery offshore and the flathead fishery in the local estuaries.

Hopefully NICA can show some focus on local issues such as agricultural spray damaging local fish breeding patterns and the likelihood of the extinction of the Noosa River oyster. I would have thought these issues would be of more interest to a group apparently dedicated to the local catchment, as opposed to irrelevant fisheries in the northern hemisphere.

Happy New Year and stay safe on the water.

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