Bagging out the mix
  |  First Published: December 2010

Happy New Year! I wish all anglers and their families a happy, prosperous and fishy 2011.

Back in the old days, before chartering when I had a ‘real’ job, I always had January off. I spent my days watching cricket with my feet up and the morning and evenings fishing my heart out.

Over the next couple of articles I will share my favourite fishing spots in Wide Caloundra and how you can get the most out of your summer.

Wide Caloundra

Wide Caloundra is over 80nm2; stretching from just south of Point Arkwright at Mooloolaba South to Mid Bribie Island. It starts rising up about 14nm east of the mainland. Depths range from 56m on the high country to the drop-off over 100m to the east.

Anglers access Wide Caloundra from three main ports: Mooloolaba, Caloundra and Scarborough to the south. There are benefits and down sides to using each of these departure points.

Mooloolaba allows the flexibility of heading north to other grounds, such as the Barwons, if the fishing is slow. It also has an excellent and lengthy gamefishing season. However, the down side is the distance to Mooloolaba and the very crowded ramps at peak times.

Caloundra gives you the choice to fish the length of Wide Caloundra as long as the bar is workable.

Scarborough (and Spinnaker Sound near Bribie) have the longest travel times, but it does have protection from the islands and a shorter tow if you are Brisbane based.

Map the way

An invaluable aid to fishing Wide Caloundra is the Sunshine Coast Offshore Fishing Guide, published by Sunmap. This map clearly shows the three main raised reef areas of Wide Caloundra in white. When I was starting off in the area I drew up 1nm2 grids on the map. This allowed me to roughly fix the GPS locations of the hard country, I then sounded around until I found a good looking ledge or a pile of fish and then marked the spots.

Chart plotters with Navionics cards have the contour lines for offshore on them, which will save you a lot of sweat and toil.

Rough country

Wide Caloundra is mainly poor, flat country with rubble and wire weed as its fish holding territory. There are very few concentrations of brilliant fish holding structure that we see at the likes of Hutchies or the top of the Barwon Banks. The consequence of this is that there are not huge amounts of fish in any one location.

Nevertheless, Wide Caloundra has plenty of spots to find a good feed. The best analogy is to think of Wide Caloundra as a very large cattle farm where the cattle range and spread over huge areas in search of sustenance. Anglers should therefore also graze over a wide area, spreading their effort over a number of locations in a fishing day. I will usually fish up to 10 different locations ranging in depth from 58-100m on any session.

The bonus is that it gives you a chance of catching some different species as well. I usually drift fish using a sea anchor or by holding the Incredible on the motors. Others prefer to anchor on a spot, fish there for a time and then move on.

Next month I will surrender a few tips on sounder settings and what to look for when exploring new ground at Wide Caloundra.


January sees the shallows really light up with a great range of mixed reefies. Spangled, red throat and red emperor, grassy sweetlips, Venus tusk fish, Maori cod and other cod species, hussar, fusilier, green job fish, morwong and Moses perch, really turn on the colour in the fish box.

On some drifts there may be half a dozen or more species coming over the side at any one time. It pays to have an early start to avoid the crowds. Also, the fish seem to go a bit quiet when the sun gets higher in the sky.

Floatlining always gets the better fish, especially when the spangled are around. I usually don’t anchor and berley this time of year as the boat traffic can get heavy and put fish down. As a courtesy for your fellow anglers, try passing anchored vessels by their bow, not the stern where their berley trail and fishing activity is.

Trolling for part of the day will add some excitement as the wahoo are really on the chew this year. To date there have been some thumpers over 25kg landed off Hutchies as well as plenty of school fish. Do take the elephant guns as these fish are tough critters which will empty spools of light line before your eyes. Been there, done that!

Hopefully last year’s brilliant Spanish mackerel season will be repeated so there is every reason to tow some lures or slow troll livies once you have a feed of reefies on board.

A number of solid yellowtail kingfish turn up on the shallower reefs at this time and will attack the trolled lures meant for wahoo. These fish go really hard and are dirty fighters so using 15kg as your main line would be the suggested minimum.

The kingies also climb all over the floaters meant for reef fish and provide spectacular, if usually unsuccessful brief and brutal battles.

The top end of Wide Caloundra is fishing very well for cobia this year. They have ranged in size from school fish up to 30kg+ thumpers. While there is a bag limit of two for cobia, you may wish to let the second cobe go if it is also a big mother. Try leaving them in the water if you are going to release them as they will play up like second-hand lawn mowers when they get in a boat, damaging themselves, gear and possibly you when brought aboard ‘green’.

Pearl perch are around in good sizes and numbers and will also start showing up in the shallows as well. As pearlies are my bread and butter species I tend to give them a bit of a rest in January when there are plenty of other species on the chew.

To have a crack at fishing the shallows this January with Incredible Charters, please call Keith on 3203 8188 or email: --e-mail address hidden-- . Discounts for kids during the January school holidays too!


Approximate co-ordinates for Wide Caloundra:

• South from 26*41.000’S to 26*51.000’S, a length of 10nm;

• Westerly parts rise at 153*26.000’E;

• East to 153*34.000’E.

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