Floodwaters Reign
  |  First Published: February 2011

During the first few weeks of 2011 most of Queensland’s flooded rivers poured huge amounts of nutrient floodwater well out to sea.

Off the Gold Coast most of the inshore reefs have been filthy, but there have still been plenty of mackerel on the closer reefs in brown water. In the first week of January we caught a feed of spotted mackerel at Palm Beach on pilchards and it was impossible to see the fish until they were flopping on the top.

This month is hard to predict as far as expected billfish action goes. So far this season most of the black marlin encountered on the inshore grounds have been between 50kg and 100kg and I haven’t heard of any small black marlin at all. The odd sailfish has also been hooked.

Due to the abundant floodwater the bait is very scattered and most anglers have been trolling lures in order to cover more ground.

Hopefully by February the water will have cleared a lot more on the inshore reefs and a lot more medium black marlin will have turned up in all the usual grounds as the schools of slimy mackerel re-establish themselves. Spot X, Deep Trag and the 36 and 50 fathom line generally hold some good fish every February.

Out wider the blue marlin should be in full swing this month, and some big fish over 250kg have already turned up around Jims Mountain and the Tweed Canyons.

I think this season may be a very good one for blues and the water temperatures out on the shelf have been over 27º most days. Because there are quite a few bigger fish around at present it is wise to keep the minimum tackle at 37kg.

There should be quite a few wahoo and mahi mahi around this month. Most will be caught as by-catch by anglers trolling lures for marlin, but it seems to be turning out to be quite a good season for both species.

The Tweed Nine Mile is definitely worth a look this month for anglers specifically targeting wahoo. Recently a few have been caught in filthy water, which is quite uncharacteristic for this species.

The mackerel should be consistent this month with increasing numbers of bigger Spanish mackerel starting to show up on the closer reefs. There have been plenty in the floodwater and when it gets a bit clearer they should be easy to catch.

A lot of the spotted mackerel this year have been quite small fish but bigger ones should turn up this month. Palm Beach Reef should fish well and February usually sees Mermaid Reef and the 18 fathom line off Southport start to produce consistent catches.

Surprisingly, mackerel tuna have been small and quite scarce so far this season and the majority of the catch has been spotted mackerel.

For the bottom fishers the floodwaters have produced a few mulloway and snapper on the close reefs. There have also been plenty of small 6-10kg cobia caught on live baits fished deep. The current out wide generally runs at two knots or better and this precludes most bottom fishing this month.


The estuaries certainly have had a great flush over the past few months and this should produce some good fishing later in the year.

Surprisingly the big flathead have continued to fish well into summer, and it definitely seems a lot of fish have spawned late. We recently had one of the best flathead sessions that I’ve ever had in summer, with a swag of fish over 60cm and two over 80cm. All of these were caught in shallow water.

It seems unlikely that these fish will hold on until February, but I thought they would disperse a few months ago. Work the big clean flats on the top of the run-in tide with soft plastics, blades and rattlers. There are usually quite a few chopper tailor as well so expect to lose a few tails.

Mangrove jacks should be active this month once the water cleans up a bit, and the canals around Sovereign Islands have been fishing well for jacks. These fish take a bit of catching and if you average one per trip you are doing quite well.

Casting poppers, shallow running minnows or trolling hardbodies are all very effective but expect to lose a few lures as the fish bore into the snags. Some good fish in the 55-60cm range have already turned up this season but the recent big fresh has greatly slowed things down.

Whiting fishing has been very good as the floodwater cleared and should continue to be excellent in February. Yabbies have been working quite well in the dirty water, although good bait has been hard to come by and has taken a lot of effort to procure after the deluge.

Crabs have been very easy to catch after the recent rains and if things stay wet stick to the deeper sections of the creeks and rivers as these parts hold saltier water. Fresh chicken frames are ideal crab bait after a fresh. Lately we’ve averaged 5-10 legal muddies per session out of a total of 50-100 crabs caught. This takes a bit of sorting out but the season of floods has certainly been good for crabs.

Overall February is traditionally marlin and mackerel month, and while the recent floods have greatly changed the landscape, there is some great fishing potential as the water clears. The rivers should also fish very well after a big fresh and clean out.

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