February can be a hard month to predict at the best of times. However, the huge amount of rain we have experienced recently makes an accurate prediction even harder with weather and fish migratory patterns all askew.
Generally the prawns are starting to fire throughout February as they normally run into the estuaries on the full moon. Crab numbers should be excellent after recent rains. Pelagic activity in the bay is usually fairly consistent with mackerel, tuna and bonito being caught on a variety of methods.
Offshore, the action commonly consists of billfish, wahoo and mahi mahi, and the occasional yellowfin and Spanish mackerel will slam trolled baits. Add a few demersal species to the bag and you have a month with plenty of variety. It is shaping up to be a fabulous February.
These tasty crustaceans are generally available in decent numbers during February and should continue throughout the next two months at least. They will usually show up on the bay flats first, with productive areas out from Cleveland, Nudgee Creek and Deception Bay.
Anglers with maximum drop 12ft cast nets can often get their limit in a fairly short time. The prawns that avoid the tinnie brigade and the gauntlet of trawlers working these areas will generally enter the major creek and river systems around the full moon. This makes them even more accessible.
Therefore, good numbers can be taken by cast netters and even by land-based anglers. In the Brisbane River popular areas include the Colmslie jetty and pontoon, Newstead jetty, New Farm area, Mowbray Park and anywhere else that you can access.
Snagging your cast net can be a problem in some areas, however a rewarding feed of succulent prawns will usually override this risk.
Other popular spots for land-based cast netters targeting prawns include the Woody Point jetty, Deepwater Bend, Victoria Point jetty, Sandgate jetty and Wellington Point jetty.
Larger nets will obviously cover a lot more area with a full spread but are also heavier and more tiring due to having a longer lead line around the bottom.
For faster current areas, many netters will crimp extra net leads on to make it sink quicker. Once cast out and allowed to settle on the bottom, the net should be initially drawn up with short shakes to bring the lead line together while still on the bottom. Just lifting the net after it settles will greatly decrease the catch rate as you miss all the prawns feeding in the bottom silt.
Remember, the limit for prawns is a 10L bucket full, no matter what the species or size.
With all the prawns running up the Brisbane River and other waters filtering into the bay, activity amongst species such as threadfin, snapper, bream, flathead, cod and others will also increase. Sounding out a good school of prawns and then working your offerings around this concentration will regularly produce quality fish, especially threadfin.
The lighted sections of the river around the bridges, jetties and wharves further up the system are usually worth checking out around the change of the tide at night.
Offerings such as Jackalls, Threadie Busters, Atomic Prongs, Sebile Flat Shads, Koolie Minnows and Stick Minnows, Gulp Jerk Shads and many others will produce the goods.
Working the drop-offs into the main riverbed and the fronts of the wharfs, especially on a falling tide, will also produce the goods on an array of river dwellers that feed in these margins on prawns, baitfish and other creatures forced from the bankside shallows by the receding water.
Grunter (javelin fish) can also make an appearance around this time of the year. Apart from the aforementioned species there is also the occasional trevally, mulloway and other desirable species caught on lures. Live baits will produce most of these species but will also result in increased numbers of rays, sharks, pike eels and catfish.
The structure of the various wharves provides good habitat and cover for a broad array of species but remember to stay at least 30m from the structure to avoid a fine from the Port Security patrols.
The rock retaining wall at the mouth of the Brisbane River and the Sunken Wall generally hold good numbers of estuary cod. These can be taken on baits but lures will generally produce better results. Floating minnow lures work best as they can be cranked down until they hit structure and then paused to allow them to float up and over it. This allows them to be worked close to the structure, when the estuary cod reside, without constant fouling.
Make sure to take your lure retriever, as you will still snag up occasionally if you are working lures in this manner.
Soft plastics will also produce but are a little harder to work productively in this zone. The rock wall and shallow reef areas around Mud Island are definitely also worth a try.
You will need a minimum of 10lb braid to pry a few cod from this structure, however I opt for 20lb to avoid lure losses, especially with quality lures such as Smith Cherry Blood, Jackall Squirrel, Koolie Minnow 90, Lucky Craft Pointer and X-Rap Floating Magnums.
Various species of pelagics can be located due to their surface feeding mayhem during the warmer months. Birds hovering overhead often allow long distance spotting of these pelagic schools.
Mackerel, bonito and several species of tuna can be found in all areas of the bay, however, the major shipping lanes and prominent channels are reliable places to start your search.
Most anglers are generally after school mackerel, spotted mackerel or longtail tuna, which are desirable table species however the various bonitos, mack tuna and frigate tuna can provide a lot of fun on light spin outfits. Casting small, chromed-metal lures for these species is probably one of the easiest methods, however there are plenty of other offerings worth a try.
I am keen to put some more time in with the Sebile Stick Shads this year after great success with them in other areas last year. These are partially fluid filled to make them sit a little lower in the water, which increases hook up rates. This fluid also runs to the rear of the lure during the cast, which aids in distance. I caught several longtails on them during a recent trip up north last year and am keen to put in a bit more time with them locally.
Another favourite method of mine for longtails is to cast baitfish-profile flies such as bay bait, polar-fibre minnows, surf candies, eyes flies and others. These are often very good when the longtails are feeding on exceptionally small baitfish. When delivered on an intermediate line, these can simply be allowed to sink amongst the mayhem and are usually slurped up fairly quickly.
Mackerel will also get in on the act at times however the end result is a severed tippet and lost fly. Small mack tuna and bonito can be a hoot on 1-3kg line. These mini torpedoes also make great baits for reef species, shark fishing and rigged as trolling baits targeted at Spanish mackerel, wahoo and larger billfish species.
Surface feeding schools in the bay are often mackerel during February. Anglers usually have no trouble catching these on variety of metal slugs and slices and the faster your offering travels through the water, the greater the likelihood of a hook up.
Don’t put all your hopes on surface feeding schools and wheeling birds during your search. Often, small v-shaped wakes will herald the presence of spotted or school mackerel as smaller numbers cruise close to the surface searching for hapless baitfish.
Anchoring around major beacons, including the Four Beacons, Measured Mile and the shipping channel beacons further north can be worthwhile when drifting pilchards. Adding a little berley will increase chances considerably for mackerel, as well as snapper and other species.
The Measured Mile markers are heavily fished yet continue to produce both school and spotted mackerel. You don’t need to anchor right at the beacon to get into the action and it is often a case of persistence. You may not have a bite for hours but then every rod will go off as a school of mackerel enters the precinct.
The area between the Measured Mile, The Four Beacons and Mud Island would have to be one of the more consistent grounds to look for surface mayhem from marauding mackerel however scanning the waters wherever you are in the bay is the key to regular success.
The numbers of billfish caught have been fairly disappointing this summer. Billfish in the area are unpredictable, but good numbers of billed predators can turn up any day. Being out on the water when the action is hot will provide inspiration throughout the quiet periods.
A few striped marlin should show up in the 80m plus depth out wide and we may even see a few early season blues. While the run of small blacks has been a non-event so far this year, there will be the occasional one around for persistent anglers.
Desirable by-catch in the form of wahoo, mahi mahi, mackerel, yellowfin tuna and others will keep the enthusiasm up.
Covering your options with a varied spread of lures will increase your possibilities for all species of pelagics, however if you are hell bent on billies then resin-head skirted lures and rigged swimming and skipping baits are your best offerings.
Finding a mix of baits and lures that work well in conjunction with each other behind your craft will depend on your hull type, troll speed, lure position, currents and other factors. It pays to try different combinations on any given day. There are a few basic principles to consider, however any offering can work well in any position so long as it is swimming well.
If you are mainly after wahoo, mackerel, tuna and mahi mahi then simply running a spread of swimming lures will generally work a treat. Some favoured offerings are Laser Pros, X-rap Magnums, Classic Bluewaters, CD Magnums and Koolie Minnows. If you want to cover a bit of water then weighted-head skirted lures and lipless lures will swim at speeds up to 15 knots at times, especially when flat-lined.
Lipless lures such as Sebile Bongo Minnows, Reflectas, Halco Tremblers, Halco Max, Braid Runners, Mack Baits and many others will swim up to 1m or so under the surface and are very visible lures with tight actions and high vibration.
Weighted-head skirted lures such as Hex-Heads, Fireheads, Hex-Jets and Screamers will troll close to the surface and produce a smoke trail (fine bubbles of air) that really gets pelagics attention.
Anglers specifically targeting Spanish mackerel will usually opt to troll rigged swimming baits. A wide variety can be used including tailor, slimey mackerel, garfish, sauries, tarpon, pike, wolf herring, longtom and mullet.
Popular areas to target Spanish include around Point Lookout, Flinders Reef, Roberts Shoals, the coffee rock on the eastern side of Moreton Island, the Cotton Reef out from the Jumpinpin Bar and Yellowpatch although they can show up in some fairly unusual places at times.
While numbers of snapper, pearl perch and trag are still fairly good during February, you will have to get in early as the ridiculous new closures come into force from 15 February to 31 March which prohibits fishing for, or taking any of these three species.
The main aim of the closure was for the snapper (which are supposed to be at dangerously low levels) however the pearlies and trag were also added to deter anglers from even bothering to fish their usual grounds. The worry was that any snapper caught from these deeper waters by anglers targeting trag and pearlies would not survive catch and release.
Subsequently all species were put off limits. It always amazes me how little scientific knowledge goes into these decisions and how they are snuck through the last sitting of parliament before Christmas. Anglers get the rough end of the pineapple yet again. (See DEEDI page 51)
The estuaries should be fishing fairly well during February due to the good flush and replenishment of nutrients from the early summer rains. Prime targets will include mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally, tarpon, flathead and bream although mulloway and others may also be caught.
Mangrove jacks are a prized summer species for many anglers working lures around the rock walls, jetties, bridge pylons, mangroves, rock bars and other hard structure. Their lighting fast strike often leaves many anglers in shock. They are a great table fish but most anglers choose to release the majority of their catch.
Specimens to over 60cm can be caught in the estuaries however any fish over 40cm is a quality adversary for most. Estuary cod will also be caught in the same precinct on both baits and lures. Trolling the edges of banks will still yield a few decent flathead and other species. Around the mouths of most systems will see cleaner water mixed with dirty water and this provides good opportunity for a host of species.
Predictions for February are a little more difficult this year due to the recent rains. However, this deluge should only add to the health of all systems, improving the fishing in the long term.
How long this takes to come into effect will depend on subsequent rainfall but I reckon we should start to see results improving dramatically this month. Anglers should definitely see improved results around Moreton Bay’s islands where species such as snapper and sweetlip should be consistent targets for those with plastics and baits.
The offshore waters will also benefit with increased numbers of bait schools and marauding pelagics. Most areas should be settling down well and anglers will definitely reap the rewards throughout February and the ensuing months.
Weeks of being kept off the water due to rainsqualls are now paying dividends; therefore anglers should experience a fabulous February of fishing.Reads: 303