The action in Moreton Bay waters has again returned to normality for most species. Recent results indicate that this April will be one of the best for many seasons due to the influx of nutrients into the system. The abundance of baitfish will soon result in heightened pelagic and demersal activity within the bay and filtering waters.
With anglers again permitted to catch snapper, pearl perch and teraglin, as of 1 March, many will return to their old haunts in Moreton Bay and offshore waters for these species.
During April we should see an increase in longtail tuna, squid, snapper, sweetlip and tailor but there will still be plenty of other quality species available. In fact, you may have difficulty deciding which species you want to target next.
Numbers of squid and cuttlefish will be improving throughout April, especially in the eastern areas of the bay. Arrow squid are often quite prominent in The Rous Channel, Browns Gutter, Blacks Gutter, Rainbow Channel, Blue Hole and other locales. These can usually be taken on the conventional egi (prawn profile squid jig) but sometimes respond better to a pilchard or other baitfish impaled on a metal egi skewer (squid jag). This is commonly suspended under a float or can even be drifted unweighted (only in faster current areas).
I have managed over 50 of these succulent morsels in less than a couple of hours when they are thick in the Amity Point end of the Rainbow Channel. A fine-meshed scoop net is a good investment to avoid dropping them close to the boat and also to reduce the possibility of getting sprayed with ink. Commonly, arrow squid are found in open water areas, especially channels and gutters adjacent sand banks.
Tiger squid numbers will also rise throughout April with the best activity expected a little later in May, June and July. This cephalod is generally larger and more solid than the arrows and are easily distinguished by their prominent banding when taken from the water. They are commonly pried from shallow reef areas, along rock walls and around weed beds.
Tigers like a bit of structure to provide cover and adequate ambush spots for attacking prawns, baitfish and other morsels. They respond well to egi and also baited egi skewers and are easily targeted from many land-based locations. If on Shanks Pony, try the Manly Rock Wall and Harbour, Amity Rock Wall, Cleveland Point shallows, around King Island, Scarborough Foreshore and in any of the canal developments.
Boaties have a broad array of options for targeting tiger squid with the shallows around islands such as Mud, Bird, Goat, Green, Peel and King being worth a look. In fact, any area with clean water flowing over reef, rock or weed is worth prospecting because tiger, bottle and arrow squid are high possibilities. Also expect a few cuttlefish, especially a little wider of Mud Island and just outside the green zone in the channel adjacent St. Helena.
Offshore waters can hold some exceptionally large cuttlefish which will sometimes attack fresh baits targeted at other species.
Plenty of anglers will resume targeting snapper when the ban is lifted on April 1. The bay islands, submerged wrecks, artificial reefs and offshore grounds will be your best bet with early mornings and evenings providing heightened activity.
The areas off Cape Moreton, such as Brennans and Roberts Shoals will often produce several quality snapper for a pre-dawn session drifting lightly weighted baits or hopping soft plastics across the reef. Often the action dissipates once the suns breaks the horizon so it pays to be up at sparrows. Move to the deeper grounds of Hutchinson Shoals, Shallow Tempest, Deep Tempest and isolated wrecks once the sun is up.
Both baits and plastics will produce good quality fish from these grounds. Knife jigs, swing jigs and octo jigs (such as Shimano Lucanus) are well worth employing when the current gets too severe to keep a bait or plastic in the zone.
Moreton Bay anglers are lucky to have a great snapper fishery on their doorstep with plenty of options for those venturing into its waters. Around the bay islands, especially Mud and Peel, anglers obtain good results year round with both baits and plastics fished in depths between 3-10m. Working along the contours of the reef edge and various ledges is a safe bet however snapper can also be found in fairly open water, often right on the surface, when baitfish such as hardiheads and garfish are in residence. It pays to keep your eyes peeled for the slightest splash on the surface that may indicate baitfish presence. Often, a well-placed cast with a soft plastic will be engulfed as it sinks, so be ready to engage the reel and strike. This approach can also produce species such as longtail tuna and mackerel.
I like using Gulp 5” jerk shads and 4” curl tails in these zones, using slow, hopping retrieves to produce the goods most of the time. I also intend putting in a little more time with the Sebile Flat Shads this year because they have been productive for me on a surprising array of species over the last few months. The internal bearings are encased and therefore they have a less audible rattle than most other lipless crankbaits which should be ideal for snapper.
Flat Shads, along with many blades, are ideal for hopping in the open waters around the Harry Atkinson and Curtin Artificial Reef as well as many submerged wrecks. Plastics will also work in these zones where snapper to over 8kg can be caught at times.
Early mornings, late afternoons and darkened hours usually provide the best opportunity however daylight periods with low boat traffic can also produce. Sweetlip, yellowtail kingfish, morwong, mackerel and many other species can also be prominent in these margins around the bay islands.
While often found in the same zones as snapper, specific targeting can definitely increase your chances of tangling with a few quality sweeties, especially grassy. Green Island provides quality grassy sweetlip for anglers fishing the eastern and northeastern precincts pre-dawn.
While grassy sweetlip can be targeted with plastics and other artificials, most fishers produce more consistent results with baits. Around Green Island and other areas I find that fillet baits from pike, mullet, gar and slimy mackerel are prime offerings. The humble pilchard and squid, especially fresh, will also yield results, as will fresh large green prawns.
Around Green Island, I find that the best bite is experienced in the half hour before first light, especially when there is minimal boat traffic. Other areas worth serious effort include the western and north-western areas of Mud Island, along the edge of the reef on the western side of Peel and also at South West Rocks at Peel.
Anglers who fish light are more likely to hook the better quality fish, but it really is just up to luck and a small degree of skill to pry these powerhouses from their habitat. A thin 6-9kg monofilament with 10kg fluorocarbon leader is a good balance.
Although still not the prime month for tailor, April will produce quite a few decent fish for those targeting them.
The shallows around the bay islands, the coastal bars and eastern facing beaches are all prominent areas. Early mornings and evenings are definitely the times to be on the water, especially around the upper stages of the tide.
Anglers fishing the beach gutters well into the night are often rewarded with those trophy class greenbacks. The humble pilchard will work most of the time however those targeting the better quality fish generally make the effort to acquire some pencil gar or salted bonito strips. The ability to read the beach and pick the better gutters will definitely heighten your chances for quality captures.
The Jumpinpin Bar, Bribie Island Bridge and Gold Coast Seaway are all worth investigating for early season tailor, however tailor can show up around the bay island shallows and even well up the estuaries at times.
The shallow reef and rubble areas around the bay islands can produce some thumper bream for anglers casting surface lures, lightly weighted plastics and shallow running minnow lures. In addition, species such as sweetlip, cod, tailor, squid, flathead, trevally and others can also be tempted.
Cutting the motor well away from the chosen area and allowing the current and guidance from your electric motor to put you on the spot is the first step for success. From here it is best to use long wind-assisted casts to work your offerings over the shallow areas. It is often surprising what can be caught from these zones, however stealth is of paramount importance for success.
Try the shallows around Mud, Goat, Bird, Green and King islands. There are also some good spots around Peel but be aware of the relevant green zone restrictions. The drainage points for the lagoons on Mud Island are also worth trying, especially during the falling tide.
The last few seasons have been fairly poor for longtail tuna and I am hoping that the increase in baitfish activity will see them return to Moreton Bay in better numbers. Usually the first indication of the season comes from the Fraser Island and Sunshine Coast waters however this is no guarantee that these fish will enter and inhabit the bay for any period. This changes every year, depending on the availability and prominence of bait species.
The area along the front of Bribie Island will often yield good numbers of all tuna species. These often feed very close to the beach and one cast will produce a longtail and the next a dart or tailor. These sashimi torpedoes are commonly targeted with small baitfish-profiled metal slices, stickbait plastics and baitfish-profiled flies. Surface lures such as Sebile Stick Shads and Splashers, Lively Lures Fat R, Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers and many others can also be employed, especially when the larger longtails are scattered and feeding erratically or dining on larger baits such as garfish.
Longtails can be located in any area of Moreton Bay at any time of the year so it pays to have your casting outfit ready for immediate use. Late afternoons and early mornings will often see individual larger fish busting up along the edge of the reef on the western side of Peel. Other prominent areas include the Rainbow Channel, Naval Reserve Banks, Rous Channel mouth, Middle Bank, Pearl Channel and all major shipping channels.
Activity for offshore speedsters such as tuna, wahoo, mackerel and mahi mahi is generally quite good throughout April. The Spanish mackerel numbers have been excellent over the last two years and should continue this season.
Prominent areas include the waters around The Group, Flinders Reef, Cotton Reefs and the grounds adjacent Cape Moreton (Brennans Shoals and Roberts Shoals).
Trolling with lures such as Halco Laser Pro, Sebile Koolie Minnows, Rapala X-Rap Magnums and Classic Bluewaters will generally produce some great results. Rigged swimming baits such as mullet, pike, wolf herring, large gar, longtom, tailor, tarpon and small barb-wire queenies produce more consistent results, especially as far as quality fish are concerned. These are generally rigged on Chinguard style rigs, which can be purchased ready to go or made up yourself. High-speed offerings such as lipless minnows and weighted skirted lures such as Hex-Heads, Hex-Jets, Screamers and Wahoo Bombs can also be productive.
Wahoo, yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi and other species are also likely for anglers trolling the offshore grounds. Out wide in the 250-1300m zone, the heavy-tackle game anglers will get among a few blue marlin, striped marlin and occasionally larger black marlin. I am hoping to do a few exploratory trips with mates targeting broadbill over the next few months, a species I have absolutely no experience with. Can’t wait!
Well as you can tell there is plenty of inspiration to get out on the water throughout April. Whether fishing land-based or from a boat, I think 2011 will produce some of the best action April anglers have seen for several years. With so much on offer it is often just a case of getting out there and seeing what your chosen waters produce for you on any given day. Regularly scanning the water for activity and keeping your options open will result in a productive day on the water. April promises awesome action for all alert and active anglers.Reads: 250