April 1 sees us all racing offshore to get back into pearlies, trag and snapper. There will be plenty of traffic jams at the ramps as the frustrated offshore brigade return to their favourite offshore deep reef after six weeks on the sidelines through the ludicrously ill-timed snapper closure.
I get excited heading offshore in April, despite the dark mornings, cool westerlies and the drop in water temperature. Snapper, pearlies, trag jew, kingies and XOS amberjack are back on target lists.
Wide Caloundra will see the pearlies really thicken up in size and numbers this month. A simple paternoster will account for the pearlies and provide the opportunity to catch Venus tuskfish, hussar, Moses perch and Maori cod. The deadliest paternosters available are the Silstar Jig-Em rigs. Jig-Ems have three hooks each with a soft plastic attached. My favourite is the JRST07-P (pearl). Sweeten the jigs with a bit of mullet flesh, pilly or squid on each hook, attach a 1/2lb or 3/4lb dropper lead to the bottom loop, drop it down and hang on!
Last year in April the XOS amberjack started brutalising hooked fish from unsuspecting anglers and generally tearing the arms off the under gunned and underprepared paternoster brigade. Usually ambos turn up in good numbers later in May/June but this year they are already in residence. Lyn from Jones Tackle told me of a 135cm monster ambo landed and released on a social trip – now that is serious piscatorial pain! Make sure you pack an elephant gun loaded with a minimum of 24kg and some jigs or serious terminal tackle.
If you are not the energetic type, forget jigging. Just put down a live hussar or pearly on the offshore equivalent of the ‘sleeper rig’ my father used to deploy for flathead in the estuaries; a live whiting pinned through the back with a big hook on an old wooden hand reel. Dad caught plenty of flathead without too much technology, and you will find the same applies to Wide Caloundra amberjack.
Monster ambos look great in photos but they really don’t compare with the eating qualities of pearlies, tuskies, Moses, etc. I would recommend using a single circle hook when live baiting for the big fellas. Take some great photos and send ‘em home to terrorise the next bloke. With the XOS ambos, ‘the drug is the tug’ not the eating quality.
Mahi mahi are still around and they announce their presence by simply swimming up to your boat and doing a couple of laps on the surface. It pays to have a couple of handfuls of chopped up pillies at the ready on your bait board to quickly toss in. When the dollies start grazing on the berley, just toss out a floater in free spool, or with the bail arm open if using spinning gear. When the line starts peeling off the spool at a great rate of knots, give it a little time and then set the hooks.
You will be treated (usually) to a magnificent aerial display as these acrobatic fish jump and leap in an attempt to free themselves of the hooks. The light show as the body of the mahi mahi changes through hues of electric blues, yellows and greens is really one of the highlights of my fishing life. As some of my clients have said over the years, it is almost a shame to dispatch such a beautiful creature.
Easter is late this year, occurring on the fourth weekend in April. As always at this special family time, please take care on the water and on the roads. The Pine River is still pretty murky from some unsavoury run off so my brother Andrew and his sons and I may have to find an alternate crabbing spot on Easter Friday. Any suggestions?
Make your bookings now for offshore winter and cool water charters in May, June, July, August and September. Those in the know have already picked up some of the weekend spots around the prime moon phases.
The conditions have been right to promote an abundance of winter target species of pearlies, trag and snapper so to make a booking please call Keith from Incredible Charters on 3203 8188 or email: --e-mail address hidden--Reads: 1034