Ample Ambos Aboard
  |  First Published: May 2011

May is the time to put on the pith helmet and safari suit and unpack the elephant guns. XOS amberjack will be bullying the masses of pearlies and juvenile snapper on Wide Caloundra.

Make sure you have a 24kg (at least) outfit on board to tangle with these brutes. The reel does not need to hold much line. After the hook up there will be a vertical tug of war between you and 15kg+ of rampaging amberjack. You either win or get smashed up on the bottom – I love it!

Keep it simple. Either jig livies on the way out or put a single 8/0 to 10/0 through the nose of the first pearly to come aboard and send it back down under a 10 ball sinker. And hang on tight!

There are plenty of good pearlies in May. The February/March snapper closure on top of some ordinary weather in April will see them very hungry and on the chew. Parrot, hussar and Moses perch will add a bit of colour to the box. Hopefully the weather will give us the break we need to string a few days together out on the water.

Let’s get down to the electronic skills needed to bring home a good feed from Wide Caloundra. Before I start, I am not paid to own any of the gear I operate so I am telling you what I have spent my hard earned on, not giving you an advertorial.

Firstly, I don’t recommend buying a combo sounder/GPS. However impressive they look in the shop, and no matter how much you save, I prefer spending extra and getting two separate units.


I run a Furuno FCV 585 8.4” colour sounder with a 1kW transducer as I don’t need that much power in the relative shallows of Wide Caloundra. The operating menu on the Furuno is designed to ape the ‘set and forget’ key pads on the mass-produced American freshwater units. However, despite the quality of the bottom images and ease of use I prefer the older style that had more buttons than a marching band.

If you are run your sounder on AUTO only, there is an awful lot you will miss at Wide Caloundra. A rise of 2m is very significant and you need to be driving your sounder to pick up the fishy features in this very subtle country. A colour sounder is a great help as wire weed shows up as a thick yellow line over the red of the bottom. Even if fish are not showing, they can often be hiding in the wire weed. Yellow over red means fish are under you or very nearby.

A good sounder will have dials for SHIFT and RANGE. I run my sounder with a 40m viewing ‘window’ irrespective of the depth so that the relative sizes of images remain constant; whether I’m fishing 50m or 150m, the size of the fish relative to their background structure remain the same. If I am in 65m of water, I will be looking at a window from 20-70m.

I run my sounder on 200kHz and the gain up as far as it will go. If a fish is there I want to see it, get some idea of its size and whether it is hanging on some structure, no matter how small. Often there will be no hard structure, just the yellow line of wire weed.

Fish clouds showing yellow or red and attached to the bottom are usually pearlies. Blue echoes are normally huge schools of yellow-lipped butterfish. Big arches over yellow clouds are XOS ambos. Red vertical streaks and clouds off the bottom are snapper. These shows are almost always over structure especially ledges of 2-3m or more. Thin yellow clouds off the bottom are normally baitfish such as yellowtail scad and slimies. Some of these small mackerels will measure 30-60cm and pull drag!

Fish clouds showing yellow or red, attached to the bottom but not on structure, especially over the sand west and south of Wide Caloundra, can be 1m grinners. You will pull them up three at a time, one on each hook and another that has attempted to eat your sinker. I am a sucker for these shows. I always think I have found the El Dorado of pearlies in the middle of nowhere and am always disappointed. But I can’t not drop on the show just in case…

Once you get used to what you are looking at then it is much easier to choose the right bait, jig, rig and presentation to get the critters on your hook, and hopefully to the surface.


I run a Seiwa Barramundi 10.4” colour GPS chart plotter. If I could teach it to cook I would marry it – it’s that good! When I was up on the Swains having a fishing holiday on the Norval (what else would a charter operator do with his time of?), I was admiring Scott Wilson’s big Seiwa unit. He was of the same opinion – it’s a brilliant unit, well priced, easy to use, but just a bit short on memory capability.

The basics that a good GPS have are these:

• C Map or Navionics card;

• One second updates, track facility and redraws of position;

• Colour display;

• Multiple colours and icons available to enter or edit waypoints or marks;

• Ability to name way marks and waypoints;

• Maximum two button push to enter waypoints which includes automatic naming or numbering functions;

• Memory card for individual data to be stored, downloaded and retrieved;

• Scroll cursor and one button push GO TO function.

All that might sound like gobbledygook but in the real world with small schools of fish you will be catching while the others are scratching. When the going gets really tough I actually have my decky mounting a look out for other vessels and other obstacles while I drive my electronics to the maximum.

I usually have my main or central marks for an area named and entered in black. On any given day I will choose any other colour but black to bang in plenty of marks where I have found fish. If I am doing a number of days in a row I will change colours and icons daily so I know what was where yesterday and where I am today. Anything that is really good I name on the day and transfer to my ‘little black book’ of secret GPS marks. After a month or so I delete the unnamed waypoints; if they had been great I would have named them. I am collecting useful information rather than collecting a pile of waypoints which would impress my mates but not help one iota in catching fish!


Next time I will detail how to work your sounder and GPS as a team to maximise your chances of a really good feed from Wide Caloundra.

If you would like to fish Wide Caloundra with Incredible Charters, please give Keith a call on 3203 8188 or email: --e-mail address hidden--

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